Being a Good Mentor: Don’t Be a Know-It-All

how to be a good mentor

Mentoring youth is an important and rewarding role. You get to provide invaluable advice and guidance to help your mentee through this crazy thing we call life. However, as anyone who has experienced the nagging of a know-it-all parent can attest, it’s not helpful to have a mentor who seems to have ALL of the answers to life’s challenges. Instead of having a rich dialogue to build mutual understanding, the know-it-all mentor ends up delivering an extended monologue while the mentee does not feel heard or understood.

So how can you provide effective guidance and relate what you know while not seeming to be the know-it-all?

Take a learning mindset when you talk to your mentee.

According to learning mindset gurus Eric Parsloe and Melville Leedham in Coaching and Mentoring: Practical Conversations to Improve Learning, one way is to ask these essential questions.

be a good mentor

Try these open-ended questions when your mentee has faced a problem.

Question 1: What happened and why did it happen this way?

Ask your mentee to describe their experience in detail, asking her to walk you through every step of the issue or challenge. Have her speculate on the causes or reasons for the issue or challenge.

Question 2: How did you think, feel, and behave?

This is the question that helps your mentee reflect on her cognitive, emotional and physical states. Ask your mentee to go as deep with her description as she feels comfortable. Your mentee may feel a little vulnerable at this point, so be sure to acknowledge her thoughts and emotions.

Question 3: What have you learned from this experience?

This question may be a bit difficult for your mentee to answer as she might not have thought about it yet, so give her time to think about what she’s learned and talk it out

Question 4: What are you going to do in the future as a result of this experience?

Ask your mentee to develop a plan so that she can have a better outcome next time.  Ask her to be as specific as possible, describing when, where and how she will do things in the future. This may also be the time to provide some advice.

Speaking of advice, you also can frame advice using these four questions. First, mention what happened, then how you felt, what you learned and finally what you did differently as the result of your experience. You’ll provide your perspective, but also help to reiterate a learning mindset and demonstrate the kind of reflective thinking that will help your mentee when you’re not around.

So go get to it: have those learning conversations and happy mentoring!

Want to help women and girls reach their dreams?

Marcella Gonsalves is wife, mom, program planner, writer, teacher, coach and people developer.  When she is not helping people or organizations achieve their goals, she loves to drink a good espresso, talk about nutrition, or even take a kickboxing class or two. She has a diverse educational background with a bachelor of arts in journalism, master of public health and is nearly finished with a doctorate in educational leadership and management. Check out her LinkedIn profile for more details.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *