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HR Talk: Effective mentoring skills


Most managers, even at senior level, have never bothered to learn how to be an effective mentor.

While many people consider mentoring as simply answering questions and giving advice, it in fact requires a unique set of skills and practice if at all it is going to be effective and produce the desired results. In this week’s edition, we are going to explore what constitutes an effective mentor.

Create an open and supportive climate for discussion: An effective mentor always seeks to develop trust from the mentee by encouraging open and two-way communication process.

This often means sharing personal experiences or difficult times you went through so that the mentee knows they can discuss tough issues.

As a mentor, there is need for you to have respect for the mentee as an individual. Doing so will enable the mentee to realise they have something to offer during the mentoring process.

An effective mentor needs to be patient if the mentee seems unfocused. The best approach is to assist them focus by presenting and discussing options.

An effective mentor will endeavour to assure the mentee that they hope to learn from the mentoring programme.

Demonstrate good listening: Most mentors need to improve their listening skills because their tendency is to talk more than they listen and to interrupt people more than should be the case. What then should an effective mentor do?

Asking the mentee open-ended questions with a view to getting them to open up as much as possible is crucial. For example you could ask the mentee these questions: How did you decide to major in human resources development? What are your longer term goals?)

After having listening carefully to a response, you could ask follow-up questions to demonstrate genuine interest. For example: After you’ve completed your probation, what do you hope to do next to advance yourself in your line of career?

If you are not clear about a certain issue, you could paraphrase so that you get what the person is trying to say. For example you could say: So what I think you’re saying is that you want to broaden your knowledge of the human resources development field.

Provide constructive feedback and advice: As a mentor, it is important for you to match the degree of openness of your mentee. You should never give negative feedback until you have built a strong relationship with the mentee and they are ready to receive it.

There is need to give a balance of both praise and constructive feedback on how the mentee can improve.

An effective mentor will focus on behaviours that can be changed and behaviours that are appropriate within the organisation or department.

Allow your mentee to set the preliminary goals and then give feedback and suggestions on how they faring.

As an effective mentor, there is need to make goals specific and realistic indicating target dates. There is also need to monitor progress and assisting them to adapt plans when necessary while providing ongoing encouragement.

When barriers arise, do problem solving with your mentee. Do not give the impression that you have answers to all the problems, but rather help your mentee think through strategies and options

Mastering these techniques will ultimately result in you being an effective mentor who is ready to assist the mentee be productive in the shortest possible time.

Paul Nyausaru is training & development practitioner. You can contact him on email pnyausaru@yahoo.co.uk, pnyausaru@gmail.com
Views contained in this article are personal.

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