The role you assume as a mentor depends on the needs of your mentee and on the relationship that you build with your mentee. On any given day, your mentee may require you to perform one or all of these roles. Regardless of the role, a mentor must never forget that trust, time and respect are the fundamental qualities of a successful mentor. Each of the roles are explained below to help you prepare for the different directions you will take.
Qualities of a Great Mentor
As a teacher, you may need to teach your mentee certain skills and knowledge. Keep in mind that you are not required to be the "expert" on everything. A good mentor knows when to direct their mentee to a knowledgeable source. As a teacher, it is important that you share the wisdom of past mistakes. Sharing past mistakes is valuable because it allows members to learn through real-life examples and helps to illustrate that nobody is perfect. Make a point to relate learning experiences, special anecdotes and "trials" whenever appropriate. It is this sharing of information that strengthens the mentor/mentee relationship.
The role of counselor requires you to establish a trusting and open relationship. In order to create a trusting relationship, you need to stress confidentiality and show respect for your mentee. You can promote confidentiality by not disclosing personal information that your mentee shares with you as well as sharing confidential information with your mentee. Show respect by listening carefully and attentively to your mentee and by not interrupting while your mentee is talking. Prioritize the comfort of your mentee.
As a motivator, you may at times need to generate motivation in your mentee. Motivation is an inner drive that compels a person to succeed. Through encouragement, support and incentives, you can motivate your mentee to succeed. One of the most effective ways to encourage your mentee is to provide frequent positive feedback while your mentee strives toward a goal. Positive feedback is a great morale booster that removes doubt, builds self-esteem and results in your mentee feeling a sense of accomplishment. Concentrate on what your mentee is doing well and tell your mentee about these successes.
A sponsor creates opportunities for your mentee – opportunities that may not otherwise be made available. As a sponsor, you should find opportunities that are compatible with the knowledge, skills and abilities that your mentee already possesses. In addition, think about what knowledge needs to be acquired and skills honed to meet the demands of a future position. A sponsor should help their mentee by providing support for the opportunity, and he must make himself available to his mentee, especially during stressful periods. A mentee who knows the mentor is always available will not be afraid to ask questions and seek guidance.
At times you may need to perform the role of coach to help your mentee overcome difficulty. Coaching is a complex and extensive process. Specifically, coaching involves feedback. Mentors need to give different kinds of feedback as the situation demands. If you know how to provide feedback to your mentee, you can perform the role of coach more easily. By getting feedback often, your mentee will have a clear understanding of his progress. When giving feedback to your mentee, concentrate on the behavior that you would like your mentee to do more of, less of, or to continue.
This role requires you to help your mentee develop interests and set realistic goals. As the old saying goes, "If you don't know where you are going, you won't know how to get there." This saying holds true for your mentee’s development. In the role of advisor, you need to think about where your mentee wants to go. That is, you need to help your mentee set goals. There are several factors to consider when setting goals. Goals should be specific. They need to be clearly explained, using details about what your mentee wants to achieve and on what timeline. You both need to plan an overall timeframe for goals with interim deadlines to ensure that your mentee is moving toward these goals. Goals must be results oriented. You need to concentrate on the results of your efforts, not so much on the activities that are required to accomplish them. An activity provides a way of reaching the goal, but the result (the goal) should not be neglected. Goals must be relevant. They must be appropriate and in tune with the type of activities that he finds challenging and enjoyable. Goals must be reachable. Your mentee needs to feel challenged, but not incapable of reaching the goals. You should consider the special talents of your mentee and weigh these talents with the requirements of the goal for which your mentee strives. Concentrate first on setting goals that will help your mentee accomplish what needs to be done. Keep in mind that set goals must be flexible enough to accommodate changes in your mentee’s interests. Goals shouldn't be so rigid that adjustments can't be made. Think of how your mentee will reach his career goals.
As a role model, you are a living example of Pi Kappa Alpha values, ethics and membership practices. Most mentees, in time, imitate their mentors; as the saying goes, "Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery." Learning by example may be your most effective teaching tool. Your mentee will learn a lot about you while he observes how you handle situations or interact with others. For this reason, you should be careful how you come across to your mentee. You must strive for high standards of professionalism, solid work ethics and a positive attitude.
In the role of door opener, you will help your mentee establish a network of contacts within the chapter and throughout the University. A new member needs a chance to meet other people to spur college success as well as social development. As a door opener, you can introduce your mentee to many of your own contacts to help build your mentee’s own network structure. Stress to your mentee that networking is directly related to the number of people from whom you can seek assistance or advice. As a door opener, you also open doors of information for your mentee by steering your mentee to resources that he may require.
This is part three of 10 in the mentor blog series. Be sure to check out the Effective Mentor/Mentee Communication blog to continue your development as a mentor in your chapter.
To learn more about the Pi Kappa Alpha mentor program, be sure to look at the mentor program handbook and its accompanying resources located in the myPIKE Resource Center (myPIKE > Resource Center > Pi Kappa Alpha folder > Chapter Officer Resources folder > VP of Membership Development folder > Mentor Program folder).
Devon T. Teixeira
Director of Membership Development