The word “mentorship” is commonly defined as a relationship in which an experienced person shares wisdom with a less experienced person. The more experienced mentor gives guidance to an eager mentee hungry for knowledge. These definitions might suggest that the mentee has more to learn than the mentor.
However, the learning can be equally important to both parties. While my own list is long, here are a few things I have learned as a mentor. I need to stop telling my mentees what they should do and help lead them to their own solutions. I must be available to my mentee and make our relationship a priority. I need to be more open-minded about possibilities; my mentees sure are. I am often impatient and need to slow down and reflect.
One of the best ways to open the pathway between mentors and mentees is to listen. It sounds simple, but to truly engage in active listening, you must practice it. Here are a few tips to help the two-way relationship develop:
Ask open-ended questions. You find out much more about a person and their perspectives by asking questions that need to be answered with more than one or two words.
Reflect what you hear so that the other person knows you heard and understood what he/she said.
Summarize conversations and make sure you have agreement on next steps.
Use affirmations for encouragement and support.
Mentorship can be an enriching experience for both the mentor and the mentee. If you are currently mentoring or being mentored by someone, try using these active listening skills. Once it becomes easy, you can focus less on the questions and fully enjoy the answers.