Mentoring skills and strategies

Be a good example
One of the best attributes of a mentor is leading by example.  After agreeing to take on a mentee, it is the responsibility of a mentor to demonstrate the excellence, professionalism, and work ethic that marks an accomplished faculty member.  Monitor negativity, engage in professional activities, and illustrate ways to strategically navigate the life of a faculty member.

Offer problem solving strategies
Every campus community has challenges to face, and it is inevitable that a mentee will encounter some problems.  The measure of an effective mentor is to help a mentee address problems strategically and effectively.  Experience with campus policy and processes may smooth the way around some problems, familiarity with common classroom issues may position the mentor to offer specific tools or techniques to resolve a conflict, or connections across campus may streamline a solution.  Mentors should be ready to offer strategies they have used to solve similar problems.

Encourage excellence
Many studies have indicated the importance of high expectations, and mentors are in the perfect position to set the bar high and encourage their mentees to rise to the occasion.  New faculty members who exceed expectations have less difficulty navigating the tenure process, than those who just get by on the minimum required.  Mentors who push the novices they work with to excel increase the competitiveness of their mentees.

Listen and support
There is no substitute for active listening, and mentors need to be particularly astute listeners.  It is important to read between the lines and anticipate the stresses, doubts, and concerns mentees are struggling to cope with on a day to day basis.  Rather than immediately interrupt with solutions, it is sometimes more effective to get all of the problems, issues and troubles out, and then help the mentee work through a process to come up with their own solutions.  Patience, compassion and understanding are great skills for mentors to utilize.

Confront unprofessional behavior
Mentors do not always have to provide support, and in a case where the mentee is exhibiting inappropriate or unprofessional behavior it is critical to step in and confront it.  This does not necessitate confrontational behavior, but may be merely acknowledging and naming it or suggesting a pause for reflection.  A mentor may say, “Here’s what I hear you saying,” and offer a mirror of the behavior back to the mentee, or suggest alternative behaviors that may be more effective.

Offer challenging opportunities
Time is often in short supply for a mentee, but having low expectations is not doing anyone a favor.  Push mentees to get out of their comfort zone and engage in new activities, have them choose what to get involved with strategically, but push them to choose.  With support and encouragement mentors may be able to get their charges to accomplish things they did not even realize they were capable of, and that is one measure of an accomplished mentor.

Tips, Skills and Guidelines

Mentor Tip: Listening Skills
DO-IT Homepage, University of Washington
This site offers tips about being an e-mentor on topics such as questions to ask, conversation starters, etc.  While it is designed to mentor disabled teens, the site offers many helpful ideas for any mentors to use.

Mentoring Skills, Science, Math and Engineering Careers, Walden University
This site about postdoctoral life contains links to many different mentoring resources.

Mentor Training: Active Listening Skills
This video offers an excerpt of a larger mentoring skill DVD for purchase, and numerous other YouTube videos are thumbnailed on the same page.

Mentoring Skills
Sorcinelli, M. D., Principles of Good Practice: Supporting Early-Career Faculty. Guidance for Deans, Department Chairs, and Other Academic Leaders
This article describes best practices that can be used as part of the mentoring relationship, enabling mentors to feel confident and successful as they meet with mentees.

Mentoring Skills and Guidelines
Professional Practice Curriculum, PPC Online
This website outlines tips for being a good mentor.

Mentoring and Coaching Skills
American Speech-Language-Hearing Association
This website outlines a set of skills and practices to be an effective mentor.

Comparison of Skills

Coach, Mentor: Is There a Difference?
Starcevich, M., Center for Coaching and Mentoring
This site was developed in 1979 to work with all levels of management and teams in various organizations and industries to develop consulting services.  This article addresses the contrast between coaching and mentoring, based on research about attributes of effective mentoring relationships. Permission is required to use any part of the article beyond individual use.

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