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Mentoring is a scary business


Tina Coulsting, Director at Mentor Consultancy says there is no place for ego when it comes to being a Mentor.

Mentoring is a scary business. As a Mentor you never know what you are going to get and you have to draw on all your resources and experience to achieve your main goal, which is to empower that other person in the room with you.

It is hugely satisfying when you know you’ve been able to change someone’s life for the better but I have to tell you that when I started, the anxiety I felt about doing just that was unbearable.

I got dragged into mentoring (by myself I should add) after resisting for a long time. When three individual clients asked me to take them on in one month, after presentation coaching, I thought I would give it a go.

This is how it goes for a lot of trainers because in many ways it’s a natural progression from advanced level coaching. The time seemed right and my one to one coaching had been straying into the mentoring arena.

Like most people I struggled to define the difference between mentoring and coaching and read everything I could on the subject. My understanding now is that mentoring deals with all areas of your mentee’s working life, and because it cannot be separated out, their personal lives too.

The work that I do is often about changing long-standing behaviours for more appropriate and beneficial ones and these can take time and sometimes pain to make permanent.

This is where my support comes in because it is one thing to understand the theories – of good communication in this case – but it’s another to implement them. I need to work with people to address their particular situations, get them to look at their options, examine obstacles to getting to where they want to be and together finding solutions that suit them. I give them tasks to try out and encourage and guide them to the next step.

I also know now that mentoring can take you to places you may not be qualified to handle – like the day my client wanted to revisit the bullying she had had to endure at school.

So you need to be very clear before you start about what you can offer and what your areas of expertise are. I always lay this out in a letter before meeting up. This may go something like, “My focus is on presentation and leadership skills and I can work with you on shaping old and new relationships with colleagues, staff and/or clients. I also bring skills and understanding in the area of personal development and marketing”.

In fact I find myself writing emails to my clients often. I always send them a summary of our last meeting to make sure we have understood each other. This seems to be very reassuring for the receiver.

Mentoring is all about the other person, so there’s no place for ego. If you want to be a Mentor then be sure that you have a lot to give. Believe in what you have to give and focus on ways that you can pass that on and empower others. It’s a highly responsible job and pre-mentoring nerves are part of it. Just focus on a successful outcome – which is the message you’ll be passing on!


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