Being a mentor can be extremely fulfilling for both you and your mentee. With the proper mentoring skills, you can forge a strong relationship that will encourage both of you to grow and develop in ways you may never have expected. What’s great about mentoring is that you can utilize a lot of the skills you may have already built up as a life coach. But what sort of mentoring skills do you need to be effective?
The first, and arguably most important, mentoring skill is listening. When I first started my life coaching practice, I was told how good a listener I was, but it was not something I developed overnight. I remember as a teenager and young adult fighting for attention so many times I had to be reminded – sometimes rudely – that I was just too much! It got to the point that I felt almost desperate for attention . . . and felt sad, depressed and lonely.
It was only after I changed my diet (got off sweets and junk food) and started doing yoga and meditation that I found enough inner peace to be able to listen to others. And it was amazing . . . I found that by listening to others I was feeding them. I also discovered most people still have the same inner loneliness I felt, and just need someone to be there for them! This is the reason that the ability to listen is prized above most other skills – and is therefore unequivocally necessary to success as a coach or mentor.
So what mentoring skills do you need for success? Other than the relatively minor ones (such as knowledge of your subject matter, etc.), listening towers above all. It is, in fact, vital that you listen to your client, protege or mentee in a respectful and open manner to get anywhere with him or her. While it may seem simple, though, listening is not always easy. Below are a few key tips on how to become a more effective listener.
THE 5 KEYS TO EFFECTIVE LISTENING
1. Keep your mouth shut. Sometimes you just have to bite your tongue and let the other person finish talking so that you don’t interrupt them and so that you hear their entire message. Bonus: this also helps prevent the formation of false assumptions.
2. Ask questions. Asking questions shows that you’ve been listening and generates interest and focus on the topic. Ask “how” and “why” questions to get your mentee to tell you more about themselves. Ask followup questions, like what they plan to do next. Followup on this in the future to see how they’re doing and give encouragement. Trust me, you’ll learn a lot about your mentee just by asking a few simple questions and, of course, listening to the answers.
3. Focus. Is your mind wandering? It happens to the best of us. People talk far slower than we think, so it’s easy for the mind to wander. Instead of spacing out, try thinking about what you’re going to say next. Outline the points you’d like to bring up and the constructive information or life experience you have to share. However, don’t let this crowd out what your mentee is saying.
If your mentee is getting bored or unfocused, gently steer them back on topic by providing a clear outline of the subject at hand or solutions/options. Present clear points, and your mentee will become clear, too.
4. Show that you’re interested. Your mentee needs to know that you’re paying attention, that you value their input, and that you’re not judging them. Maintain frequent eye contact (you don’t need to stare, just let them know you’re in the present moment with them), take note of their level of comfort, and hold back any criticism that isn’t constructive. Your mentee has to trust that they can talk with you openly, or you’ll both struggle to achieve your goals.
5. Keep your mind open. Chances are that your methods and styles are not the same as your mentee’s. Respect your differences, and provide guidance in a “here’s what I do – what would you do?” formula. Don’t expect your mentee to do things just like you. In fact, celebrate their individuality and confidence when they come up with a method that works for them!
That’s it! Now go and listen up!
Listening is one the most effective mentoring skills you can develop, as well as one of the most rewarding. It forms a strong bond that’s built on mutual trust and respect. Without it, all of your other mentoring or coaching skills will go to waste. So listen up . . . and listen well! To find out more about becoming a more effective life coach or mentor NOW, download our free report today!