“A single conversation with a wise man is worth a month’s study of books”, says a wise Chinese Proverb. Take it with a grain of salt, though. Avid readers like Bill Gates will most likely tell you that books are a precious mentor and an excellent way of seeking solutions for many problems. However, deep, meaningful conversations with the right person at the right time can be exactly what you need at some point in your career.
The lost art of meaningful conversations that are based on active listening, empathy and open-mindedness can generate new ideas, inspire action, and change the course of decisions. That is why mentors are important figures in a professional career, have an essential role in companies, institutions or organizations because they can inspire, drive change, and share knowledge.
Read more: How many types of mentoring are there?
To better use talent in different locations, companies, institutions or organizations may implement online mentorship programs, thus offering valuable help to employees who might benefit from a fresh perspective on things, a different approach to their professional career, and careful guidance for difficult decision-making processes.
Online or offline mentors show empathy, are objective and fair, and normally they are respected role models in an organization or a professional field. They are accessible and available, informed and experienced and have a high level of emotional intelligence. All these qualities, at times difficult to find in a person, will turn an ordinary mentoring session into a crucial mentoring conversation with a long-lasting impact on the mentee.
What strategies should a mentor adopt?
Great minds have purposes, others have wishes — Washington Irving
Purpose is one of the topics addressed in mentoring conversations. An insightful conversation with an experienced mentor should focus on identifying those values that are the most important for the mentee, because values give purpose to life, be it personal or professional.
Doubt and self-doubt may occur at any moment. It is quite common. In the right dose, they might show a propensity for self-reflection, which is important for personal growth.
However, a mentor should be able to make the mentee think about the moments in which they felt most fulfilled, proud and happy and thus identify those things that bring joy, enrich one’s life and give purpose.
Strengths vs. weaknesses balance
Another sensitive topic that might be brought up in mentoring conversations is the strengths vs. weaknesses balance.
In a highly competitive business environment, with so many successful people and companies, it’s easy to feel like a failure if you don’t meet certain standards or if you don’t reach certain goals (normally imposed by others). And the tendency to focus on weaknesses to overcome them might be a good solution. Ignoring one’s strengths or taking them for granted is not.
A skillful mentor can help a mentee focus more on their strengths and thus drive a mentality shift. A person more aware of their strengths will grow faster and develop in the areas of those strengths, will be more innovative, and more adaptable to change. Ultimately, a person who uses personal and professional strengths will be more successful. Marilyn vos Savant was right in stating that
Success is achieved by developing our strengths, not by eliminating our weaknesses.
Relationships are essential both in personal and professional life. Effective and balanced management of the myriad of relationships in one’s life is a sign of maturity, personal growth, and emotional intelligence. Mentoring conversations can help mentees understand the importance of relationships and look at ways to build beneficial ones.
This conversation might help find the answer to some basic questions: “How am I perceived by others?” and “Am I viewed differently from the way I see myself?” Insightful questions, as well as effective tools such as the Johari Window, might be used by both mentor and mentee to find the answers and identify possible solutions.
Self-assessment and relationship assessment are essential for any successful professional life. The guidance offered by an experienced mentor might be essential, especially in challenging personal assumptions. And we agree with Henry Winkler when he said that
Assumptions are the termites of relationships.
To sum up
To sum it up, do your best to be the mentor you wish you had! Listen carefully, show empathy, try to offer different perspectives, and you will help mentees find their path. And do it with a smile!
Veronica is a multilingual trainer of trainers. She has years of experience working with adult learners, both in Higher Education and in the business sector.