Building a Strong Mentoring Mindset - Part Two

In our previous blog post, guest bloggers Sherri Fickenscher, M.S., LSLS Cert. AVEd and Ashley Garber, M.S. CCC-SLP, LSLS Cert. AVT focused on the importance of approaching mentoring through a growth mindset and discussed the first cornerstone of a strong mentoring relationship, Create Connections. Today’s post continues our discussion with the remaining three cornerstones: Build Trust, Create Opportunities for Learning, and Engage in Healthy Feedback.

How strong is your mentoring mindset? In the second installment of our two-part mentoring mindset series, we encourage you to continue examining the personal perceptions and attributes you bring to a mentoring or coaching relationship. As we referenced in our initial blog post about Building a Strong Mentoring Mindset, we suggest opening yourself to the belief that your mentee has limitless growth potential while considering that there are four cornerstones that can help you build a strong mentoring mindset:

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

While our previous blog post focused on the first mentoring cornerstone, Creating Connections, we are now shifting focus to the remaining cornerstones needed for building a strong mentoring mindset: Build Trust, Create Opportunities for Learning and Engage in Healthy Feedback. 

Build Trust

Trust is an abstract concept that is difficult to define, but a relationship without trust is not as effective as a relationship where trust is earned over time. Author and professor, Brené Brown breaks trust down into observable behaviors and proposes the acronym BRAVING. We have to be brave to trust one another! These seven behaviors outlined below are accompanied with questions to reflect upon when examining your own perceptions and practices:

To fully understand this acronym and access helpful resources, we encourage you to visit Brené Brown’s webinar entitled The Anatomy of Trust.


Am I able to say ‘no’? If I can’t honor my commitments, others will have difficulty trusting my commitment to them.
Do my words match my body language, tone of voice, and actions? This means that time and time again people can count on me to do what I say I am going to do.
Do I hold myself and others accountable with honesty and respect? Am I willing to admit when I make a mistake?  Trust does not develop without accountability.
Do I engage in gossip? I honor other people’s stories by not sharing them with others without their full knowledge and consent.
Do I adhere to the principles of AGBell Academy? I have read the Code of Conduct, Ethics Policies and Mentor Handbook and abide by these documents.
Do I consider situations from my mentees perspective? I engage in thoughtful dialogue which helps me understand my mentee.
Am I generous in my assumptions?  Do I believe that my mentee is doing the best they can? I give the benefit of the doubt to my mentee.

To fully understand this acronym and access helpful resources, we encourage you to visit Brené Brown’s webinar entitled The Anatomy of Trust

Create Opportunities for Learning
One of the mentor’s biggest jobs is to pull a learning partner out of their comfort zone and toward change and growth. By using reflective questioning as referenced by authors Rush and Sheldon, the mentor will help the learner consider his or her own place on that path.

     • Awareness questions help the learner to recognize what she already knows (“What strategy
       did you use in that situation?”).
     • Analysis questions support the learner in comparing their current experience to their
       desired outcomes. (“Why do you think that made/will make a difference?”).
     • Alternatives questions provide the learner with a variety of possibilities and prompt
       brainstorming (“What other strategies have you tried before?”).
     • Action questions assist the learner in developing a plan (“What will you try next time that
       will build on what you’ve come up with today?”).

For more thought development on rising to the challenge of this learning process, we recommend referencing Brené Brown’s Daring Greatly and Thomas Sterner’s The Practicing Mind.

Engage in Healthy Feedback
As Regie Routman stated “Effective feedback is not praise or criticism. It is carefully chosen language and actions that propel the learner forward.” Rush and Shelden describe the four types of feedback as:

     • Informative Feedback - a sharing of knowledge or expertise, taking into consideration what
       the learning partner already knows with an eye toward their desired outcomes
     • Affirmative Feedback - a result of active listening or observation that comes without
       judgment (e.g. “You are concerned that Mom didn’t use the strategy that you modeled …”
       or “I notice he calmed down when you brought out that toy”)
     • Evaluative Feedback that does include a judgment whether positive or negative
     • Directive Feedback which involves telling the learning partner what to do

To make sure that this feedback is given and received in a productive, healthy manner, Brené Brown suggests 10 points of readiness including willingness to sit next to rather than across from our learning partner, willingness to acknowledge strengths rather than picking apart mistakes and willingness to model the vulnerability and openness that would be expected in return. For the complete checklist, visit Brené Brown’s Engaged Feedback Checklist.

Although National Mentoring Month only takes place in January, we invite you to take an open mentoring mindset all year long. Our four cornerstones for building a mentoring mindset can help guide you to becoming an effective and appreciated mentor for colleagues, families, friends and students around you.

Looking to advance your mentoring mindset? Download the Dig Deep: Building a Mentoring Mindset workbook that was designed to prompt deeper thinking on your own mentoring style and create a Mentoring Blueprint. You can also share your personal mentorship takeaways 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.