Mentoring is a powerful tool that can help launch your career — and even your life — into success. But not all mentors are the same, and not everyone fully understands what it is specifically that mentors do. To clear things up, I sat down with Nashville Entrepreneur Center mentoring experts Scott Rouse, Jeff Loucks, and Shawn Glinter and spoke with them about the ins and outs of mentoring. The main points discussed in the conversation can be found below or listen to the full interview here.
Mentoring is not teaching, coaching, consulting or being a friend. Instead, mentoring is providing guidance by asking the mentee the right questions that get them thinking about the right aspects of their work and career.
A great mentor gives the mentee the space required to come to their own conclusions. Just because an individual is good at giving advice, that does not make them a good mentor. “If I were in your shoes, I would do this…” is never the type of guidance a mentor should give. Instead, the mentor should provide information, then allow time for that information to be processed so mentees can come to a decision on their own.
With this in mind, being a mentor requires a unique skillset far past giving great advice. So what specific traits are needed to be a great mentor?
You must be a great listener.
To be a great listener requires patience and not just telling a mentee “what to do.” While you should talk with your mentee, it is important that you listen more than you talk.
You must be a good communicator.
As a mentor, you must know how to clearly communicate your message. This may require being blunt at times, or asking tough questions that make the mentee uncomfortable.
You must have the ability to think long-term and short-term.
This helps with seeing the big picture, and provides perspective to not make hasty assumptions. This is a very valuable approach that only comes with maturity and experience. If you are better at one approach than the other, don’t worry. Just know this is something you will have to work on intentionally.
You must ask great questions.
As a mentor, you must be focused on what is best for your mentee’s overall growth and development, not what will make them like you. This means it’s your responsibility to ask questions that may make them upset. Being challenged and stretched is a normal — yet sometimes painful — part of the professional growth process. While no one wants to hear that their business idea is bad, a wise mentor would ask questions that lead the mentee to the right conclusion.
You must have real experience.
A mentor is a guide. Without experiencing how to get to a certain place, how can you guide someone else there? While it may not be necessary for a mentor to have direct experience to help a mentee, there must be some relatable experience. For example, a mentor that is the manager at a retail store could likely give valuable insight to someone who is starting a business.
In the process of answering questions, the mentee will often find the answers on their own. This is important in finding clarity and developing a sense of discipline. A great mentor wants the mentee to be resourceful and independent. Whether in life or in starting a business, learning to process questions and come up with the answers is a very important tool.
Have you ever been a mentor? Have you ever had a mentor? What was the experience like for you?
Clark Buckner is the online events manager for TechnologyAdvice, an Inc. 5000 company that connects buyers and sellers of business technology through meaningful relationships. He enjoys podcasting in Nashville, attending Tech Conferences and adventuring life with his wife, Hope.