Best Practices for Mentors

Sulemaan Ahmed is the Co-founder and Principal at Servo Annex, an organization that educates and provides hands-on coaching to senior executives on how to use all digital platforms, social media, and mobile tools. On the topic of mentorship, Sulemaan shares that he’s been fortunate to have had many mentors over the years, and identifies several key takeaways from both sides of the mentor-mentee relationship, which include:

For Mentors

Listen First

Take the time hear out your mentee, Sulemaan shares, and from there, look to provide guidance. Listening without intent is a learned skill and highlighted as Principle Eight in MindFrame Connect’s Principles of Mentorship. As a mentor, defining your listening style is an important aspect of leadership. In this article from the Harvard Business Review, it’s mentioned that “most of us miss opportunities in interactions through the default ways we listen. Like other critical communication skills, listening well depends on awareness of the goals, our own habits, and choosing how to respond.” The good news? With practice, we can all be more effective listeners.

Be Willing to Learn

Just as your mentees learn from you, you can learn from your mentees. MindFrame Connect’s Principles of Mentorship, highlight this in Principle Six – that is, mentorship is not about feeding your ego – it centres on the mentee, requires empathy, and is the ultimate activity for mutual learning. Click here to explore the program’s principles further.

For Mentees

Ask the Hard Questions

“Be vulnerable, whether you’re facing an issue or a problem – you’ve got to ask the hard questions,” says Sulemaan. “Often mentees can feel like their questions aren’t valid, or an ego may come into play – but a good mentor, someone who cares about you, will allow you the space to ask the hard questions.” In this framework and video from Ian Chisholm, Founding Partner at the Roy Group, he walks the audience through a question framework that every mentor (and mentee) should know.

Have an Open Mind

“Challenge your thinking – not everything is a linear progression,” Sulemaan highlights.

In this article from Forbes, titled “Adaptability: How to Bend and Flex with Changes” they recognize the importance of having an open mind, along with the skillset to “quickly learn new abilities and behaviors in reaction to shifting circumstances as a critical component of this type of leadership competency, which requires both emotional and social intelligence.” And, by becoming more adaptable and open minded, “during phases of change, our methods of thinking need to be revised, and we need to let go of the idea that this is how we’ve always done it.”

The article continues, “accepting change and viewing it as a chance to grow, learn and improve is a healthy response to the fact that change can be frightening and overwhelming. Additionally, it may facilitate the development of creative potential, and necessitates being receptive to the viewpoints and ideas of other people.”

Inclusive Mentorship

For Sulemaan, he believes to make mentorship more inclusive you must look at who the constituents are, and as mentor, ensure the inclusion of underrepresented individuals as mentees. Sulemaan also draws on the example of his own son, and how often in the realm of aspiration ‘people want to see people who look like them’ – highlighting his son’s love for soccer, and comparison to athletes of a similar background. “You want to give someone the opportunity and perspective that – if they can do it, so can I,” Sulemaan concludes.

To access more resources on Inclusive Mentorship, visit MindFrame Connect’s resource library, found here.

Final Takeaways

So, what are Sulemaan Ahmed’s final takeaways on the best practices in mentorship?

  1. “Surround yourself with strong mentors – look, listen, and emulate their greatest strengths”
  2. “There will be naysayers that will tell you that you won’t find success – and you need to have the confidence and belief in yourself, and your mentors, to push towards those ideas when everyone else says no. The people with the most radical ideas are the ones who change the world.”

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