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The universal rules of thumb

Published on Friday, 18 Nov 2011
Photo: iStockphoto

As with most things in life, mentoring must follow certain guidelines to yield the greatest results. But, according to US-based corporate consultant, Bill Wright - who has mentored in several parts of the world as the vice-president of field services for an international franchise company - the rules of mentoring are universal. He outlines them as follows:


Be available If you are mentoring someone, you must be accessible and so must they. Availability means teaching when there is structure, but - more importantly - when there is not. Availability must be reciprocal. Both the mentor and mentee must make the time and effort to meet and reach goals.  

Encourage transparency Mentors must be willing to expose their own strengths and weaknesses. Vulnerability requires a "safe" relationship. Transparency that is rewarded with judgment, instead of being seen as a teaching opportunity, will cause the mentee to feel guarded in the relationship. 

Remain a student The best mentors are those who are still excited about learning, as well as sharing. They are enthusiastic about the growth of those they are working with. They rejoice over their victories, small or great. Good mentors are people of strong convictions, but who are not dogmatic or legalistic.  


Mentor in your own image A great mistake made by many mentors is to look to mentor only those like themselves. If we only look for those we can clone in our image, we may miss the opportunity to mentor some true diamonds in the rough. 

Have unrealistic expectations Don't impose expectations of what you want, but think more about what the mentee expects. If the mentee lacks self-belief (or their expectations are in some way unrealistic) then the mentor should encourage them to work on their self-esteem. Part of what helps them raise their expectations is when the mentor is real about his or her own life. Our worst days - and how we respond to them - present some of the greatest teaching opportunities. 

Be demanding A good mentor will not demand that the mentee learn, grow, or change. The mentor must not - and will not - always have an answer. Most of the time, mentoring is discovering answers together. There comes a point when a mentor must discern if it is time to converse and collaboratively determine whether to go forwards or find a different mentorship partner. It may be time for a change. Finally, one of the major features of mentoring is "multiplication". In other words, the mentee should be mindful of the eventuality of them one day mentoring someone else.

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