Being a protégé in a mentoring relationship can feel like having to give a speech before a large group. Now, there are exceptions, obviously. I do a lot of keynotes and I can’t wait to hit that stage. But, there is a lot of research that says people’s greatest fear is having to speak before a large group. The fear is grounded in the potential of making a mistake and being harshly judged by the audience.
The core of mentoring is to the fostering of insight and discovery. The primary territory is off the path of “tried and true” or “I’ve always done it this way.” As Ken Blanchard often says, “If we only do what we have always done, we will only get what we have always gotten.” Learning is about new ideas, skills, and attitude. Therefore, the act of mentoring is about nurturing protégés out of their comfort zones. That means protégés must take risks. And, since that risk taking is happening under the very public purview of the mentor, it requires a mentor able to become an extremely friendly audience.
Mentoring with the heart of a host means approaching the relationship with your protégé like you would an important guest in your home. One of your goals should be comfort and attentiveness. Here are several hosting techniques relevant to alleviating the anxiety and aversion to risk taking your protégé might be feeling.
« Create connection The origin of the word “rapport” comes from an old French word meaning kinship. Be emotional present and never preoccupied with other tasks or thoughts. When you are with your protégé, be all there—mind, body and spirit.
« Be very attentive Watch the non-verbals of your protégé to detect signs of anxiety. Be comforting and encouraging. Above all, be authentic and genuine. Keep your body language non-judgmental with no signs of authority and power.
« Model calm and confidence If you want your anxious protégé to be calm, start by demonstrating what that looks like. Confidence does not imply cocky or arrogant; it suggests a sense of enthusiasm for your role and responsibility.
« Open posture and eye hugs Show openness in your manner and style. Be accepting, not judgmental; affirming, not critical. Eye hugs entail a look of compassion and caring much like a mother might look at her baby.
« Matching and pacing Again, your being congruent (on the same wave length) with your protégé suggests choosing a tone and pace that feels in sync with your protégé. Great hosts are quiet when they need to listen; curious when they need to be a catalyst for discussion.
« Be a partner! A great mentoring relationship works best as a partner, not an expert tutoring a novice. A partnership for learning implies reciprocal learning. Encourage your protégé to offer you advice and feedback so you can become the best mentor you can be. Protégé fear always diminishes when in the presence of a valued partner.