Mentoring and Coaching Skills

Many people, even senior-level executives, have never learned how to be an effective mentor and coach. Mentoring is not simply answering questions and giving advice; it requires a unique set of skills and practice. A mentor needs to:

1. Create an open and supportive climate for discussion

Seek to develop trust by encouraging open, two-way communications; this often means sharing personal experiences or difficult times you went through so that the mentee knows she or he can discuss tough issues.

  • Respect the mentee's individuality. Your mentee may or may not have a similar style.
  • Be patient if your mentee seems unfocused-help her or him focus by presenting and discussing options.
  • Make it clear that you hope to learn from this experience.

2. Demonstrate good listening/follow-up skills

Most of us need to improve our listening skills; we tend to talk more than we listen and to interrupt people more than we should.

  • Ask open-ended questions to get your mentee to open up as much as possible (Examples: How did you decide to major in communication sciencesand disorders? What are your longer term goals?)
  • After you have listened fully to a response, ask good follow-up questions to demonstrate genuine interest. (Example: After you've completed yourinternship, what do you hope to do next to move to the next step?)
  • If you do not understand something, try to paraphrase it to be sure you understand what the person is trying to say. (Example: So what I thinkyou're saying is that you want to broaden your knowledge of opportunities)
  • After you've discussed an issue in one conversation, be sure to ask how the situation has progressed next time you write an e-mail or talk.
  • Don't assume that what worked for you will work for your mentee; rather, try saying something like, "My experience was (xxx). What do you think will work for you?"

3. Provide constructive feedback and advice.

It is important for you to match the degree of openness of your mentee. Do not give negative feedback until you have built a strong relationship and the mentee is ready to receive it.

  • Give a balance of both praise and constructive feedback on how to improve.
  • Always focus on behaviors that can be changed (not personality traits!) and behaviors that are appropriate within the organization/field/environment.
  • Let your mentee set the initial goals and then give feedback and suggestions.
  • Help your mentee make goals specific and realistic with target dates; monitor progress, help her him or her adapt plans when necessary, and provide ongoing encouragement.
  • Do problem solving with your mentee when issues/barriers arise. Do not feel that you have to have all the answers but rather help your mentee think through strategies and options.
  • Consider and discuss additional ways for your mentee to get advice and information he or she needs. Call on other mentors/colleagues when appropriate and try to help your mentee widen his or her network.

Tips for Virtual Mentoring Relationships | Characteristics of Excellent Mentors

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