Positive Role Models in Mentoring

mentoring as a positive role-model
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In many cases, mentoring provides a positive role model for the mentee, especially in programs that are geared towards youth mentoring. Here we explore the impact of mentoring on developing positive role models, the challenges of being a positive role model through mentoring, the importance of showing patience and tolerance in mentoring, and how setting a good example is key to being an effective mentor.

This is Part 3 of our 10-part series on the 10 Key Qualities and Habits of a Highly Effective Mentor. Read Part 2 here.

So far in this series, we’ve covered how highly effective mentors:

The Impact of Mentoring on Developing Positive Role Models

In a mentoring relationship, the mentor typically serves as a role model for the mentee, demonstrating what it means to be successful and helping to define what ‘success’ might even mean for the mentee. This positive role modeling can help the mentee to set achievable goals and strive for success. Mentoring also provides a sense of encouragement and support that can help mentees develop the self-confidence and skills necessary to reach those goals. For example, a mentor may offer constructive feedback on the mentee’s work or offer advice on how to succeed in a particular task or situation.

In addition to being a role model, mentors can provide valuable resources to their mentees. These resources can include access to books and other educational materials, as well as guidance in career planning and exploration. By playing an active role in their mentee’s development, mentors can help the mentee gain insight into their interests and abilities, as well as gain confidence in their own abilities.

Mentoring can also provide mentees with a sense of belonging and connection to a larger community. Mentors can help mentees to build relationships with other professionals in their field, which can open up new opportunities for growth and development. Mentors can also provide mentees with a safe space to explore their ideas and feelings, which can help them to develop a sense of self-awareness and self-esteem.

Highly effective mentors embody the following attributes:

1. They behave as positive role models and demonstrate a positive attitude

You can’t beat a positive attitude. A good mentor exhibits the personal attributes it takes to be successful in the field. How so? By showing the mentee what it takes to be productive and successful, an effective mentor demonstrates the specific behaviours and actions required to succeed in the field. Remember, a positive attitude must go both ways; which is why it’s important that you always treat your mentor with the utmost professionalism.

2. They set ​a good example

Often, this is known as “modelling,” or the idea that one individual can thrive by finding inspiration in — and striving to emulate the traits of — a more successful individual. For example, mentoring is being encouraged as a way to help more minorities enter STEM fields.

Mentor Chelsea Cobb, the Senior Partnerships Officer at the University of Melbourne, is a mentor in the Industry Mentoring Network in STEM (IMNIS) Mentoring Program, powered by Mentorloop. She recently shared her thoughts on how mentoring contributes to supporting women in her industry:

“I personally think that mentoring is an important component of everyone’s career journey, no matter what gender you are. That being said, I think diversity (whether that be gender, race, age, skills, experience, etc.) is critical to ensure our country remains competitive in a global environment, and believe mentoring women is just one way we can achieve this.”

3. They show patience and tolerance

Positive role models and effective mentors encourage the exercise that mistakes are a learning opportunity that fosters positive growth. Having been in a similar position, they can often empathise with a variety of similar situations. They allow mentees to make mistakes, and then use the mistakes as positive opportunities to learn. They know that they were once in a similar position, and have empathy for mentees as they take risks and seek to grow in their desired skill or field.

Effective mentors show an understanding that everyone learns at their own pace and respecting the process that each individual goes through when learning something new. They’re often aware of the different approaches to learning that people have and be open to exploring different methods that may be more effective for certain individuals.

Promoting psychological safety when mistakes are made by their mentees is key here too. Mistakes are an essential part of learning and should be viewed as an opportunity for growth rather than as failures or flaws. By showing patience and understanding when mistakes are made, mentors can foster an environment of trust and respect that will help their mentees learn more effectively.

Mentors should also be willing to provide feedback and guidance to their mentees in a constructive and supportive manner. This means avoiding criticism and instead focusing on providing positive reinforcement and encouragement. By doing this, mentors can help their mentees develop the skills and confidence they need to succeed.

4. They’re respected by colleagues and employees across all departments

Ideally, mentees look up to their mentors and can see themselves filling a mentor’s role in the future. Mentees want to follow someone who is well respected by colleagues and coworkers alike, and whose contribution in the field is appreciated. Ask your mentor(s) about their experiences working with their team, how they navigate sticky situations, and the steps they took to get to where they are today.

5. They understand that role-modelling encourages inclusion

Mentorloop customer, Out for Australia (OFA), aims to equip aspiring LGBTQI professionals with information, skills, contacts and role models to make their transition from university into the workplace easier. You can’t be what you can’t see and sometimes, having a role-model mentor, as many LGBTQI university students or young professionals in the OFA program do, can help them through the early stages of their career as they face uncertainties or anxieties about how their sexual orientation, gender identity or intersex status may impact their professional careers.

Mentoring is not just about being a positive role model; it is also about encouraging inclusion. By including people from different backgrounds and experiences in the mentoring process, mentors can help promote diversity in workplaces or communities. This can help create a more inclusive environment in which different perspectives are respected and valued, and in which all people feel safe and accepted.

Mentors should strive to create an environment that is open and welcoming to everyone regardless of race, gender, religion, or sexual orientation. By doing so, mentors can help create a space that is diverse, inclusive, and supportive. This can help create a sense of community among the broader mentoring program participants as a whole.

The Challenges of Positive Role Models in Mentoring

Though mentoring provides an opportunity to serve as a positive role model for others, it can be challenging for mentors to maintain this position. This is because many mentors are not perfect role models. And that’s so very normal.

Many mentors may have had difficult experiences in their past or may have made mistakes that have impacted their current situation. It can be difficult for mentors to be honest about these experiences and mistakes when mentoring others. As a result, mentors may attempt to portray themselves as perfect role models, when in reality they may have struggled with the same issues that their mentees are struggling with. This vulnerability can have an incredibly positive effect on mentees, showing that people they admire, also have weaknesses that complement their strengths.

Being aware of their own biases and how these may influence their mentoring is important here. For example, if a mentor has a particular view of what success looks like, they may unintentionally push their mentees to pursue that same path. It is important for mentors to be aware of their own biases and to be open to different paths to success for their mentees.

Setting ​a Good Example as a Mentor

Finally, mentors should strive to set a good example by living up to the values they are teaching. If mentors want their mentees to learn to be honest, they must demonstrate honesty in their own lives. If they want their mentees to develop strong work ethic, they must demonstrate hard work themselves. By setting a good example as a mentor, mentors can instill values in their mentees that will serve them throughout their lives.

This is one reason we believe mentoring is reciprocal – it encourages us to self-reflect and be better ourselves as mentors.

Mentors that are open to feedback and criticism from their mentees can help them become better mentors and better role models overall.

You Can Be Just Like This – And So Can Your Community

Having or being this kind of mentor is possible once a mentoring partnership is put in place at your organisation. Who knows, you may already possess the potential to be a great mentor, or someone on your team embodies these characteristics and is just waiting for the opportunity to let them shine! Start building a culture of mentoring at your organisation today, with Mentorloop.

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Emily Ryan
Emily Ryan
Head of Marketing at Mentorloop. Observing tens of thousands of mentoring relationships, she is passionate about helping people get the most from their mentoring experience. When not writing, you'll find her brewing beer or globe-trotting.

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