Mentoring is one of the most rewarding things you can do for someone looking to grow in their career. Whether you’re a small business owner, entrepreneur, expert in your field, or just want to help others, mentoring is one way you can give back to the community. However, it’s important that mentees understand that mentors are not perfect and will make mistakes—just like them. Mentors are people too! To ensure this relationship isn’t tarnished by possible mistakes, here are ten common blunders you should avoid as a mentor.
You need to be authentic
Don’t pretend to know everything when you don’t. Your mentee will see right through it and lose respect for you. Even if you know the answer, you’ll spend more time trying to make up an answer than just looking it up. You should always be authentic and be real with your mentees.
Don’t act like you know everything
Mentors should never try to come across as someone who knows everything, especially if they’re a novice. Showing up to every meeting with a pre-planned speech isn’t going to make you seem like an expert; it’s going to make you seem like a know-it-all. Instead of trying to be someone you’re not, why not take the time to learn and grow as a mentor?
Don’t let your ego get in the way of making mistakes. If you’re really interested in helping people and want them to see that you’re human, then don’t feel like you need to put on a show all the time. Be genuine and authentic and allow yourself the opportunity for mistakes. It’ll make your mentees respect and trust you more because they’ll know that you’re there for them—not just trying to boost your ego with false advice.
Be prepared for your mentee to challenge you
When someone is looking for mentorship, they’re often frustrated with their current situation and look to you for guidance. This can lead to them challenging your thoughts and opinions, especially if you’re inexperienced in the field. It’s important that you’re prepared for this challenge and remain calm when presented with it. If your mentee has a good point or question, listen and think of ways to help him or her instead of trying to brush it off. Mentees look up to mentors as people who have more experience and knowledge than them. But, remember: they may not always agree with what you say!
Don’t try to solve every problem
The mentee is the one with the problem. The mentor is there to help them find a solution.
When you mentor someone, your goal should be to help them identify their problems and then offer solutions. Resist the urge to solve every single problem that comes up, or offers advice when it’s not needed. You are there to guide, not do the work for the mentee. Be patient and understanding as you guide them through identifying their problem and then offer a variety of solutions for how they can solve it on their own.
Make sure you’re setting good boundaries with your mentee
The first mistake many mentors make is not establishing healthy boundaries with their mentee. This can lead to something known as “mentor burnout.” It’s important you set clear expectations with your mentee about what they should expect of you, and vice versa. You need to create a safe space where your mentee knows that they are free to ask questions without fear of judgement. One way to avoid this apparent blunder is by making sure that you’re clear with your responsibilities. Do you want them to contact you only when they’re in need? Does it make sense for them to email or call during work hours? Is it OK for them to contact you after hours? These are all great questions that should be asked before any relationship begins.
Keep it professional
The most common blunder is when the mentor and mentee become friends. As a mentor, it’s important to keep things professional. It’s always better to be selective with your mentees and only take on the ones you know you’ll be able to handle. When you begin spending time with your mentee outside of work hours, or when you share personal stories with them, it can lead to awkwardness and tension in the relationship. Keep in mind that what you say and do affects your mentee in their career and life outside of work.
Be present and available
The importance of being present and available to your mentee cannot be overstated. Mentors are often busy people, but when you’re working with someone one-on-one, it’s important to carve out time for your mentee. It’s not enough to just have a few coffee meetings or phone calls. You should try to set aside time every day or at least weekly to work with them. This will allow you to have in-person conversations, connect on a deeper level, and really get them where they need to be.
Don’t put all of your energy into the mentoring relationship
One of the most common blunders is that mentors put too much time and energy into the mentoring relationship.
Mentors should not be focusing solely on one individual. They should be spending their time mentoring as many individuals as possible to ensure they are reaching their goal for impact or success.
If you’re having difficulty maintaining your focus, consider spreading it out by meeting with two different people each month, or by splitting your time between five people. Mentors need to make sure they are covering all their bases and not neglecting one person to focus on another.
Avoid being too critical of your mentee’s work
It’s important to be supportive and understanding, but it’s equally as important to avoid being too critical of your mentee’s work. The goal of a mentor is not to “fix” an individual or make them into something they’re not; instead, the goal is to teach and guide someone to help them find their own voice and create their own path. Sometimes this means you’ll need to tell your mentee what they’re doing wrong. But there should also be constructive criticism and encouragement in place of constant negativity.
If you are a mentor, then you know that it takes a lot of hard work to help someone succeed. You have to be committed to the process, and you have to be willing to invest in the time and energy that mentoring requires. If you follow these ten simple guidelines, you’ll have a much better chance of being a successful mentor.