Category | Mentoring Youth

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A Mentor Helps a Protégé Reach Her or His Potential

Serve as a facilitator
Help them gain a vision of what should/could be accomplished and the personal benefits for them. Listen to their views and ask questions that help them gain insights. Share experiences that seem appropriate to the decisions they face but avoid giving advice unless specifically asked or it is perfectly clear that there is a need to do so. Help them develop a plan for achieving results, challenge the plan and their thinking until they (and you) are convinced that they know what they are doing and know how to achieve their goals. Remember you are a guide and you are there to help them.

Serve as a non-judgmental outsider 
Be an objective sounding board; ask questions about their aspirations and concerns. Ask about the organization, it’s goals, values and how people succeed. Ask about their relations with key people in their lives. Listen and summarize what you understand. Ask questions for them to reflect on key issues. Without taking sides, help them understand the realities of life in a way that helps them develop.

Take them through a defined process 
Clarify desired results, set goals, assess performance, develop plans and gather feedback. Getting their input and creating a sense of ownership on their part is the key to making the process successful.

Ask questions
Judiciously use questions to gather information, test your understanding, expand their thinking, reflect on issues, generate insights and sometimes pose important issues that may be too threatening if made directly. Skillfully, and appropriately using questions is an essential mentoring skill. Learn to use questions to help youth develop the answers rather than you providing solutions. Do not fall into the trap of asking questions for questions sake – use them intelligently and with a beneficial purpose.

A mentor who knows how to listen actively – processing information, rather than just passively hearing — asks better questions and provides better feedback than one whose listening skills are not as well developed. Be a sounding board so they can talk and listen to themselves. Listen so you understand their aspirations and concerns. Listen with empathy when needed. Respond appropriately so they know they have been heard and understood. When you feel an urge to play the role of expert, listen instead.

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