Tips for being a good mentor

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At the early stages of my career, I had a mentor who would always give me time whenever I had an issue, however, to get his attention I would have to go and stand outside with him whilst he listened, quietly puffed away on his pipe and asked me a few questions. This approach worked for me (despite the pipe-smoke) and I quickly developed in my role as felt trusted to do a good job. On reflection, he demonstrated all five factors identified by Julie Starr (2014) of what good mentors do well:

  1. Connect through effective listening
  2. Build a relationship of engagement and trust
  3. Maintain an effective focus
  4. Help overcome false limits, roadblocks or barriers to progress
  5. Help someone grow

However, if your mentoring is online, rather than face-to-face what are the key factors to bear in mind when you volunteer to be someone’s mentor?

  • Building rapport and a relationship is still important – some recent research found that alignment of values may be more important in e-mentoring than other factors such as matching gender or ethnicity (Bierema, 2017)
  • Be clear about the purpose of the mentoring – you both need to have a shared understanding of the mentoring process and agree expectations between you.
  • Most importantly, when online, ensuring you respond to your mentee in a timely Set a realistic expectation of how much time you can commit to mentoring right at the start.
  • Encourage your mentee to identify their own goals and work through ways towards these rather than going straight in with advice/ suggestions. Good mentoring is rarely just about advice (see five points above)!
  • Think about the structure of your mentoring and how you can enable the mentee to move on. At a mutually agreed end point, encourage a bit of reflection and share feedback and learning.

Just as ‘random acts of kindness’ can make us feel great, so too can offering your time and a ‘listening ear’ as on online mentor. Of course, if you get started as an online mentor and really enjoy your role, you can further develop your coaching/ mentoring capability on one of our programmes at Bristol Business School.

Gina Burns
Senior Lecturer Organisation Studies

References

Bierema, L (2017) e-Mentoring: Computer Mediated Career Development for the future in Eds. Clutterbuck, D. A, Kochan, F.K, Lunsford L, Dominguez,  N & Haddock-Millar, J, The Sage Handbook of Mentoring, London: Sage Publications.

Hooley, T,  Hutchinson, J and Neary, S (2016) Ensuring quality in online career mentoring, British Journal of Guidance and Counselling, 44 (1), pp26-41.

Starr, J (2014) The Mentoring Manual, Harlow: Pearson Education Ltd.

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