Giving help 2
Consider the mentoree's sensitivities; you may need to be careful in choosing appropriate words, behaviour, posture, and body language. And if you are working with a small group, start by seating people so that each one can participate equally.
One way to get moving is to ask the mentoree about the different ways they see to achieve the goals. Quite possibly, they will miss some options that you will see, and suggest some that you might have never thought of.
Then evaluate them--some will be much better than others.
You will normally need to break the task up into smaller, more achievable goals so you can start with what they are ready for. Mentorees tend to react in several ways:
- Some find it a source of encouragement; it makes the goal achievable.
- Some want to go straight to the higher goal, no matter how unrealistic it is to achieve in one hit.
Then set your goals for the next step. They will want to have a say in what they need and you also need to be free to say what you think they need.
Share your personal experiences and what you have learned. Your mentorees really want to hear your story, as long as you don't start lecturing them.
Start with what they are ready for and see how they react. It often doesn't help much to dump the most difficult things on them. It might take them some time to think through something new and figure out how to apply it.
If you give advice, think carefully about what you will say. You can't just explain everything to them that you know. It is much more effective to consider how information applies to the mentoree and his/her particular situation. That way, you can give them something much clearer, simpler, and more helpful.
Then encourage the mentoree to make a clear decision, take responsibility for their decision and keep on track.
And it's then your job to follow them up to hold them accountable for their goals. This might involve:
- showing them how to do things,
- solving problems on the way,
- giving advice, and/or
- listening carefully and asking questions.
- Help the mentoree to identify opportunities to learn more. You can refer them to books and websites, to short courses, or to other people in your own personal or professional network.
- If the mentoree asks for help, do what you can to give them the kind of help that will benefit them most.
- As you go, keep an eye on how effective the mentoring is. Every now and then, tell your mentoree on how well you thing they are progressing towards the goals you agreed on.
- Encourage student to take greater responsibility for their own learning and achieving their own goals
- Encourage students to reflect on their experience. They may be able to do some things before understanding them very well. Ask the student about the reasons why things are done as they are, the implications, the relevance of off-job learning, and how they might do things in other situations.
Be a good listener
In many cases, the main thing you need to do is to listen very, very carefully. If you are a compulsive advice-giver, you might find these skills very difficult to learn.
You may have to cut off prattle when it is simply time-wasting and redirect the discussion in more fruitful directions. Your main tools to do so are questions.
To be a good mentor, you need to learn to listen effectively. I can't teach you how to be a listener in an e-book, but here's a toolkit of listening skills that might help you:
- Listen for central ideas
- Identify the mentoree's emotional triggers. For example, what kinds of things make them defensive, quiet, disappointed, or angry? What stimulates them to be creative and talkative?
- Stay in touch with what the speaker is saying, even when both you and the mentoree are thinking faster than you can put thoughts into words.
- Be patient with people who are naturally inarticulate.
- You might want to paraphrase what the mentoree has said to check that you understand it accurately.
- You might want to summarize what the mentoree has said so that the conversation can move on.
- Use silence to encourage the mentoree to talk more.
- Recognize any body language messages the mentoree sends you, although the mentoree may be unconscious of them.
- Check your own body language to make sure you only send helpful messages.
Ask good questions
Questions are a basic teaching tool and you need to master the techniques.
Write key questions in your notes plans. Put some thought into them: they should be open-ended discussion starters.
You might want to have some follow-up questions written down as well. When you get more experience, you'll be able to produce follow-up questions spontaneously as the need arises.
There are three basic kinds
- Closed questions: students only have a limited range of answers to choose from, such as "Yes" or "No". They are usually fairly easy to answer, and are best for getting students to provide an initial response when they are reluctant to speak.
- Open questions that only ask students to report information. They are useful, because students often miss information. The most useful are "What? Why? When? Where? Who? How?"
- Open-ended questions that ask students to think. There usually isn't a particular answer that you should look for, and when students give their answer, you need to ask the reasons why and follow through to causes. Students can't usually answer these questions by only repeating information.
- Draw out students opinions.
- Play the devils advocate (graciously, of course). Take the opposite view and get your mentoress to defend their ideas. "How would you answer someone who said ...."
- Identify issues where mentorees could have a variety of opinions.
If mentorees are reluctant to talk, you have several options:
- Ask what they think.
