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Building Bridges by Cheryl Dizon-Reynante   

Becoming a guiding light:

The art of being a good mentor

by Cheryl Dizon-Reynante

It’s October 2023 and is a very busy month for some! The academic school year is underway, and work projects are on the go. Whether you are a parent, teacher, or leader in your workplace, one of your tasks is to be a mentor for someone. Children, teenagers, and young adults at the start of their careers look to more experienced voices to give them advice and motivation.

Is being a mentor one of the roles and responsibilities that you have? If so, let’s talk about what key qualities and strategies make a person an outstanding mentor!

Building trust and rapport

Trust is the foundation upon which any mentorship relationship is built. Without trust, the learner may hesitate to seek guidance or share their concerns. Establishing trust involves being reliable, respectful, and empathetic.

Reliability: A good mentor is dependable and keeps their promises. They consistently provide guidance and support, ensuring that the student or mentee can count on them.

Respect: Respect for the other’s thoughts, ideas, and feelings is crucial. A mentor should value the learner’s individuality and perspectives, even if they differ from their own.

Empathy: Empathy allows mentors to understand the mentee’s challenges and emotions. It enables them to provide emotional support and guidance. It’s a good idea to regularly ask, “How do you feel about that?” or “How is all of this hitting you?”

Effective communication

Clear and open communication is essential for a successful mentorship relationship. Effective mentors possess strong communication skills, because they must convey information and ideas in a way that resonates with learners.

Active listening: Mentors must listen actively, focusing on the concerns and questions of the person they are mentoring. This helps build trust and ensures that the guidance provided is relevant.

Constructive feedback: Offering constructive feedback is an art. Good mentors provide feedback that is specific, actionable, and supportive, fostering the mentee’s growth and improvement.

Openness to questions: Encouraging learners to ask questions promotes a culture of curiosity and learning. A good mentor welcomes questions and views them as opportunities for growth.

Setting clear goals and expectations

To guide others effectively, mentors must establish clear goals and expectations. This provides direction and helps both parties understand the purpose of the mentorship.

Goal setting: Mentors collaborate with their learners to define short-term and long-term goals. These goals serve as roadmaps for their development.

Expectations: Clarifying expectations regarding communication frequency, feedback mechanisms, and responsibilities helps to prevent misunderstandings and ensures that both are on the same page.

Sharing knowledge and experience

One of the primary roles of a mentor is to share their own stories of success, struggle, and failure. This transfer of expertise can go a long way for the growth of the student or new employee.

Sharing wisdom: A good mentor shares not only technical knowledge but also life lessons and wisdom gained through experience. This provides mentees with practical knowledge, and contributes towards their sense of meaning and purpose.

Encouraging exploration: Mentors inspire others to explore new ideas and possibilities. They may introduce them to resources, networks, and opportunities.

Leading by example: Role modelling is a powerful mentoring tool. When mentors exhibit professionalism, ethics, and a commitment to continuous learning, mentees are more likely to follow suit.

Patience and adaptability

Mentoring is not easy, in part because people learn differently. Good mentors recognize the individuality of each mentee and adjust their approach accordingly.

Patience: Learning and growth take time. Mentors should be patient and understanding when learners face challenges or setbacks and must respond by providing constant support.

Adaptability: Every mentee has their unique strengths and weaknesses. A good mentor adapts their guidance to address the specific needs and goals of each learner.

Encouraging independence

Ultimately, the goal of mentorship is to empower others to become self-reliant and confident in their abilities.

Gradual independence: Mentors gradually encourage mentees to make decisions and solve problems on their own. This fosters self-confidence and self-sufficiency.

Celebrating achievements: Recognizing and celebrating everyone’s achievements, no matter how small, reinforces their progress and motivates further growth.

Continuous learning and improvement

The role of a mentor does not stay the same. Actually, it evolves over time. Good mentors are committed to their own growth and development and are lifelong learners themselves.

Self-reflection: Mentors periodically reflect on their mentorship relationships, seeking ways to improve their guidance and support.

Staying informed: Mentors stay informed about industry trends, new technologies, and evolving best practices to provide up-to-date guidance.

Hopefully, mentors love what they do. The role requires a unique blend of qualities, including trustworthiness, effective communication, goal setting, knowledge sharing, patience, adaptability, and a commitment to continuous improvement. A good mentor’s impact extends beyond the home, school, or the workplace, influencing the personal growth and development of the people they are looking out for.

Mentors provide guidance and support, and get satisfaction from watching others succeed and thrive. Aspiring mentors should embrace the responsibility and privilege of guiding the next generation, knowing that their efforts contribute to a brighter future for individuals and industries alike. By embodying the principles of good mentorship, we can create a world where knowledge, experience, and wisdom are passed down from one generation to the next, ensuring the greater good of all.

Cheryl Dizon-Reynante is a licensed therapist with the Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association.

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