When you meet a good mentor, you immediately know it. She is supportive - not to make you feel good - but to emphasize your strengths. She is demanding - not to make you work long hours - but to inspire you to be the best you can be. She is around - not because she is always available - but because she cares about your success and wants to give you the resources you need.
In my role as the VP of Education at ToastSpot, I've had the fortune to work with some great mentors. So what better way to showcase some of the key characteristics a mentor should possess than to look at my fellow Officers? Here are the superpowers that make them so great at helping others:
1. Set Goals & Give Examples
In order to guide someone toward success, you need to define what success looks like. That is why setting a goal is such a fundamental part of making progress. Adam Gerard, our Member Education Chair, often structures his entire mentorship around a goal. Thus, he invites mentees to think about the number of speeches they want to complete or the type of speech they want to be working toward. This becomes an effective tool to measure performance and get fulfillment.
Setting a goal works really well with giving mentees specific examples of what that goal could be or how exactly it could be achieved. Ellie Mirman, our Treasurer, has been terrific at brainstorming with her mentees, asking questions to peel away at what they are actually trying to express. A mentor has to be patient, specific, and practical with the advice they give so that a newbie can clearly understand the path they are on.
2. Give Solid Feedback
Providing mentees as well as fellow speakers with feedback is one of the most helpful things you can do as a mentor. It shows that you care about someone - you listened carefully to them and were captivated by something in their speech so much that you couldn't help but share your thoughts.
Steve Haase, our Speaker Program Chair, and Nick Salvatoriello, former VP of Marketing, possess the superpower to give solid feedback. They are enthusiastic, meticulous, and considerate when sharing places for improvement. Whenever I need to give a speech, even beyond Toastmasters, I always seek out their feedback.
3. Ask Questions
A good mentor is one that eventually makes herself obsolete. Make a point to teach your mentees a process of thinking that they can leverage without you being around. In order words, help your advisees become more reliant on themselves and enable them to grow into the next generation of leaders.
Asking questions is a really good way to expose the way someone thinks, focus on specific points, bring up arguments, and enable someone to arrive at a sound conclusion. Our President Sarah Bedrick and our Secretary Brad Mampe are both great at posing key questions, getting others to contribute thoughts, and share ideas.
4. Follow Through
Not all mentees are equally engaged - some are more interested than others; some show up, others don't. That is why it's incredibly important to be able to follow through with all. Remember to check on your mentees and ensure they are doing well. Find out what troubles them or what they have found difficult. Make sure they know they are missed if they haven't been showing up. Don't forget to congratulate them when they are doing a good job.
This seems to come naturally to our VP Membership Amy Ullman and New Member Chair Loree McDonald. They stay connected with their mentees as well as other members, always bring positive attitude, and are actively inviting speakers to attend, participate, challenge themselves in order to get better.
5. Inspire & Encourage
In order to create something truly meaningful, you often need inspiration. That is why it's great when there is someone next to you to lead by example, share inspirational work, and motivate you to go further.
Our Sergeant of Arms Chris LoDolce and our VP Marketing Marc Amigone do an exceptional job with this. They are down-to-earth in their communication, yet remarkable in their work and leadership. This combination of skills encourages members to contribute newly gained knowledge by staying real and seeking to be exceptional.
What are the traits that you consider essential in a mentor? Share them in the comments below!