Providing Constructive Criticism

Providing constructive criticism is the second stage of mentoring. In this stage, the mentor needs to be flexible and resourceful. He needs to be able to realize what areas are the stumbling blocks of learning for the mentee. He needs to keep a progressive agenda in his mind, but should also be willing to move backwards to address a concern in the minds of the mentees if need be. There have been cases where mentees get genuinely involved in the process of mentoring if their old misinterpretations of norms have been addressed in a logical and constructive manner.

When this initial block is addressed, the mentee wants to learn things with a more positive approach. This is the time to encourage him, but not rush him. Let him learn at his own pace.

Constructive Criticism

Always provide constructive criticism of the mentee’s current behavior, perceptions and attitudes that are preventing him from progressing. Although, the flip side to this wellintentioned exercise is that the mentee might get defensive and retract back to his shell.

Using Stories as an Effective Tool

To point out the obvious errors of thinking and attitude in the mentees without sounding confrontational, the easiest method is using stories and anecdotes from personal experience to describe similar scenarios where people have found a way to deal with their internal demons. This helps the mentee identify with the characters in the story and feels connected, rather than getting alienated from the mentor.

The key is to be understanding and observant. A slight change in the perception of the mentor might make the mentee quit the program. The mentor needs to take care that he doesn’t utter something too close to the bone, and not misinterpret something the mentee might have subconsciously mentioned. Reaching new understandings is key to the next stage. This stage could last for days, weeks, and in some cases, even months. However, once the mentee passes this stage and moves on, rest of the journey becomes much easier to cover.

Ownership of Problems

A mentee will practice a set of actions only when he believes that these steps will lead to the solution of his problems, and he has owned the method. At this stage, just give instructions and directions on how the mentee is implementing the advice into actions. The mentee should be handed a clear target and goal. Set meetings with the mentee periodically to trace successful implementation.

However, the mentor must be wary to not expect a successful implementation of desired action plans every time there is a meeting. He should encourage the mentee to repeat his attempts in case he faces a failure at any step.

The approach of the mentor should be to try and pick the mentees’ mood towards a positive outcome, while addressing the issues and guiding them on how to deal with the tough situations. The mentor should also celebrate the mentee’s success and make them feel like achievers.

What Mentors Must Keep in Mind

The most important point in mentoring is to avoid quick fixes; there hardly are any. A mentee approaches a mentor to address long-standing issues so the quest for a fast solution is a clear way of failing. The mentor needs to have a long-term view and should patiently check the entire progress arc of the mentee over long intervals, for the mentoring process to really work well.

Mentee Approaches

To understand the mentee’s psychology and give relevant suggestions, the mentors must try and implement these following points in their mentoring pedagogy −

  • Meet the mentees regularly
  • Avoid judging mentees for their actions
  • Don’t give false assurances of having all answers
  • Set clear expectations and boundaries
  • Keep all conversations with mentees confidential
  • Maintain honesty at all cost
  • Acknowledge that you need support too
  • Help your mentee with references
  • The initial mentoring stages will be rocky. Hang on!
  • Don’t get involved in the mentee’s issues; provide guidance only
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