Ask Toastmasters who are dedicated to mentoring and they’ll tell you that the benefits
of guiding members are numerous. A mentor’s responsibilities typically include the following:
- Welcome new members and explain the Toastmasters program
- Recognize and nurture the skills a member already has
- Inspire mentees to take on more challenging roles and goals
- Help members avoid common mistakes and attain goals faster and more efficiently
- Motivate mentees to complete the Ice Breaker and move on to manual speeches
- Direct members as they navigate new terrain
- Nurture members’ confidence in every area of life
Mentors who excel share certain qualities, including the ability to listen well, empathize and motivate. Jack Nichols, DTM, a 25-year veteran member, was mentored by longtime Toastmaster H. Al Richardson, DTM, PID, and now mentors others. “Great mentors actively listen to their mentees so that what is being said is fully understood,” says Nichols, who is a member of the Professional Speakers Club 9 in Anaheim, California. “They allow their mentees a chance to speak and then ask specific, clarifying questions that reveal the motivations and goals of their mentees.”
Effective mentors consider what it was like when they were new members. Many of the thoughts and feelings mentees experience are similar to the ones they had, and mentors who more easily see from a mentee’s perspective are better equipped to offer valid suggestions.
As chair of the mentoring committee, Walton often talks about the importance of growth and motivation. “When both of my mentees got to a certain level with their speeches, I began encouraging them to take on executive roles, and both had terms as president of the club,” says Walton. “It became very important to me to keep mentoring them through their term to pass on my experience as former club president.”
One of Walton’s mentees took some time off, but when the mentee resumed her membership Walton suggested she take an executive role to get back into the fold. “Sometimes pointing out members’ qualities boosts their confidence enough that they realize they can take on these roles,” Walton says.
To remain effective, mentors must also stay relevant, says Nichols. “As a mentor, it’s my responsibility to keep myself educated and up-to-date, so that I’m passing on current real-world information that will help my mentees in the here and now,” he says. “When you’re dealing with someone’s future and they’re relying on you, relevancy is really important.”
Enjoy the Journey Mentees undoubtedly benefit from the wisdom of more experienced members. But mentors also profit from the relationship.Become a mentor, and you, too, will have an excellent opportunity to reflect on yourself, your goals and what you want from the Toastmasters program.
JULIE BAWDEN-DAVIS is a freelance writer based in Southern California and a longtime contributor to the Toastmaster.