I should have called this article “how to be a great mentor!”
You can find mentors in all walks of life. Any time someone is new to what ever they are doing, they might at least consider having a mentor. What exactly is a mentor?
In the past, a mentor was usually someone older and more experienced who was going to teach someone younger and with little to no experience. Like an apprentice. With all the new technologies coming online, a mentor can be anyone, younger or older.
My definition of what a mentor is would be this:
A mentor is someone who has “been there and done that.” A mentor offers education, guidance and inspiration. A mentor doesn’t just teach, they teach until the student understands and can do for themselves.
Mentoring is learning by osmosis.
How to be a mentor
Perhaps a couple of examples of mentoring, from the movies, is in order.
If you watched the Star Wars movies, you’ve seen one of the greatest mentors of all time. Yoda! He mentored both Obi-Wan Kenobi and Luke Skywalker. We got to see Yoda with Luke more but, it is implied that he also had taught Obi-Wan.
The other movie that had a mentor in it was, The Karate Kid. You got to see Mr. Miyagi mentoring Daniel Larusso. Who can forget the wax on, wax off scene.
What did these two mentors have in common? They were able to teach their students the skills that they had themselves and get them to perform at a higher level than the students thought they could.
Well, Luke Skywalker was pretty cocky to begin with but, Daniel Larusso probably didn’t think that he’d win a championship in karate.
What skills do you need to have in order to be a mentor?
The most important thing that one needs to have to be a mentor is the experience of actually doing what the student wants to learn. That’s not to say that one couldn’t teach something that they hadn’t done. I knew someone who taught diving but, she had never jumped off of a diving board.
To me, it’s the experience will make one a better mentor. You can relate to everything that the student is going through. “I know exactly how you feel.” That can be a very comforting statement.
The four most important elements of mentoring are:
Tips for Being a Mentor
How to be a mentor – The assessment
Determine where the student is and where they want to go. Then the mentor should develop a plan of action in order for the student to get to their goals.
How to be a mentor – Listening and understanding
Throughout the mentoring period, there needs to be a constant, two way conversation. Both the mentor and the student need to listen to each other. Both people need to talk about the things that are being taught. Both parties need understand exactly what the goals of each lesson really are. Whether the student succeeds or fails at the lesson, it needs to be talked about and adjustments need to be made if the student fails the first time.
How to be a mentor – Advice and encouragement
This may be the most important thing about mentoring. Offering good and timely advice, can make learning go easier and faster.
Being a Great Mentor
Now for a personal story to illustrate this in action. My son was trying out to be quarterback of his high school team. We were at a picnic and all the guys were tossing a football around. I noticed that my son’s passes were wobbly spirals. I asked him to show me how he was gripping the ball. He held the ball and I saw that his fingers were way over the laces. In fact, the laces were up to his second knuckle. I suggested to him that he hold the laces at his first knuckle. That one piece of advice added 5 yards to his distance and he was able to throw a nice, tight spiral.
A mentor should also offer a lot of encouragement. It’s tough to learn new skills. Failure is a natural part of the learning process. A bit of encouragement from someone who cares, goes a long way. The right words can keep the student going long after they want to quit.
How to be a mentor – Expectations
A mentor should expect you to get things right. They can teach a new skill to the student but, they need to expect or even demand that the skill be mastered. “That’s not right. Do it again.”
We’ve probably all had a teacher in our life who expected us to do well I their class. They taught us but, it didn’t end there. They saw something in us. They wanted, no demanded, excellence from us. We didn’t want to disappoint them, so we lived up to those expectations.
It’s no different in a mentoring situation.
How to be a mentor – It goes both ways
Volunteer to Be a Mentor
A mentoring situation is great for the student. It can cut months or even years off of the normal learning curve. It can also be beneficial for the mentor. Teaching has a way of solidifying the knowledge, in the mind, of the mentor. As the student asks questions, the mentor is forced to reassess and reevaluate everything they know. In a way, the student is teaching the teacher!
A great mentor not only believes in you, they make you believe in yourself! I hope you have learned how to be a mentor, a great mentor!
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