The Art of Mentorship by Steve Kloyda ’80

What is a mentor? An experienced trusted advisor, friend in a college or school who trains and counsels students. At some point in our life we have all had a trusted advisor or friend that helped and guided us. Are you a mentor? Sure you are! Think back to your mentor or mentors you have had throughout your life. How did they work with you? How did they guide you through very difficult situations? Maybe you met with your mentor on a regular basis or you accessed them when needed. Whatever the case, they were there to listen and guide you based on their life experiences. They were always in your corner encouraging you in anyway possible. Here are a couple of questions that would be important to answer before you consider being a mentor. Being a mentor is not a one time event.

  1. What's in it for the person you are mentoring?
  2. What's in it for you? In other words, what is your motivation for becoming a mentor?

Here are a few simple steps to follow in The Art of Mentorship.

Step 1

If you are initiating the meeting with the person you are going to mentor, please be on time and be prepared. How many times have you walked into a situation where you were not prepared? What happened to your confidence? You lost your confidence, didn't you? If the person you are mentoring feels that you haven't given some thought prior to the meeting, they will feel that you are wasting their time and that you are not taking this seriously. It's important that you set an example for the person you are mentoring.

Step 2

Step 2 has two parts. Part one is connect and engage. Part two is sharing information from your experiences that will be valuable to the person you are mentoring.

Part 1

Engage the person you are mentoring by asking questions. Remember, it's all about the person you are mentoring. It's not about you. We were given two ears and one mouth. We should listen twice as much as we speak. When you are talking all you are doing is repeating what you already know. Yes, it is okay to talk and guide the person you are mentoring. Here is a great rule to follow: Ask First, Then Tell. If I asked you what time it is, would you tell me how the watch is made or would you tell me what time it is? Of course you would tell me what time it is. That is the key to mentoring. Connect and engage by asking the right questions and guiding the conversation with valuable information the will help the person you are mentoring.

Examples of initial questions to start the relationship and keep the conversation going:

  • Where are you from?
  • What is your major?
  • What motivated you go pursue this path?
  • What are you really good at?
  • What other interests do you have?
  • What has to happen over the next (fill in the blank, weeks, months) for you to feel happy and confident about your progress?
  • What are some of the obstacles that you would like to eliminate over the next (fill in the blank, weeks, months, etc.). In other words what are some of the concerns you may have?
  • What are some opportunities or learning that you would like to capture and focus on over the next (fill in the blank, weeks, months, etc.)?
  • What do you expect out of this mentor / mentee relationship?

Part 2

Share your life experiences that you feel will be beneficial and helpful in a way based on what is important to the person you are mentoring.

Step 3

Step 3 has two parts. Part one is transition to wrap the session up. Part two is identify the next or action steps if necessary.

Part 1: Transition to end session.

Here is an example on how to transition to end the session. "Let's go ahead and stop here for today. What are some key ideas or take aways for you today?"

Part 2: Identify next steps.

"Based on our conversation today, what is an action step you would like to take?"

Above is a suggested guideline only. Feel free to modify or customize for you and your style of communication. The key for you and the person you are mentoring so each of you can have a great and rewarding experience is to put yourself in their shoes and see it from their point of view. Remember, you are there to guide and encourage. You don't have to have all the answers.

Happy Mentoring!