The path to becoming a mentor is similar to aiming for the World Series—you prep for it, put your all into initial meetings, but once the big moment comes, it’s impossible to not feel nervous. On some level, you may start questioning how worthy you are of being someone else’s mentor, if you have enough experience to give advice.
The best way to tackle impostor syndrome head on is to walk in prepared. Here are some tips for new mentors:
And then listen some more. You can do this through a series of conversations both in writing and on the phone. A well-shaped discovery process – with solid, probing questions – will help you to uncover the mentee’s specific needs and goals before you begin diving into a course of action.
Guide Versus Tell Them What to Do.
As a new mentor, it may feel foreign to influence your new protégé through subtle means versus more overtly instructing them in best practices. However, coaching and mentoring is about encouraging thought-work and action-plans, created by the mentee. In other words, your job is not to create a mini “you”; you want to inform the process with your experiences, but ultimately, the strategies and execution of those strategies should be uniquely theirs.
[Related: What Is a Mentor & How Can You Become One?]
If the mentee is not doing the hard yards, it is okay – even good – to prod them to move ahead. It also is important to encourage and inspire them to think beyond the borders of their own, often-limited thinking. That said, once you have properly engaged and enthusiastically encouraged, it is their job to take action. Holding them accountable for their results is important.
Share Specific Ideas.
While in number 2, I recommend guiding versus instructing, there are instances where you want to be more specific in how to get from point a to point b. If you find your mentee sincerely getting stuck, offering them a particular recommendation that you know has worked for you; i.e., offering them the name of a specific vendor to handle their website revamp or to conduct a headshot photo shoot, is not necessarily holding their hand, but helping them when they may feel mentally stuck.
Prioritize Goal Setting.
During every meeting, make sure that you’re emphasizing the importance of establishing both short-term and long-term goals. Figure out, together, the best way to work to achieve them and hold your mentee accountable to deadlines, especially if they are not used to completing things on deadline.
Teach Problem Solving Strategies.
Your mentee should know that you are to being used as a resource when push comes to shove. Create a foundation that is based on open communication, so that when larger problems arise, he or she knows that they can come to you. For smaller problems, prep contingency plans that can be applied across the board.
As in any new relationship, there should be an adjustment period allotted so that you both get to know each other and expectations are clearly outlined. There’s a good chance that your mentee is as nervous about kickstarting this relationship as you are, so make it clear from Day 1 that you are both on the same team and that his or her best interests are at the heart of all you will discuss.