You’ve come so far in your mentor/mentee relationship! Take a breath and take a look at all you’ve accomplished over the past 12 months.
Do you remember where you began a year ago? What was the quality and tone of that relationship then? What were your goals and visions?
Where are you now…and even more exciting, Where are you headed for the next 12 months?
Next month we begin a whole new series of tips! So, dream, journal and wonder at your next level…and stay tuned for more.
In a recent survey conducted through our Center for Mentoring Excellence, listening emerged as the top mentoring best practice. Readers of our monthly e-letter, Mentoring Matters, also identified listening as the #1 attribute of a good mentor.
Here’s what they told us about listening:
- Listening at all levels is the most important thing that I do.
- Listening to others and helping them find their own way.
- Listen with an open mind without being judgmental.
- Truly listen so assumptions are not being made.
- Listen fully and carefully before offering your advice or opinion.
- Spend more time listening than talking.
- Listening and questioning to help my mentee reach their solutions.
- Be authentic, be warm, be honest and be an engaged listener.
- Mentors should know themselves well enough to know when their personal strengths or biases cloud the way they listen to and encourage/advise their mentee.
- Hear what is said in between the message, not just listening to what is said.
- Read, observe, listen and ask lots of questions
There is a clear message here about the importance of listening.
Listening serves many purposes in addition to letting mentees know that you care. Listening builds mentee confidence. It lets mentees know they have something meaningful to contribute. Listening encourages them to work out their thinking. Invariably, they arrive at a solution on their own. Mentors often discover that the listening skills they develop through mentoring transfers to other functions, boosting their effectiveness in their other leadership roles.
What can you do to improve your skill at listening?
- Identify the good listeners you know.
- What do they do that shows they are listening?
Make a list of those behaviors and then gauge how you measure up.
- What do you need to do more of?
- What do you need to do less of?
- What is one thing you can work on right now that will help you develop and hone your listening skills?
Can you recall the last time when you were engaged openly and respectfully in two-way, free-flowing really great and meaningful conversation? If you are like most people you can probably recall one or two such occasions even though you may be engaging in real conversation less and less these days.
It is ironic that in the very process of connecting with each other, we are actually becoming more and more disconnected. Technology has made connecting more expedient but, at the same time, it has affected how we interact and engage with each other.
Mentoring relationships run the risk of becoming a series of sound bites (text and IM) instead of real conversations. Engaging in conversation increases trust and facilitates learning in a mentoring relationship.
We developed the Levels of Conversation model to illustrate how trust and learning expand relative to the level of conversation that takes place in a mentoring relationship.
Monologue is essentially a non-conversation. It shuts down, rather than invites, conversation. It doesn’t build trust or promote learning. One or the other party claims all the airspace for storytelling, lecturing or expounding.
Most people engage in transaction when they mean to be in conversation. The conversation goes back and forth and remains on the surface. I.e., “Would you do me a favor? Yes. Did you read that article? Good.”
Interactions are useful information exchanges and approximate conversation but still skim the surface. Your mentee asks you how to get something done and you respond by suggesting different ways to get the job done.
Good conversation lives above the dotted line. With the move to collaborative engagement the quality of the interaction shifts. This is where deeper insight and reflection take place. There is more trust and therefore mentor and mentee are both willing to be vulnerable. The conversation and relationship deepen and learning accelerates to a new level.
When conversation becomes dialogue, shared understanding emerges from the mutual learning that is taking place. Because trust is high there is no defensiveness. Conversation is open. As different perspectives emerge, the thinking of mentor and mentee expand.
The further along the continuum you are the more trusting your relationship becomes and the more learning takes place.
Leadership Questions: Good conversation is the key to building trust and facilitating learning in a mentoring relationship. Where are you and your mentee spending most of your time along this continuum? What do you need to do more of? What do you need to do less of?
This just might be the time to have a conversation about conversation and find out!
It is tough to give hard feedback. And, yet that is often just the kind of feedback that will challenge a mentee the most and make a quantum leap in their learning and development. (more…)
The deeper the conversation, the more opportunities there are for growth and development. (more…)