Core Mentoring Skills
A key responsibility of the mentor is to set up an environment in which the mentee feels able to speak freely, without fear of judgement or repercussions.
We assume that your contact will be primarily online, however if you are meeting in person, the best location is a private, neutral space away from distraction of phone or email.
The approach of the mentor
The mentor should listen, empathise and show an interest in their mentee. It is important to reserve judgement, demonstrate positive body language and be open and honest. A good mentor avoids being directive but is willing to share their own experiences.
How to listen effectively
In all mentoring discussions, you should listen significantly more than you talk.
Mentors should be active listeners. This involves listening not only to your mentee’s words, but also to their delivery, in order to gain deeper insight. Pay attention to:
- tone of voice
- non-verbal signals
- body language
Demonstrate that you are listening through your body language, asking questions and by reflecting back what you’ve heard to the mentee in order check your understanding.
It is also important to consider what environment you require to maximise your ability to listen attentively to your mentee. This will likely require a quiet, private space away from other distractions.
Give consideration to your own frame of mind. What time of the day are you realistically able to give your mentee your full attention? Also be aware of how your own thoughts and emotions might affect your ability to listen objectively.
How to question effectively
Being able to formulate and ask the right questions is a key skill for an effective mentor. An appropriately phrased question has the ability to unlock new ideas, challenge limiting assumptions and bring about new insights.
Good questions in mentoring are simple and generally require open ended responses (i.e. not closed questions requiring yes/no responses).
As a mentor you should ask questions from a place of curiosity and avoid leading questions. The best ideas and solutions will come from the mentee themselves, therefore your questioning should not lead them to a pre-determined conclusion.
There are many questioning frameworks that mentors can draw upon. Some useful examples are GROW and Appreciative Inquiry. However, be guided by your mentee and trust your intuition when it comes to questioning. If you are genuinely interested in your mentee and their development, then your questions will inevitably be useful to the individual.
Offering constructive feedback
As a mentor, you might be involved in providing feedback to your mentee if:
- your mentee asks you directly for feedback on their work or professional activities
- during mentoring discussions you spot an opportunity to feedback
In the second case, be careful to first ask the mentee if they would like some feedback. In most instances, the mentee will welcome your feedback, but providing unsolicited feedback during a discussion can break the mentee’s concentration or complicate the matter under discussion.