Before penning “My thoughts” on the topic from a Toastmasters standpoint, let us try to understand where all Mentor-Mentee relationships fail. Once we are aware of these fault lines, we will be able to identify the broad areas in which we must “mentor our mentors.”
a) Mindset of being someone superior – A mentor should have a “mentee’s” mindset; he should be a student and listener at heart. When one puts up a front that says, “I know all, I am superior to you,” things start to strain and finally fail. Remember that a mentor is first and
foremost a friend, then a teacher and adviser. Being aware of the mentee’s requirements is critical to the success of the mentor-mentee relationship.
b) “I know all” attitude – There is a misconception associated with the term “mentor,” as if a mentor is an encyclopedia and knows everything. In truth, the mentor’s duty is not to offer an answer but to show his mentee a route or to stimulate the mentee to consider a possible solution. I’ve seen several mentors put up a show that they know what they’re talking about (even when they don’t) and end up misleading me.
c) “Do it my way” – I have seen many mentors ending up as ‘ghost’ speechwriters (rather speech correctors) to their mentees. In the process of correcting the speech, they end up rewriting the draft. In the end, the mentee delivers a mentor’s speech. In my view, the purpose of a mentor is not to produce another copy or replica of himself; instead of using the mentee’s nuances and positive traits, the mentor has to create a better version of the mentee. Remember, a mentor should not be over-possessive or overindulgent in mentee’s activities.
d) “Lack of SPARK” – I had read somewhere that a good mentor should have “SPARK”, where the spark is an acronym for Sensitivity, Patience, Availability, Respect & Knowledge.
This is very apt in a healthy Mentor-mentee relationship; otherwise, if any of these parameters is missing, it will strain Mentor-Mentee bonding.
i. A mentor has to be sensitive to the needs of his mentee. Remember, a mentee has “dared to bare” himself before you, and its mentor’s responsibility to keep secrets as secrets.
ii. He should exercise “Patience” in listening to the mentee’s point of view and differences in perspectives.
iii. The mentor should be available when needed.
iv. There should be mutual respect.
v. The mentor should possess Knowledge or skill to help the mentee. A mentor should keep himself updated.