Effective mentoring is a powerful thing, but not all mentoring works the way it should. Some pairings simply never get off the ground while others go wrong over time. The reasons vary widely, but the two main culprits are a lack of shared values and a lack of commitment by one or both parties.
When mentoring relationships fail it’s discouraging for everyone involved, but I think it takes the greatest toll on a committed mentor. Once you’ve made the decision to share your time and experience for the betterment of someone else, it’s hard to see that effort wasted. Most people who take on the training of a younger person do so with the best of intentions, but, unfortunately, good intentions don’t make you a great mentor. I’ve been passionate about mentoring for many years, and I’m still learning and improving.
Mentoring is not an exact science, and it takes two partners to make it work. From the mentor side of the relationship, there are steps you can take to improve yourself, strengthen your next mentoring relationship, and give it the best chance of success.
1. Listen More than You Speak
Most people who are drawn to mentoring have valuable experience and insight to share. But before you can effectively speak into someone’s life, you must understand who she is and where she is coming from. If you rush to provide an assessment of the situation and share your experiences, you will miss out on truly knowing your mentee. Even worse, you will send the message that you don’t care to know her. Your good advice will come across as an impersonal lecture and will likely fall on deaf ears.1