How to be a good mentor // building yourself by building others

On 5 Apr., 2020

For the past 5 years I’ve been mentoring people on-and-of in design and code related projects. During that time I’ve developed some insight on the mentoring process. I’m happy to share them with you.

How to be a good mentor // building yourself by building others

For the past 5 years I’ve been mentoring people on-and-of in design and code related projects. During that time I’ve developed some insight on the mentoring process. I’m happy to share them with you.

So…

Why should I be mentoring?

Explaining things to others forces us to turn our thoughts and experiences into understandable and easily communicated packages. Doing so helps us refine the essence of our existing knowledge and improves our own understanding of it. we become smarter by teaching!

I know a lot of experts that view themselves negatively due to imposter syndrome. Psychologically, by helping someone, we are able to remap our “knowledge scale”, so that we're no longer placing ourselves in the lesser end.

Helping others also has the added benefit of making us feel good.

So, how do you start?

Finding your match

There are plenty of Facebook groups with people eager to learn and improve. from groups for specific software packages, groups for specific skills or groups for specific locations.

Usually when a group member gets answered in a group, they have new questions but feel like they used up their “quota”. you can always followup on them with a private message. everyone likes help.

Do your homework

A mentee is not a project, they’re a person that needs your help and support. Therefore you should create a sense of warmth by doing some basic research about them. Nothing too personal, just enough to frame their mindset and experience.

It’s important to prepare and familiarize yourself with related topics and terminologies before your sessions. Although mentees might falsely assume that you know more then them, you’re better off respecting your mentee by being ready.

Listening

Find out what the mentee wants to achieve and why he needs your help. try to stay objective. understand that the both of you come with cognitive biases on various subjects.

Find the gap between the mentee’s mindset now and their goals by asking them simple, open-ended questions.

It’s important to create a media-rich communication channel for streamlining the process and reducing misunderstanding and misinterpretations. Meeting in person is better then video, video is better then audio, audio is better then text.

Setting some ground rules

Establish conditions and communication rules at the first meeting. your mentoring relations are based on mutual respect and on the understanding that you are both busy people with their own lives and responsibilities. they should know you expect an equal effort on their side.

Clearly dictate what the process includes and what is outside the scope. set up a timeline and KPIs for the mentoring process.

Both of your satisfactions are important measures of success!

Teaching them to fish

Don’t give concrete solutions, instead, lead your mentee through your thought process. Ask leading questions that force the mentee to think and focus on themselves. Your mentees are the experts on their situation and will quickly reveal their cognitive biases.

Reflect, refer, and lead to the right place. A mentor is not a judge, he’s the consultant who gives advice and information. To help people understand the scope and depth of the problem or lack of knowledge or amount of work. invest. Be honest.

Your goal should be getting them used to new thought processes and forming healthy habits.

It’s not always successful and that’s OK

Any push forward should be considered a success. even if there are no tangible results. you should always try to be helpful, even in a situation that is perceived as ungrateful. That’s part of volunteering.

It’s OK to refer mentees to someone else. A successful match is important and an unsuccessful one could be a waste of time and energy both of you.

…And that’s it.

I hope this helps and if you have any advice on mentoring tell me, I’m always eager to learn!

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