Mentoring lesson: Listening skills

Rebecca Robinson explains why listening actively and empathetically are key to to successful mentoring.

Building confidence is the key outcome of mentoring for both participants. Success also involves building skills and ability, but these can only be useful to anyone if they are confident as well as competent at using them. Only by truly understanding mentees have I been able to help them build their confidence. Listening actively and empathetically are key to this.

Build rapport using active listening

  • Build rapport using simple body language, tone, volume and language to mirror the mentee
  • Listen and reflect back what you’ve heard to check understanding and increase awareness
  • Get to know their preferences, such as learning from stories, from facts and figures or by experience

Listen empathetically

Listening empathetically will help you understand mentees’ emotions, and in turn shows them that we understand how they are feeling. Empathy is important to help build enough trust for them to ask any question – however stupid it may seem – and to allow their mentor to challenge their thinking, as well as know when not to.

Challenge too forcefully or too fast for some people and you’ll lose rapport, trust and their compliance with the process. For others, if you don’t make the challenges hard enough or often enough you might lose them too. Listening empathetically, learning to trust your instincts, as well as experience as a mentor, will help you get this timing right.

About the author

Rebecca Robinson is a vet and Practice Director at Lynwood Vets in Dorset where her focus has been on building a leadership team, planning strategic development and building up the people within the practice. Her second role as a business and performance coach enables her to fulfil her passion of helping people to be the best that they can be, for instance by running a course as a part of Vet Dynamics for new graduates as they settle into practice life. She has recently become a director of the Veterinary Management Group, the professional association for all those in leadership and management roles in the veterinary sector.

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