This is the second part in a two-part blog about mentoring. You can read part one here. How to be an Effective Mentor – Part One
I’ve almost reached the end of my time as a Sound Mentor on The Wizard of Oz at ALRA drama school. We have two more days of technical and dress rehearsals, then the first show and after then, my mentee will be on his own.
It’s been an intensive and rewarding process, seeing him grow in confidence and knowledge. Here are the lessons I’ve learned about being a mentor in these last weeks.
Be clear about how, when, and how often you connect
I believe the most effective mentoring relationships are ones where the mentor and mentee meet regularly. When, how often and for how long you meet may be defined in a formal contract or it may be a more casual agreement. Regular meetings help both of you track progress, and if the mentoring relationship is set to last a defined period, they are an easy way to set deadlines for goals. Be reliable. It’s important your mentee knows how and when they can reach you, so they feel supported.
Know when to talk, when to demonstrate and when to take a back seat
In part 1 I talked about the importance of establishing what your mentee needs from you. Once you have this, you can look at how your mentee prefers to learn. They might learn best from listening to your explanation or by watching a demonstration. They may prefer to get as hands-on as soon as possible, with you in a supporting role. They may want a formalised structure of topics, or they may be more self-sufficient and prefer to work to their plan.
Allow them to make mistakes
It can be very tempting when you see someone struggling with an issue, to show them how to fix it by doing it yourself. Equally, when you hear something that might not fit with your personal sound aesthetic, it’s easy to say “this is how I would do it…” and take over. Neither of these is particularly useful if you want your mentee to learn, especially if you’ve already established that they learn best by performing a task themselves. It’s important that you allow them to make mistakes and not just hand them answers on a plate. You don’t have to solve all their problems; you do need to support them as they find their answers.
You don’t have to fit with everyone
It’s fine not to be a fit with a potential mentee. We all need different types of support at different times in our career. We’re all people too, with unique personalities and requirements. Although I feel you do need to have a certain number of core skills to be an effective mentor, there can be many reasons why a mentoring relationship just isn’t a good fit for either one of you. If you can, call a halt to a potential mentoring situation early on if you feel neither of you will benefit from it, so your potential mentee can find a better fit as soon as possible.
Give constructive feedback
When your mentoring relationship comes to an end, make time to give and receive constructive feedback. Don’t be afraid to cover the challenging scenarios as well as highlighting areas you thought went well and encourage your mentee to do the same. Review any goals you’ve set and consider how the overall experience will inform your mentee’s next project – and your future mentoring relationships.