By Andy Gibbons
May 05, 2016

Practice Good Mentoring Methods

This is part nine of a 12-part blog series that explores Mentoring Skills and Principles for Adults:

The remaining posts will appear weekly.

Principle #9: Practice Good Mentoring Methods.

Mentoring isn’t about control. A mentor advises, but the person being mentored is the one who actually decides. The best techniques for mentoring, then, are methods for exerting influence without exerting control. Being a servant-leader is hard for most people at first. It is a skill, and no one is born with it. There are some techniques that can be learned through practice (in no particular order):

  • Above all, act ethically.
  • Also, keep communication lines open. mentoringDon’t do anything to take the lines close off.
  • Make sure the goals of the planning are clear and always in view. With the youth, go for clarification if needed.
  • Give up the impulse to be “right” all the time. Leave room for the youth to learn how to plan.
  • Admit it when you don’t know what the right thing to do is. Be humble. Ask opinions and advice from the youth. Be ready to learn yourself.
  • Don’t seem to arrive at the best answer right away, even when you think you know what it is. Give the youth a chance to figure the answer out on his own when you can.
  • Get into the habit of giving the youth credit for good ideas, even when they weren’t totally his. Don’t take the credit for good outcomes. Put the youth in the limelight.
  • Make it a problem solving conversation rather than a one-sided stream of advice (from you) and ideas (from you).
  • Make trade-offs and compromises. Don’t insist on your own way. Be flexible and open.
  • Help to examine alternatives and their costs. Offer perspective. Encourage alternative ideas. Encourage the examination of the strengths and weaknesses of the different alternatives.
  • Tell stories when you have relevant experience, but don’t moralize, and don’t expect the story to seal the deal.
  • Don’t exert pressure, whatever you do.
  • Be honest and up-front.
  • Never shave the truth.
  • Bring in principles. Move things toward ideals where possible. Emphasize adherence to Safe Scouting principles.
  • Keep the conversation fun.
  • Present a challenge. “You can do this, I know you can. I am with you in this.”
  • Try hard to see the youth’s point of view. His values are not the same as yours.
  • Lay groundwork. Plant ideas.
  • Build on a straight-across relationship. Don’t manipulate. Don’t be fake.
  • Plan to be in it for the long haul.
  • Focus on the person first, the task second.
  • Recruit support for ideas in the opinions of peers, especially influential peers who have good judgment.
  • When you have done the best you can, be willing to let things be, but don’t cut corners on safety or good moral principles.
  • Listen and wait it out. Let the youth do as much of the talking as he is willing to do. Often he will arrive at a good answer just by talking about it.
  • Use strategic timing. Don’t go for immediate closure on an idea.
  • Be willing to take the time needed to do the job right.
  • Let go of the rope in a tug-of-war. Don’t argue. Don’t take non-negotiable positions.
  • Don’t go around the youth. Include the youth in all the adult conversations you have.
  • Think in terms of what (incentives) the youth values most.
  • Be positive. Be resilient in disappointment.
  • Always keep it friendly.
  • Sometimes defer a decision. Maybe it’s too soon to make a decision. Maybe you need more information.
  • Offer help just at the right time.
  • Work from a position of sincere friendship, trust, and confidence in the youth.
  • Don’t criticize directly. Use some tact.
  • Appeal to the sense of “team”. The plan is for the good of the team and the advancement of its goals.
  • Promote a sense of service to the group. Help the youth understand that people are counting on him.
  • Don’t use shame, coercion, leverage, or any of the other techniques that have turned you off in the past..
  • Paint a picture for the youth’s imagination. Dramatize outcomes and satisfactions. What will it look like? What will it feel like?
  • Walk through consequences of decisions with the youth. Walk through event plans. How will people move? What are the logistics? What about Plan B?
  • Use structured dialogues. Use the planning worksheet (future post).
  • Ask questions wisely. Don’t be too obvious, and don’t dominate the process. The idea is for the youth to feel safe enough to attempt leadership and decision-making.
  • Formalize commitments. Write plans down. Help with follow-up, but don’t let the monkey of responsibility climb back up on you.
  • If all else fails, use the Jedi technique. Wave your hand in the air and say, “We don’t need to see this man’s papers.”

In the coming weeks I will post an article for each of these, so stay tuned!

AuAndythor: Andy Gibbons | Vice-Chair, Western Region Varsity Scout Program Committee and author of the “The Varsity Scout Leaders Day Book

 

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