Mentor skills and training

Section subject: The key communication skills that are important for a mentor to carry out their role effectively and that should be addressed in any mentor training programme.

Introduction

A formal training programme should be given to individuals before they begin their work as mentors and it should continue during their mentoring programme. This section highlights some important skills that are essential to the mentoring role (listening, questioning and communicating) and offers ideas for mentor training.

Learning objectives

This section will help you to:

Active listening skills

Listening is a crucial part of good communication. There will be occasions when mentees will want to talk about their lives, their problems and their ideas. How much we listen to someone is often taken as a sign of how much we value that person.

Listening obstacles

There can be specific obstacles to effective listening.

Questioning

Another important communication skill for mentors is effective questioning. Questions enable the mentor to ask for known information and encourage the mentee to offer viewpoints, judgements and justifications. Effective use of questioning is essential if one is to tease out of mentees what is going on in their minds and how they are perceiving the success or otherwise of their lessons.

There are many different types of question that can be used during a conversation. You are likely to find all of them useful depending on what you want to establish or find out at a particular point in the mentoring session.

Communicating

Communicating with a mentee is a skill that takes time to develop and is not as straightforward as it would seem. A mentor needs to be aware of their own performance as a communicator and any power dynamics within the relationship.

They will need to reflect on:

Personal skills and training

The key communication areas that are important for a mentor should be included in any mentor training programme. In order to understand the needs of the mentee, a mentor should first know themselves and their strengths and weaknesses. Any training that is set up should enable mentors to do this. Understanding your own strengths and weaknesses is important before you begin to explore those of others. Discovering yourself may help you to understand barriers that others may have to sharing their strengths and weaknesses with you.

Personal development

Which areas do you think you need to develop? And how will you go about this development? As well as the areas you need to develop, you should also consider ways of doing this, such as suitable training.

Mentor training courses

Mentor training is vital in producing a successful professional development programme. Not only will you have more effective mentoring but mentors will be able to hone existing skills and acquire new ones.

Final word

You should now be aware that:

No one is a ‘natural’ mentor – communication skills need to be developed in order to help mentees develop. Mentees will present a range of needs in a variety of different contexts.

You might like to reflect on the issues arising from this section and make some notes for the future.


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