Mentoring New Members

This page explains how mentors help coach new members with (at least) their first three speeches.

Mentors usually help coach the new members through their first three speeches, (and beyond if required or desired). This is the cut-off point to allow a mentor to gain credit for the Advanced Communicator Gold award.

However mentors can be used at any time by any Toastmaster when the need arises.  In fact the role of Immediate Past President is a mentoring role where help and guidance is provided to the new Club President and committee during their term. The key learning is that the mentoring relationship changes with time, but it is always there when needed – and that it is never wrong to seek mentors. There is no situation that cannot be talked out given the right person to talk to – and that is the role of the mentor.

Mentoring for Success

In Greek legend, Mentor was Odysseus’ trusted councillor. Young King Arthur had Merlin the Magician as his mentor. Generically the word means ‘a wise and loyal adviser’.

Through time, mentors have been an important resource allowing apprentices and new employees to learn from their experienced co-workers. Many people in today’s workforce have not had the benefit of a mentor. Those who have find the relationship to be rewarding and an invaluable resource.

While technology has placed plenty of tools at our disposal, such as illustrated manuals and comprehensive videos, nothing replaces one of the oldest, most valuable tools of success – the mentor. Some call a mentor “A person you trust to give you a straight answer”.

Unlike a coach, a mentor will never tell you what to do. Their role is to help you decide, out of all the paths you could take, which one you will take.

Careful cultivation
Good mentors are found and cultivated, not grasped and manufactured. Mentors can be located around your immediate working environment or professional circle and are chosen for being knowledgeable and (above all) approachable.

They are consultants, professional critics and friendly advisers and chosen to ensure the prospective mentor/mentee relationship has mutual interests and is compatible in temperament and personality. One good mentor is worth at least a year of tuition expenses.

Mentor’s make-up
A good mentor provides the following qualities:

  • Knows valuable organisational information.
  • Shows interest in the mentee’s development.
  • Offers emotional support.
  • Cultivates talents.
  • Offers praise and gives feedback.
  • Demonstrates stability, patience and respect.
  • Has good listening skills and flexibility.
  • Leads by example.

Two-way process
A good mentor receives the benefits of:

  • Satisfaction.
  • Recognition.
  • Remaining productive.
  • Sharing skills.
  • Learning from the mentee.
  • Honing organisational skills.

As author Steven Covey states “we only truly know something when we can teach it to others.”

Receptive recipients
As the recipient, mentees have responsibilities to their mentors by being:

  • Eager to learn – willing to accept new challenges.
  • Receptive – being prepared to accept feedback as an opportunity to improve.
  • Open to new ideas – able to see things from another perspective.
  • Loyal – will not to violate confidences or trust.
  • Grateful – appreciate the help their mentors give.

Over time, the mentor relationship will likely deepen and change affirming a richer friendship, while the mentee can in turn offer themselves as a mentor to a new member or employee.

Mutual fulfilment
Healthy mentoring relationships do not last forever. The purpose of a mentor, as mentioned above, is to teach the protege to think and act independently. When that has been developed the mentor is no longer needed for that purpose. In fact, the greatest compliment that can be paid to a mentor is for a former protege to be recognised with a promotion or election to an office or position. At that point, the mentoring relationship has been fulfilled, and a new relationship begins. This is sometimes seen in sport, where the mentor takes their protege as afar as they can, acknowledging that others may support thier next steps.

Mentoring in Toastmasters

Most new members join Toastmasters because they have problems and/or needs that relate to public speaking. Research has shown that a majority of these men and women equate the self-improvement they seek from Toastmasters with career advancement or professional development. So it’s vitally important to most new members that they solve their problems and meet their speaking-related needs.

Yet many new members fail if simply left to “sink or swim” with no guidance other than that provided by speech evaluations. It’s a mistake to assume that they can succeed without psychological or other support. They need reassurance that their goals and the effort required to attain them are worthwhile. They need practical advice from someone who thoroughly understands the Toastmasters program. In short, they need someone like you.

Clubs are urged to conduct an orientation interview for each new member. This is normally the responsibility of the Vice President Education who completes a New Member Profile Sheet during the interview. On this sheet are brief biographical data, along with a summary of the new member’s needs and expectations. You should be given a copy of this sheet and should use it as a basis for establishing an ongoing dialogue with the new member.

If you don’t have a mentor, find one. If you aren’t a mentor, be one. It’s that simple!

Asking Questions

Many mentoring relationships simply peter out because the protege runs out of questions to ask. While common wisdom relies on the protege to ask questions, sometimes they are not sure what to ask. In cases like these, the mentor may need to ask questions themselves to restart the mentoring conversation. This is particular useful if the protege is not approaching the mentor in the way they used to, is missing speaking opportunities or showing other signs of being lost.  It is worth a mentor’s while to agree (with each protege) to contact proteges every few months – and for the Vice President of Education to ensure that is happening. Members who are “drifting” tend to drift out of the club – no-one benefits from that, least of all the protege.

Gain Recognition

Mentoring a new or existing member are three activities in Project 9 of the Competent Leadership Award Manual.

  • Mentor for a new member – help with first three speeches
  • Mentor for an existing member – develop new skills or enhance existing ones
  • Guidance Committee Member – for member working on High Performance Leadership program

Please refer to the Competent Leadership Manual or Pathways Mentoring projects for more information.

You’ll also gain credit for your Advanced Communicator – Gold award, or recognition as a mentor under the Pathways Educational programme..

Links to More Resources