I’ve mentored several people throughout my career. I’ve tried to see each person as the unique individual that they are. By trying to get to know them well, I tried to customize my advice to their wants and needs as an individual. Depending on their age and experience, they usually need different advice for different situations.
It took me a while to realize that there is one thing that every mentee needs to some degree, no matter what stage of life they are in. Everyone needs to be encouraged. Encouragement comes in many forms but there are three ways that I’ve identified where a mentor can encourage his or her mentee.
You’re on the right track
When I was a computer science major in college, the assignments for most of the classes in my major were to write computer programs. Some computer languages were harder than others. Some assignments were more challenging than others. When I really got stumped, I would visit the professor during office hours. When I did that, I would generally get one of two types of responses.
Some professors had a fairly rigid approach to how the program should have been written. Those professors would suggest a complete redesign of the program. I’d walk out of the office with more ink from their pen than from the program.
Other professors would look at the program and identify areas where I used good logic and point out places where I should readdress the logic. They didn’t try to throw the baby out with the bathwater, but focused on the places where improvement was needed.
Most people who seek out a mentor have some level of independence. A mentee rarely turns to a mentor and asks, “What should I do?” Most mentees want to come up with ideas and make decisions. Sometimes they just need a little direction.
For more information, check out How to Mentor for Maximum Benefit
A mentor should encourage his mentee by telling them when they are on the right track to help build confidence in their decision making.
That’s a good idea
Similar to telling your mentee that they are on the right track, individual decisions should be pointed out and reassured. No matter how new or inexperienced an individual is, they are bound to come up with good ideas. They just may not know which ideas are good, which are bad and what aspects make them good or bad.
When that happens, they may need more advice on execution or even refinement of the idea. But any good ideas they come up with should be greeted with encouragement.
What do you think?
There will be occasions where the mentee is looking for direction. They may think the mentor is there to listen to the problem and tell the mentee how to proceed.
The mentor, who may have many more years of experience and knowledge might come up with an immediate solution. But it’s like the old fishing proverb:
If you catch a man a fish, he eats for a day. But if you teach a man to fish, he eats for a lifetime.
Any mentor can give advice and tell their protégé what he or she should do. But a good mentor teaches the mentee how to solve problems himself.
With enough time and training in problem solving a successful mentor may make himself obsolete. Once you teach them to fish, they won’t need you to do it for them. But you can always continue to encourage.
In what ways to you encourage your mentees?
I welcome your questions and comments.