Part of the mentor’s role is to create a space that encourages a mentee to feel comfortable being open with you – to share themselves and their experiences honestly and candidly. It is challenging because the person who shows up often does so guardedly.
Here are four strategies you might try to help your mentee feel more at ease.
1. Share your stories and real world examples.
Your willingness to share your story models openness and a willingness to be vulnerable, which in turn encourages trust. Mentees tell us that they find real value in hearing about a mentor’s career journey, personal choices, and challenges. Role modeling your openness helps move the relationship forward. As a result, the mentee becomes less guarded and more comfortable revealing their vulnerabilities.
2. Share your own failures and your successes.
Walls come down when mentees hear that that their mentor has also faced disappointments, failures, and uncertainties. Hearing how the mentor deals with challenges and becomes successful despite setbacks is an energizing and motivating. It lets mentees know that they don’t have to be perfect and helps them learn that they can accept defeat as a setback, but it is not a deal breaker.
3. Provide positive reinforcement.
Mentees aren’t mind readers. They hope their mentor is seeing positive changes in the their growth and development, but when they hear it from their mentor, it is validating. Build time into your meetings to talk about progress and change of behavior.
4. Share what you learning and getting from of the relationship.
Mentees find it hard to believe that mentors get as much out of the mentoring experience as they do…. and, sometimes more! Share what you are learning with your mentee and talk about how you are applying lessons learned to your own leadership.