Strengths and Weaknesses of Your Mentoring Style

By Rick Lewis

Each mentor has their own style mentoring. These different styles are not necessarily good or bad, but each style will have its advantages and disadvantages depending on the context in which that style is being applied. This is worth thinking about to evaluate how well you think you are serving your mentorees.

Your style of mentoring is shaped by several factors. One important factor is your temperament – that is, the behaviours you tend to use most often in a given situation. There are many inventories for measuring temperament. One that is quite useful for us as mentors is the DiSC system. This approach measures four kinds of behaviours: dominance, influence, steadiness and conscientiousness.

It’s important to remember that we all use all of these behaviours in our mentoring to some extent. We might use a lot of one or two of these behaviours and not much of the others, or we may use each behaviour in equal measure. Each of us will have our distinctive mix. Our particular style of mentoring will be partly shaped by the extent to which we use each of these behaviours.

The qualities of the four behaviours considered in DiSC can be described in this way:

  • Dominance – direct, decisive, determined, demanding, doer
  • Influence – impressive, inspiring, interactive, impressionable, impulsive
  • Steadiness – supportive, steady, stable, status-quo-keeping, shy
  • Conscientiousness – competent, careful, compliant, critical, contemplative

Can you see one or two behaviours you tend to use more than the others? Each of these behaviours has strengths and weaknesses, and those who tend to use them most have typical ways in which they see themselves and ways in which they are usually seen by others.

Dominance Influence Steadiness Conscientiousness
Strengths Ability to see critical issues, help others stay on task

Facilitate problem solving

Draw out best in others

Focus on goals

Get to the point

Encouragement, highly relational

Fun to be around

Grace-givers

Help others see big picture

Creativity

Good listener, genuine care for others

Keep commitments

Sensitive to relational issues

Intuitive

Excellent at planning, Good memory

Reliable

Able to see contrary perspectives

Thorough

Weaknesses Poor listening skills, insensitivity

Offend unintentionally

Difficulty seeing details

Listening superficially, divert attention to self

Forget details

Emotionally reactive

Sacrifice honesty for harmony, lose sight of big picture

Overly cautious

Unwilling to challenge

Not very relational, tend to miss emotional cues

Get bogged in detail

Low creativity

Self-perception Decisive, independent

Efficient

Practical

Determined

Stimulating, enthusiastic

Dramatic

Outgoing

Personal

Supportive, willing

Dependable

Reliable

Agreeable

Comprehensive, persistent

Orderly

Serious

Industrious

Other-perception Harsh, pushy

Dominating

Severe

Tough

Excitable, egotistical

Reacting

Manipulative

Talkative

Conforming, awkward

Dependent

Slow

Reserved

Disapproving, stuffy

Indecisive

Moralistic

Picky

Does looking at this table help you to better understand how your temperament impacts your mentoring style? We can all grow and develop by understanding ourselves better and considering how our usually unconscious behaviours have an effect on others. Here are some suggested growth points for mentors, arranged according to preferred behaviours.

Dominant Style

Learn to listen; be patient, develop greater concern for people, focus more on personal relationship, be more flexible, learn how to be emotionally supportive, explain ‘why’, be more vulnerable.

Influential Style

Be less impulsive, be more results-oriented, control your reactions/emotions, give attention to details/facts, slow down the pace, listen more deeply, talk less.

Steady Style

Be less fearful of what others may think, be more direct, pay attention to task, face confrontation, be more decisive, increase the pace, take initiative, learn to say no.

Conscientious Style

Focus on effectiveness as well as efficiency, respond more quickly, trust your intuition, explore beyond facts, look ahead, develop relationships, be more open and flexible.

You can follow up this line of thinking further by reading chapter 10 of Transformissional Coachingby Steve Ogne and Tim Roehl.