Ideas about Mentoring
by Dr. Linda Phillips-Jones

Thank you for visiting our Web Site! On March 18th, we had our 100,000th visit and are excited that so many of you also value and are trying to improve mentoring worldwide. We hope we continue to hold your interest and provide useful ideas and tips for you. Thanks for sending your ideas and questions our way!

Mentoring Skills

The Mentoring Group recommends that all mentors and mentees develop certain mentoring skills in order to implement strong mentoring relationships. In other words, mentoring requires a lot more than common sense. Here are the skills we've identified and include in our materials and training:

  • Core Mentoring Skills (needed by mentors and mentees): listening actively, identifying goals and current reality, building trust, and encouraging.
  • Mentor-Specific Skills (needed by mentors): inspiring, providing corrective feedback, managing risks/protecting, opening doors, and instructing/developing capabilities in mentees.
  • Mentee-Specific Skills (need by mentees): acquiring mentors, learning quickly, showing initiative, following through, and managing the relationship. We believe that adults and youth can learn and use these skills with mentors.

How are your mentoring skills? If you're a mentor, you should be very good to excellent in the Core Skills and the Mentor-Specific ones. If you're looking for mentors (and trying to be an effective mentee), you'll want to master the Core Skills and Mentee-Specific ones. If you're coordinating a mentoring initiative, you should be adept in all of the skills and know how to help your participants develop these skills in themselves.

Typically, these skills are introduced at in-person training workshops. Some experts recommend combined training; others favor separate sessions for mentors and mentees. We usually prefer separate sessions (so each group can be open about questions and concerns). At times, however, mentors and mentees can be combined, as long as separate breakout sessions are included for the mentors and mentees to work on their specific skills and address their issues.

Some organizations are experimenting with teleconference mentor and mentee orientations. The Mentoring Group provides this service, and in some cases recommends the approach, particularly for experienced mentors or for those who simply want a broad introduction to the concept of mentoring. It's more difficult to build skills in teleconferences, although we're working on some creative ways to use the Web and some of the latest interactive software to do just that.

Some mentoring program coordinators, in addition to providing workshops and orientations, offer self-instruction for their participants. For example, in their learning centers or libraries, they provide mentoring resources (such as our video package, "Mentoring that Makes a Difference") and other materials. Mentors and mentees, on their own, check out the materials and get some personal follow up consultation with the mentoring coordinators.

We strongly advise you not to "water down" your mentor and mentee development. If you skip in-person orientations and workshops, vote against teleconferences, and simply tell your participants to drop by the learning center and look at tapes or booklets, they will not be well equipped for their mentoring partnerships. The best-case scenario is to offer the entire gamut of development strategies. Be creative, by all means, but stand firm in requiring that your participants (especially in formal programs) get the most robust training you can offer.

For more information and materials on skill-based mentoring, look at our Description of Products or contact us at mentorusa@foothill.net for ideas on starting a program.

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