Key qualities to inspire mentees to achieve greatness

Which relationships mean the most to you? Why this choice, or these choices? Did you have any significant relationships with adults, including your parents, during your youth? What made those relationships special?

I have written a lot about the importance of developing meaningful relationships with mentees in recent times. Indeed, this is the key theme of my final book promoting the spirit of mentoring which is due out in a couple of months: CHOICES: Encouraging Youth to Achieve Greatness

Achieve greatness

While I was reflecting on the content of this blog, I heard about the special relationship that clearly existed between the highly ranked Greek tennis player Stefanos Tsitsipas – probably on his way to achieving greatness in the tennis world – and his grandmother.

Stefanos played in his first tennis Grand Slam final at Roland Garros last weekend, losing narrowly to world number one Novak Dokovitch. Yet, the words of Stefanos which highlighted the importance of relationships in his life caught my attention, as he dedicated his runner-up award to his grandmother:

” Life isn’t about winning or losing. It’s about enjoying every single moment in life whether that’s alone or with others. Living a meaningful life without misery and abjection. Lifting trophies and celebrating wins is something, but not everything. Five minutes before entering the court my very beloved grandmother lost her battle with life. A wise woman whose faith in life, and willingness to give and provide can’t be compared to any other human being that I have ever met. It’s important to have more people like her in this world. Because people like her make you come alive. They make you dream. I would like to say that regardless of the day, circumstance or situation, this is entirely dedicated to her, and only her. Thank you for raising my father. Without him this wouldn’t have been possible.”




The spirit of mentoring

More and more articles are appearing which refer to increased levels of anxiety among our youth as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

There are many possible reasons for this: shattered dreams; travel restrictions; family issues such as parents losing jobs, or a business closing down, or lockdowns and the impact of these on most young people who genuinely value face-to-face relationships rather than only relationships via a social media platform.

How do we move alongside our youth and guide them through these challenging and confusing times while their brains are still developing? Enter the significant adult in a mentoring role for an important season of a young person’s life.

Professor Jean Rhodes shared some interesting thoughts about volunteer mentors and the reasons they mentor in a recent article worth reading.

Thirteen qualities to build meaningful mentoring relationships

I have enjoyed the privilege of mentoring over 1000 young people during the past forty-five years as a teacher, school principal, sport coach, and youth mentor trainer and program developer.

As I reflect on some of the key qualities – according to global mentoring experts and also linked to my personal experiences – all mentors can develop, thirteen specific key qualities come to mind. Indeed, these key qualities can apply to any mentoring relationships, even though the focus of my blogs are more toward mentoring youth. Think of the word: RELATIONSHIPS.

  1. Respect: respect both your mentee and yourself as unique beings of great self-worth with a positive self-image. Acknowledge the right of your mentees to make choices. Help them appreciate how every choice has a consequence.
  2. Empathy: do your best to place yourself in the shoes of your mentees in order to understand them better, a key quality of emotional intelligence to model to mentees. The digital age has caused far too many of our youth to have little understanding of how to interpret tone of voice, body language, and facial features, as they often embrace a sense of entitlement and instant gratification.
  3. Listen: most youth feel that the adults in their lives neither listen nor respect their opinions and ideas.  Make sure you hear what they say, as well as what they might not be saying. Reflect back to them what you believe they have shared as you model effective communication strategies. It is likely to create a quicker connection with your mentees.
  4. Attitude. mentors model a positive attitude and how that can impact their choices as they encourage their mentees to step out of their comfort zone and risk possible failure. The well-known saying is worthy of a discussion with a mentee: “Your attitude will determine how high and far you fly (your altitude).” A positive attitude leads to the growth of a positive mindset. Help your mentees to appreciate that they alone are responsible for the attitude they choose. 
  5. Teamwork: guide mentees how to become people of positive influence, able to work in teams composed of a variety of cultures, and to tolerate and respect the ideas and opinions of others. Coach them how to positively resolve conflicts which will inevitably arise as team members share ideas and opinions.
  6. Innovative: the world of work requires innovative and creative thinking. Encourage mentees to step out of their comfort zone, risk and learn from failure, and never to fear failure as they dare greatly. Look for strengths and name them.
  7. Open-minded: be the non-judgmental cheerleader, that wise guide on the side. Accept your mentees as they are. Remain objective – able to look at all sides of an argument or situation as you encourage your mentees to interact positively with others and learn to cope with new situations. Coach them how to negotiate with others in a respectful manner.
  8. Nurture: create a supportive relationship in which your mentees feel cared for, affirmed and encouraged. Key features to establish this relationship include: be an effective listener, commit to your mentees, believe in them, be accessible to them, a consistent presence in their lives, and give of yourself unconditionally.
  9. Service: the relationship is about encouraging your mentee – it’s about giving of yourself without expecting any reward; focus on the specific needs and issues of your mentee, and not on trying to push your own mentoring agenda. It’s also about sharing with your mentee the importance of giving back to their community.
  10. Humility: linked to service is the need to model humility at all times, coaching your mentee how to be gracious in defeat as well, and modelling how to look for the good in others to create positive communities.
  11. Inspire: Inspire and motivate your mentees to become the best people they can be. Coach them how to set realistic, achievable and measurable goals. They can reach their potential as they come to believe in their own self-worth, and acknowledge that they usually have control over things that happen to them, and how they choose to react.
  12. Persevere: never quit on a mentee – this is the key message from youth to adults. They are on a journey through one of the most confusing periods of their lives, searching for meaning and purpose, and will value the significant adult  who says: “I believe in you,” or “Come on, we can do this together.”
  13. Sincerity: be authentic, a person of integrity at all times. That is, be aware of your innermost thoughts and feelings, accept them and, when appropriate, share them responsibly (self-expression); know yourself (self-awareness), and accept yourself (self-acceptance) .

When mentors focus on developing these key mentoring qualities, they guide mentees to develop resiliency and that positive growth mindset.

Remember, too, to laugh often and coach your mentees how to laugh at themselves, such an important life skill.

Top ten skills needed in 2020 and beyond

And, as you promote and develop these thirteen key qualities, it becomes easier to see how your mentee will also be developing the top ten skills for 2020 – still relevant today – highlighted at the World Economic Forum in 2016.

These ten skills, needed by 2020, were collated from feedback from chief human resources and strategy officers from leadership global employees responding to questions about the top skills required for the workplace in the future.

  1. Complex problem solving.
  2. Critical thinking.
  3. Creativity.
  4. People management.
  5. Coordinating with others.
  6. Emotional intelligence.
  7. Judgments and decision making.
  8. Service orientation.
  9. Negotiation.
  10. Cognitive flexibility.

I suspect that Stephanos Tsitsipas’ grandmother modelled many of the qualities mentioned in this blog.

Be encouraged to promote the spirit of mentoring and build meaningful relationships with others. One kind and encouraging word or action can change the life of another.

MENTORING: Strategies to Inspire Youth

If you are looking for ideas to connect with youth, my latest ebook is now available ONLY on Kindle. I have collated my four ebooks into one user-friendly resource. Check it out and you’ll see all the content when you look inside.