The Role of a Mentor

The role of a Mentor in a mentoring relationship might depend on the nature of the programme supervising the mentoring relationship. However, most mentoring relationships are likely to see Mentors taking on the following roles and qualities:

MOTIVATING mentees become the best they can be, reaching their potential as they come to believe in their own self-worth, acknowledging that they have control over things that happen to them most of the time.

EMPOWERING mentees by letting them know they are valuable and valued. When they feel safe, liked and respected, they will feel connected with mentors. Have and communicate realistic, yet high expectations. Remember, that when you empower your mentees, you are not just influencing them, you are also influencing all the people they influence e.g. peers, family etc.

NAVIGATING mentees by being a wise guide as they discover more about themselves, come to believe in their own abilities and deal with a variety of adolescent issues. Unafraid to negotiate clear boundaries, with mentees understanding the consequences when they cross these boundaries.

TEACHING mentees by being a coach, role model and cheerleader whenever possible; part of being a wise guide e.g. goal getting, management of time, resolving conflicts, developing new skills, appreciating the lasting importance of learning and of having a sense of purpose in life.

OPEN-MINDED, being non-judgmental, mentors accept mentees as they are; also remain objective, able to look at all sides of an argument, situation etc. encouraging them to interact positively with others and learn how to cope with new
situations.

REFLECTING: taking time out to teach your mentees how to review their situations, looking for the positives, the affirming opportunities,learning from mistakes and other life experiences.

Some key qualities of valued FRIENDS (the core of the mentor/mentee relationship) are likely to include the following:

FUN-LOVING: have lots of fun together; nurture a sense of humour; role model to mentees what it means to laugh at oneself.

RESPECTFUL*: both for the mentee and for yourself as a unique being of great self-worth with a positive self-image; able to acknowledge the right of your mentee to make choices.

INTEGRITY: being honest and truthful at all times; being consistent and showing up on time; upright and reliable; committed to the relationship; someone the mentee can depend on. Be authentic.

EMPATHETIC*: being able to do your level best to place yourself in the shoes of your mentees to understand them better, will help you to inspire them to greatness!

NURTURING: creating a supportive relationship when mentees feel cared for, affirmed and encouraged. The key is to be a great LISTENER; commit to them; believe in them; be accessible to them; give unconditionally.

DEVELOPMENTAL: encourage mentees to become the people they wish to be, a process that takes time and requires patience, perseverance and the understanding that the development of a friendship is a process that takes time. No “saviours” or “quick fixes” are needed.

SINCERE*: be yourself at all times; be genuine – this implies that you are aware of your innermost thoughts and feelings, accept them and, when appropriate, share them responsibly (self-expression); that you know yourself (self-awareness); and you accept yourself (self-acceptance) – role model a spirit of servanthood.

*key qualities of any meaningful relationship (i.e. the foundation stones)

General concluding points:

  • The better you know yourself, the more people know about you, the more open and effective your communication and working relationship will be.
  • One of the key functions of mentors is to assist their mentees to apply what they are learning in school/the work place to every day life. Mentors can broaden their mentees’ knowledge by providing opportunities to explore new situations, new places, new cultures. Mentors will, therefore, be assisting mentees to translate their life experiences into learning opportunities.
  • The key challenge for both mentors and mentees is to move out of their comfort zones.
  • Through forging a positive and meaningful relationship with a mentor, a mentee can be considerably encouraged and empowered to enter more meaningful relationships with peers and other adults in the future.

Programmes don’t change people; relationships change people.

Bill Milliken

former school administrator (USA)