There are a lot of things that you have to consider when you are a mentor or if you are going to be mentored by someone else. Mentorship is an interaction of personalities as much as prowess. No matter how technically adept a person is, a communication pathway has to be developed so that people can understand concepts and ideas effectively depending on their situation. A successful mentor is someone who can make their charges feel at ease while imparting positive ideas, concepts, or skills in a highly effective way. Let’s look at some key qualities that are necessary for an effective mentor based on my experience:

  • Positive communication – A mentor guides with positives and avoids negatives at all costs. Any negatives may create situations that are detrimental to both the mentor and the mentee.
  • Strong base knowledge – A good mentor needs to understand a great deal of general ideas or concepts about their subject matter. Whether it be something simple or something incredibly complex, a winning mentor will be able to relate over a variety of areas and not limit themselves to any one. The addition of a wide breadth of subjects also allows the mentor to adapt concepts to their target and realize that not everyone communicates on the same level or with the same background.
  • Empathy – A good mentor needs to be able to read the room. Without that, they can easily go down a path where there is confusion or other strong emotions tied to a particular item. The fastest way to lose your mentee is to alienate them. With proper empathy, a good mentor can see the direction that a conversation is going and adapt appropriately so they can ensure understanding instead of an entanglement.
  • Passion – A mentor without passion is like a sunset without color. Mentors should be driven with the idea that they are helping others as well as themselves. Their constant press for more should be infectious and help the mentee understand that every day we have the potential to learn and grow.
  • Clarity – Clarity is the ability to relay ideas in an effective manner beyond communication and beyond the idea of focus. Sometimes things need to be remarkably clear so that the mentee can understand the importance of a subject. Many good speakers and good mentors repeat the same thing over and over in order to infect the mentee with a clear and concise concept.
  • Focus – This is a hard skill in today’s world. The idea of focus is an ability to grind the world down to one particular item and make certain that that one item is the only item of importance for a specified period of time. Trying to multitask or use multiple pathways at the same time can be highly ineffective with certain individuals and may even be detrimental. A good mentor should clear their schedule and clear their mind of everything except for what they are attempting to communicate in the time period allotted.
  • Listening skills – Some people wrongly believe that a mentor should be the one doing the talking. It is extremely important for the mentor to also be able to listen in order to determine their efficacy in a situation. Mentors should always be listening when they are able because it also gives them the ability to look at new perspectives and determine other potential pathways to get to their ultimate goal, enlightening others.

As a mentee you need a similar set of skills with some additions based on a need to grow and become a better user, employee, or consumer. The following is a list of skills I believe should be present in a mentee:

  • Curiosity – I watched a movie once where the idea “be curious” was at the forefront of a particular scene. A mentee should be curious about everything. It may not be popular but being sure of yourself and thinking you know something all the way means that you can’t easily learn and find out that potentially there are other pathways. A good mentee should be curious about their mentor’s knowledge and constantly looking to the world for further opportunities to learn.
  • Passion – I find that passion is always on the forefront of my mind. Passion is near uncontrollable emotion about something or someone and in this case passion should be directed towards the career or whatever knowledge a mentee is attempting to get from a situation. It should not be gone into with a mundane or apathetic approach but instead the mentee should be trying to squeeze every moment out of the world.
  • Focus -I could easily say here to turn off all social media and throw it into the corner while trying to learn from a mentor. Instead, the idea should be that during any type of mentor/mentee session, the mentee should be paying attention and not distracted by anything. Over time, this will definitely allow them to learn far more efficiently.
  • Good communication skills – I had someone say to me once that no one should say anything if they don’t mean it, but if they do mean it, they should always say it. A mentee should communicate as effectively as a mentor by constantly letting the mentor know how they are interpreting the sessions they are in. In a book I read once a character described a series of events with ridiculous accuracy, but the recipient of that description explained what they saw, and there was no similarity. It is the mentor’s responsibility to communicate effectively, but it is the mentees responsibility to help the mentor understand how they are interpreting ideas and concepts almost moment by moment. It is also said that there is no such thing as an unimportant question. Although I’ve had some doozies come up in the past, I strongly suggest that people realize that questions help mentors understand how to approach situations more effectively. Remember, even as the mentor is attempting to teach a concept, they are learning from the mentee how to do that well.
  • Fearlessness -I think this should go without saying. The mentee should approach learning without fear or trepidation of any type. An amazing mentee will approach the world fearlessly and without bias from their past or any other situation. Remember, in this situation, the object is for both mentor and mentee to learn and to hold any type of fear or reservation can inhibit or eliminate that process.
  • Listening skills – As with the mentor, the most important thing is to listen and not just hear. For the mentee, their focus should always be to listen to understand and not to listen to respond. This common issue of listening to respond forces a listener to lose track of what is actually being said as they look for an opening to put their opinion in the middle of something. Instead of doing so, a mentee should listen and wait for the mentor to ask questions unless they do not understand the situation or if there is a natural pause in the conversation and they have something that comes to mind. A habit to learn when you are listening is if you suddenly have an idea of what to say and it does not fit with the conversation as it is going, you should learn to discard that item so that your mind can be clear and able to understand more.

No matter how you slice it, whether you are a mentor or a mentee, you have a fantastic opportunity to learn and teach and be part of something more. Hold on tight and make the world yours and enjoy the ride.

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