Building a Strong Mentoring Mindset - Part One

In honor of National Mentoring Month, guest bloggers Sherri Fickenscher, M.S., LSLS Cert. AVEd and Ashley Garber, M.S. CCC-SLP, LSLS Cert. AVT walk professionals through the steps of creating a mentoring mindset when coaching others.

Every professional acts as a coach or mentor to others, whether in an official capacity, working with a family or as a colleague sharing ideas. Once a professional has become certified as a Listening and Spoken Language Specialist (either as an Auditory-Verbal Therapist or Auditory-Verbal Educator) they are able to mentor other aspiring professionals in an official capacity. Becoming skilled at mentoring and coaching requires more than just knowledge in the area of listening and spoken language development. 

While there are many philosophies and methods available to mentors, the most valuable tool might, in fact, be the mindset that you bring to the task. Carol Dweck cautions that approaching any task or relationship with the attitude that one’s potential is predetermined and that failure indicates the limit of one’s abilities, is to have a “fixed mindset.” This limiting outlook is contrasted by the “growth mindset” which suggests that we all have the potential for change and that attitude and effort are the determining factors for growth. Likewise, we each have a choice which mindset we will use when facing the world each day, regardless if it is as a mentor to another, whether that be a friend, colleague, student or parent. In this two-part series, we encourage you to examine the personal perceptions and attributes you bring to a mentoring or coaching relationship.

To forge a strong “mentoring mindset,” we suggest opening yourself to the belief that the person you mentor has limitless growth potential (it’s all about your growth mindset!). We propose four cornerstones to build a strong mentoring mindset:

      Create Connections
      Build Trust
      Create Opportunities for Learning
      Engage in Healthy Feedback

Create Connections
People who learn to connect with others have better relationships, experience less conflict and get more done (Maxwell, 2010). Learning how to connect with others is critical and is a practice which needs continual attention. The inability to connect with others is often a barrier to advancement, but few professionals realize the need to gain skills in this critical area of mentoring. 

In order to create connections, a mentor is a learning partner who practices being present in the moment and is authentic, curious, and acts with intentionality (Jablon, Dobmro, & Johnson, 2014). When we actively listen to our mentees (instead of formulating our own response as they are talking) we are present with them. Often our days are hectic and we race from appointment to appointment. Taking time to quiet ourselves helps us to be present. 

Acting with intentionality goes hand and hand with being present. When we are deliberate, purposeful, and thoughtful about what we say, we are acting with intentionality. If we are aware of and willing to share our abilities and our inabilities, we are authentic. A curious learning partner always asks ‘why?’ with the goal of understanding the mentees' actions from their point of view. We create connections when we phrase comments or pose questions in such a way that our mentees are encouraged to share their perspectives on their practice. Often without realizing it, mentors set up roadblocks to connections. John Maxwell identifies these four connection roadblocks as immaturity, ego, failure to value everyone, and insecurity.

Having the opportunity to mentor others can be seen as a great gift and it’s never too late to start building a new mentoring mindset for yourself to help benefit everyone around you. Please join us next week as we continue our discussion on Building a Strong Mentoring Mindset. For further discussion, join our forum in the Hearing First Professional Learning Community.

Sherri Fickenscher, M.S., LSLS Cert. AVEd, is an Education Support Specialist and Early Interventionist at Clarke Schools for Hearing and Speech in Pennsylvania. Sherri also mentors professionals seeking their certification as Listen and Spoken Language Specialists.

Ashley Garber, M.S. CCC-SLP, LSLS Cert. AVT, is the founder of Listening and Language Connections, LLC, a Michigan based private practice dedicated to accelerating spoken language outcomes for children who are deaf or hard of hearing through Auditory Verbal Therapy and professional mentoring and outreach to others who provide similar services.