- Simplify the question (again and again all the way back to a simple yes/no question if need be) until they answer the blatantly obvious. Then build back up to your original questions.
- Make sure the points of your questions are clear.
- Don't play: "Guess what's on my mind."
- Redirect the discussion when mentorees who talk too much.
- Explore paradoxes.
- Give mentorees the right to their own opinions.
- Ask questions to develop their skills in problem solving. Thes are usually "What if ...?" questions.
- Pick up on good ideas that come up and explore them.
- Make your mentorees glad that they bring up points, especially when they have very good ideas or are usually shy.
- Ask questions that ask them to commit to specific decisions. (Developing their decision-making skills is also part of your role.)
You'll probably have a difference of opinion with your mentoree sometime. In the worst case scenario, you might just have to end the arrangement. Otherwise, consider these approaches to resolve them:
- Ask the other side to discuss the matter.
- Find a solution that is good for both sides.
- Explain why you acted as you did.
- Don't take it personally when your ideas are rejected.
- Use 'I' messages that explain what you think and feel, rather than "you" messages that lay blame.
- Get help from somebody else.
A word of caution. If you have a conflict with a mentoree, beware of effects later on. Some people get over conflicts quite easily but others harbor secret resentments that could eventually re-surface.
Consolidate the mentoree's learning
After a while, you might want to take stock of what the mentoree has learned. After all, lots of discussions don't necessarily add up to learning anything specific.
In other words, the mentoree might be unsure of exactly what it is they have learnt, and you might not be sure that the mentoree has learnt it.
Some of the ways you can consolidate learning are:
- Arrange extra practice.
- Review what mentorees learn at the end of each session.
- Add more learning activities to support and reinforce new learning, build on strengths and identify areas for further development.
- Ask the mentoree to identify patterns or recurring themes.
- Arrange a time to watch them apply what they have learnt in a real situation.
- Ask the mentoree to create a diagram, idea map, or flow chart of what they have learnt.
- Ask them to teach it to someone else.
Is the student still learning?
Keep in asking yourself, "Is this effective?" As you go, you'll learn more about the individual’s learning style, and their particular characteristics.
Show leadership if the student gets stuck. They may need you to make the harder decisions if they can't. For example, you can help them re-focus or give them more (or less) responsibility. It's hard to inspire people, but easier to empower people.
It is partly your job to motivate them so that they continue to be responsible for their own learning. (It's also partly the student's job.) Usually that means discussing the goals and barriers. But watch for subtle cues from the students about things that they are reluctant to say out loud. Change your approach if you need to so that the student keeps momentum.
Ethics can be more of an issue:
- If you get personally very close, you might become unable be objective in evaluating the success of the relationship as a learning experience.
- If the other person is of the opposite gender, you should not normally spend a lot of time alone.
- The closeness of your relationship involves a level of trust that brings the need for confidentiality.
A time will come to close the mentoring arrangement. It might arise because you have met your objectives or because one of you wants to withdraw. Make sure the closure is smooth.
Negotiate it so that the relationship is still good; the ideal is that both sides could take it up again. Talk about it and the student's further goals.
- When the student has met the goals you set, negotiate closure and carry it out smoothly. Keep the relationship good and communicate it well.
- Ask the student for feedback on whether they think they achieved the goals of the sessions.
You can determine when the relationship is over when:
- The student assesses themselves as having the skills they are aiming to get.
- The student shows significant improvement in a particular area.
- The student is ready for formal assessment.
- The student can learn independently.
- The student is ready to keep learning through other means.
- The agreed time period over.
Sadly, you might also find that severe blockages in the relationship that make it no longer viable. The relationship sometimes sours. This might be through fundamentally different opinions, lack of contact, misunderstandings through emails, or critique of work. Your first course of action should be to repair the relationship.
Evaluate how effective it was as a learning experience for the student. Fill in the evaluation form
If your organization uses a different form, then you should also use its form and lodge it with the relevant staff member.
- Did the student have all the skills you aimed for?
- How effective was your teaching process and your teaching techniques?
- What personal benefits did you gain from the process?
- What benefits did the organization gain from the process?
- Based on your evaluation of what happened, what improvements do you recommend? (E.g. What would you do differently next time? What kind of person would you select? Do your organizational procedures need improvement? Were the forms helpful or not?)