Mentoring is an important way of supporting the advancement and growth of talent in an organisation. Every employee, whatever their level, will benefit from having someone who will help them grow professionally, and individuals from minority groups even more so.
One of the critical factors to being an effective mentor is building a strong rapport with your mentee right from the start.
Help your mentee feel comfortable in sharing their professional desires and concerns by building a strong basis of mutual trust and respect. Establishing a good rapport from the start will help you develop the foundations of a great mentoring relationship.
Here’s how you can build and maintain it:
- Set guidelines together to establish expectations and to ensure you both feel comfortable about speaking up if something is not working. Check in regularly with your mentee to ensure you’re moving in the right direction.
- Acknowledge their strengths and accomplishments from the outset.
- Encourage questions of any type, and let your mentee know there are no bad or “silly” questions.
- Listen closely, show curiosity, genuine interest and empathy. Ask open questions such as, “what do you think about, what specifically is difficult, how do you know…?”
- Notice the pace and volume they’re speaking at, the energy they display, and try to match it. Similar body language or posture can help build rapport.
- Show you’ve understood by paraphrasing what you’ve heard, summarising main points, using verbal cues, maintaining eye contact and open body posture.
- Share relevant personal experiences and underline how you can help your mentee reach their goals but don’t impose your own way of thinking.
- Discuss the valuable lessons you’ve learnt when you’ve tried and failed and don’t hold yourself as the perfect, or only, model to follow.
Rapport is maintained when people know what to expect from you – remember to be consistent in your approach and behaviours, and you’ll both benefit from the experience.