Picture an amazing mentor you’ve had in your life. Whether it’s a teacher, colleague or peer, an incredible mentor improves your performance and provides opportunities for learning and growth.
So when you get the opportunity to mentor someone else, it not only validates you as a professional but is a fantastic opportunity to nurture someone else’s growth. Did you know, 89% of those who have been mentored will go on to mentor someone else?
But to do mentorship right, you need to foster the right mentoring skills.
In this post, we list the 15 most critical mentorship skills you need. This list is not exhaustive but serves as a guide for mentors and program leads in what mentorship skills you need to cultivate.
What are mentoring skills?
Mentoring skills refer to the abilities needed to guide someone’s personal or professional development. These mentorship skills may include active listening, providing constructive feedback, and offering guidance.
Mentoring skills help individuals develop their professional skills and achieve their goals. They create the right environment for growth such as fostering psychological safety and trust.
Effective mentors provide guidance, support, and feedback to their mentees. This helps mentees navigate challenges and make progress in their careers. Which is why 97% of people with a mentor say that it’s valuable.
How do you improve mentoring skills?
Individuals and organisations can foster essential mentorship skills in a number of ways:
- Mentor training: With mentoring software like Guider, we provide training to mentors joining a program and supportive materials throughout the program. This teaches essential mentoring skills while participating in mentoring.
- Self-reflection: If mentoring training isn’t offered through your mentorship program, you can learn essential skills by taking the time to reflect on what you’re good at and what you can work on. From there, you can focus on seeking ways to practice essential skills in your day to day life.
- Self-directed learning: This could come in the form of seeking out online materials, talking to others or engaging with learning apps that develop skills. It’s a key part of your continuous learning.
And it’s worth it too given that mentors are 6 times more likely to receive a promotion. It’s worth investing time and energy into developing mentorship skills for you and your team.
15 example mentoring skills you need to cultivate
Let’s take a look at the core mentorship skills that are needed for successful mentoring:
1. Active listening
Active listening goes beyond just listening to respond, it’s listening with the intent to understand.
This may sound simple, but it takes practice to really get good at. It means you are showing that you’re listening through body language, the questions you ask and the responses you give.
To stand out as an amazing mentor, you need to actively listen to your mentee’s problems and take an interest in their life. It’ll help you understand them as a person and build trust so you can provide better support.
Empathy is one of the top mentoring skills. It means that you are emotionally open to your mentee and able to try to understand how they are feeling.
As EY’s Kim Billeter writes, “Empathy is a powerful force that must be embedded organically into every aspect of an organisation, otherwise the inconsistency has a dramatic impact on the overall culture and authenticity of an organisation.”
To build a strong relationship with your mentee, you need to understand how your mentee feels. Why? Because you can then provide them with the appropriate support for their needs.
Giving and receiving feedback well is another essential mentoring skill. But remember, not all feedback is helpful feedback.
The best feedback is constructive, timely and actionable. Make sure you give feedback in a respectful and non-judgmental manner, sticking to actions and results, not emotions or personal comments.
Brené Brown writes: “When we avoid stating the truth—when we are vague or ambiguous under the guise of being kind—it is often because we are trying to lessen the discomfort for ourselves, not for the other person.”
So remember, giving feedback is essential for growth and even if it’s difficult, done well, it can be transformative.
Setting goals and expectations is an important first step when mentoring. Agree clear, actionable and achievable goals to guide your mentoring sessions.
Make your goals SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound.
Remember to develop a plan with your mentee to help achieve those goals. Work with your mentee to break down these goals into more achievable milestones. And celebrate these milestones as you go – this is fantastic for keeping momentum in mentoring.
Having good communication is vital mentoring skill. Want to build a strong relationship with your mentee? Listen, ask open questions and clarify information.
Good communication creates a safe environment. An environment where your mentee can share personal opinions and problems and trust the you will be open to them. It encompasses active listening and giving good feedback too.
Help your mentee develop specific skills and knowledge by adopting a coaching mindset as a mentee.
While there are of course professional coaches, it’s important to think about how you can practice coaching skills in your mentoring sessions.
Sir John Whitmore states, “Coaching is unlocking a person’s potential to maximise their own performance. It is helping them to learn rather than teaching them.”
Challenge your mentee to think critically and creatively and encourage them to find their strengths. These coaching practices will help you unlock your mentee’s potential.
You are responsible for guiding and advising a mentee, but this doesn’t mean you will be solely telling them what to do. Mentoring is a collaborative process.
By working collaboratively with your mentee, you can empower them with the skills they need to work with others and achieve their goals. It’s a joint effort in which both parties will learn from one another.
8. Time management
Excellent time management skills help you stay organised and focused on the goals at hand. And the best part is good time management even improves job satisfaction.
In a study, individuals with better time management skills were less stressed and they were more likely to achieve their goals.
Using your time management skills, keep your sessions on track. And take the time to impart this skill on your mentee. You will help them balance their workload and improve their performance, as well as leading to job satisfaction.
Adaptability ties in with active listening. Listen carefully to your mentee’s problems and adapt your mentoring to suit their unique needs.
Why? Because every mentee learns differently. And everyone’s priorities differ.
By listening and adjusting your technique to the person in front of you, you can help them develop. A mentorship in which one party is inflexible is much more likely to fail.
10. Emotional intelligence
Emotional intelligence is essential for mentors. It helps you understand and handle both your own and your mentees’ emotions.
This improves communication, trust building, and personal and professional growth. Learn to understand both your own and your mentee’s emotions through self-reflection and awareness.
11. Check your biases
We live in a world with huge diversity and our workplaces are no different. But you need to understand and navigate differences during mentoring without being clouded by your own unconscious bias.
So take the time to do the work and understand where your bias lie. Creating an inclusive workplace takes effort but it’s worth it. When people feel included, satisfaction, performance and profits increase.
Ultimately, make sure you’re not making assumptions, but asking questions and listening to your mentees ideas and experiences.
Help your mentee build relationships and connect with others in their industry through your network and by building their own. Your mentee will benefit from your industry connections as well as guidance navigating meeting new people.
Remember, not everyone is taught how to network or understands its importance. By utilising your own networking skills you can go a long way to helping your mentee to grow.
According to a 2020 study, motivation is critical in mentoring relationships. Motivated mentees saw more positive outcomes from the sessions. But that’s not all, the improved motivation also meant greater career success.
So, it’s important to learn how to motivate your mentee. Learning about what inspires them and what they value is a good place to start. Motivation will improve your mentee’s confidence and lead to enhanced performance.
Do you want to improve your mentoring practice? Self-reflection is one of the most critical mentoring skills.
Self-reflection helps you understand your strengths and areas for growth. Likewise, self-reflection helps your mentee develop a strategy to overcome potential obstacles.
Self-reflection is a critical part of mentoring. In a 2013 study, self-reflective mentees experienced better personal and professional growth. And here’s the interesting part, they also developed stronger relationships with their mentors.
15. Professionalism is key
While it’s important to build rapport with your mentee, maintaining professionalism is key as you are acting as a role model.
Make sure you maintain professional boundaries, and set a good example of how to behave and navigate the workplace. Even if you and your mentee become friends, don’t let that get in the way of staying positive and professional.
There we have it: the essential mentoring skills you need to foster. Using these mentoring skills, you can leverage the power of mentoring for knowledge sharing, continuous learning and professional growth.
Thinking about setting up a mentoring or coaching program? We’re here to help! Talk to one of our expert team today and get going with Guider.