Mentoring - Establishing Rapport

Establishing a good rapport is the first stage of mentoring. As with befriending strangers, mentoring begins with the process of exploring. At this stage of the mentor-mentee relationship, the importance is laid more on getting familiar, learning the highs and lows, pros and cons, quirks and fads of each other. At this stage, the most important things to follow for a mentor are to −

  • Set the expectations.
  • Be in charge and lead the talk.
  • Mention the goals of mentoring.
  • Put forth open-ended questions.
  • Ensure that the mentee needn’t talk on undesirable topics.
  • Listen attentively.
  • Address mentee’s initial apprehensions.
  • Make mental notes.
  • Share facts about you to build rapport.
  • Smile, maintain eye-contact and a pleasant body language.

Exploring the Mentor-mentee Dynamics

It’s very important for the mentor to take the lead in the first meeting with the mentee(s) and create the right rapport and comfort levels with him. This helps in not only breaking the communication barrier but also provides an opportunity to the mentor to express his dedication to the relationship and the mentoring process.

The mentor needs to be very patient with the mentee at this point of time. He needs to understand what is a mere professional obligation to him is a career-defining moment to the mentee. The mentee will be unsure, unaware to the world that lies ahead of him and will generally be curious. Building that right rapport that makes him feel at home talking to someone who understands him is the key.

Many mentors make the oft-repeated error trying to provide the answers to the questions they ask of the employees. There is an insuppressible urge to provide advice even before the mentee has finished sharing his story. This tricks the mentor to treat the concerns of the mentee as blanket behavior, unlike the one-one relationship it is meant to be.

The mentee also gets instantly suspicious of the mentor’s sincerity and involvement in this project, and starts wondering if he is in this mentoring role just for the sake of it.

As a mentor, the first thing that a person is supposed to do is listen. Most often than not, people feel better if they just share their feelings with someone who comes across as an attentive listener, even if he is a total stranger; especially because he is a total stranger.

In such a situation, the mentor is expected to −

  • Listen before counselling
  • Demonstrate necessary skills
  • Ask open & closed questions
  • Define priorities
  • Provide information or advice
  • Share constructive feedback
  • Listen and empathize
  • Identify strengths and weaknesses
  • Identify areas of improvements
  • Share experiences and anecdotes