Demystifying the art of Mentoring

Oxford learner’s dictionary defines mentor as “ an experienced person who advises and helps somebody with less experience over a period of time”. While it seems like a simple task by definition, it is way more complex to identify a good mentor and to deliver mentoring right.

In a world where organisations are evolving with the second, where growth, learning, and culture are all put together in one sentence its become more important than ever to understand the importance of mentoring. The process of mentoring starts within an organisation where you have built your expertise over a period of years but the beauty of it is that it doesn’t need to end there. Infact one becomes a true mentor by stepping outside the comfort of the walls of an organisation and being able to impart their unbiased expertise to another fellow being.

Throughout my life I have had some great people around me who have mentored me both in my personal and my professional life. Starting from my parents, close friends who are family all the way to the some of the amazing managers I have had the opportunity to work with. I have always believed in the magic that mentors can create in your life and help change it for the better, showing you a mirror to yourself and your capabilities when you most need to see it. Sometimes diving deep end into the sea with you, to untie the stone that’s dragging you down and keeping you from keeping afloat.

Mentors see what you cannot see, cos of the vast experience they have. They see the extraordinary in the ordinary and make you see it too, but getting you where you want to be. Mentors would help you identify your flaws while also being helping you to see what you are actually meant to do, helping you find purpose. When you feel lost and anxious a mentor would help you back on track and guide you to give your best as always. They are the voice of reason among all the noise around you, and sometimes thats all one needs to swim across an ocean and reach the shore.

But like everything else, one ought to be careful in identifying a mentor. Because it seems as such a simple task to do, many don’t approach this opportunity with the seriousness it deserves. While one would find many a people who are willing to mentor, finding a right mentor for oneself is even more crucial. Many a times, people are so focused on the credentials of their mentor they miss out crucial aspects such as attitude, personality, people skills, emotional quotient, and even communication style while choosing to be mentored. The credentials and soft skills should go hand in hand while deciding to be a mentor or choosing a mentor for oneself.

In the most recent times, I came across 2 different kind of mentors. For the ease of explaining this I am going to refer to them as ‘Sid the Sloth’ and ‘Dory the Explorer’ (any reference reminding you of any familiar favourite characters is purely coincidental).

So Sid is the cool dude who has the world believing that he can do it all. He is a self prophesied mentor and has solution to the most ‘complicated’ problems around. Sid likes to talk about helping every single person in sight with an intention of receiving the badge of honour saying “what a great mentor”. This mentoring style can be poisonous and more harmful than any good for any team to progress. Dory on the other hand goes around with her usual life, and identifies people who she connects with. She spends time and energy to understand them first and then helps them with any guidance they need. Not only being a friend but also motivating them to give their best and in the whole process also enhance their personality. But Dory doesn’t like a formal tag of a mentor and much rather mentor without the badges and applause. She has a silent mentoring style for her the applause comes in the form of her mentees flourishing.

So we can both decide for ourselves whether we want to be a Sid or Dory. Who would we rather have to mentor us Sid or Dory? I ll let you take the call for yourself.

From my own experiences here are a few traits which every mentor should possess to call themselves a mentor at the first place. One can also look out for these traits when trying to identify a right mentor within or outside an organisation.

Experience : first, it is important to understand and evaluate what kind of skills and expertise one has to be a great mentor. What is it that you would like to impart to your mentees. For mentees it is important to have congruence between the goals they want to achieve and the capabilities possessed by the mentor to impart guidance to achieve those.

Present : A mentor needs to be present not just physically but also mentally to be able to help and guide the mentee. Seems pretty easy , but in the busy life that we all lead, its important that we switch off from other distractions around us, and completely submerge ourselves in the present. Both mentees and mentors need to look out for these distractions that surround us, and try and enjoy the process of growth together.

Exchange : I am a firm believer that a mentor grows and evolves as much as the mentee does. While the mentor shares their experiences and knowledge, in turn they learn new things through the mentees experiences and learning process as well. Hence, the possibility of this exchange happening for the growth of both individuals involved is another important aspect that both the mentor and mentee should be looking out for.

Empathy : One of the most underrated traits of a mentor, the ability to empathize with their mentees. Organisations are including this one quality as one of the core traits they look for in an employee. at this point the world could certainly use a whole lot more of it. Empathy helps the mentor understand the problems or doubts in their mentees mind better. Helps them to have a more humanly approach while giving suggestions or inputs.

Comfortable : Both mentor and mentee should be comfortable with each other and should be able to indulge in conversations without any hesitation. The comfort levels would facilitate free flow of ideas between the two individuals and help get the best out of this relationship.

Value : It is important for a mentor to be able to impart value to the mentees progress and help them grow both professionally and personally. Its also important at the same time for a mentee to be able to soak it all in and also put the learnings into practice.

Have fun!: And last but definitely not the least, have loads of fun while you are going through this process of mentoring. Make sure as a mentor you never view the time spent with your mentee as a boring mundane task or obligation that you need to fulfill. It’s important both the mentor and mentee ensure they have a good time while they are going through this enriching experience

A great mentor can change the direction of your professional career growth, could give you new goals or enhance the existing goals you have for your life, could help you unwrap potential you never knew existed at the first place, help you strive towards the best version of you. And while you are being mentored by your ideal mentor, without knowing you could be starting a chain reaction.

In the words of one of the best filmmakers ever:

“The delicate balance of mentoring someone is not creating them in your own image, but giving them the opportunity to create themselves.” — Steven Spielberg