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What makes a great mentor?

14th December 2017

In order to understand what makes us a great mentor, we need to clarify what being a mentor is.

A mentor is described in the English Dictionary as ‘an experienced and trusted adviser’, and in the workplace ‘an advisor or trainer to a colleague’.

A mentor is a guide who can help the mentee to find the right direction and develop solutions to career issues. Mentors rely upon having had similar experiences to gain an empathy with the mentee and an understanding of their issues. Mentoring provides the mentee with an opportunity to think about career options and progress.

So what key personal qualities do we need to make a great mentor?

  1. Personal drive and energy
  2. Respect and values
  3. Trust and integrity
  4. Perceived approachability
  5. Willingness to share
  6. Prepared to listen and give space
  7. Both support and challenge
  8. Curiosity – non-judgemental
  9. Display empathy
  10. Build rapport quickly

It is important to remember that effective mentoring, like wisdom itself, is multidimensional. The best mentors adjust their role to meet the mentee’s needs. There is no single formula for mentoring, however, there are a number of personal qualities (as above) that form the blueprint for a good mentor.

‘Every great achiever is inspired by a great mentor’ – Lailah Gifty Akita

In addition to key qualities, we also need certain criteria to tell your mentee that they are valuable enough for you to spend time with, that you will be honest with them, and that you are engaged in and supportive of their development and success. These include:

  •  A Successful Track Record

 Mentors should themselves have a successful track record as leaders and gained respect around the organisation. They should be in senior or influential positions and be able to offer meaningful advice to the mentee.

  • Interest in Development

 Mentors should be both interested in and support people development as well as being fully committed to the mentoring process. This includes a commitment to fostering talent in the organisation and showing a willingness to take a personal interest in the mentee and their career development.

  • Ability to Challenge and Guide

 Mentors should be able to challenge mentees to think things through and take increased responsibility for their own development, whilst guiding them to find creative solutions to problems.

  • Organisational Knowledge

 Mentors can offer the mentee insights into culture and how and why decisions are taken within the organisation. They can also help mentees to develop their ability to ‘read’ the way the organisation works and the style of leadership it requires.

  • Networks & Know How

 Mentors have an important role in introducing mentees to people who can assist their development. It is therefore crucial that they have enough influence or authority in the organisation to be able to create introductions and recognise opportunities for mentees.

  • Time

 Mentors should be able and willing to devote sufficient time to building a mentoring relationship. In addition to meeting the mentee regularly, this could involve attending mentor training, meeting up with other mentors, providing feedback to the scheme organisers and evaluating the relationship.

It’s imperative to note that damaging mentoring can be catastrophic! Never, in any circumstance:

  •  Start from the point of view that you – with your vast experience and broader perspective – know better than the mentee what’s in their best interest.
  • Remind the mentee regularly how fortunate they are to be getting your undivided attention.
  • Demonstrate how important and well connected you are at every opportunity – by name dropping and sharing confidential information they don’t need or want to know.
  • Not admit that this could be a learning experience for you too!

 Here’s 5 of our two second tips to becoming a great mentor…

  • Openness                      …your mind is like a parachute – it must be open to work
  • Communication           …2 Ears and 1 Mouth – remember to use them in this proportion
  • Clarity                           …always follows a conflict
  • Simplicity                     …it’s simple to make things complex, but complex to make things simple
  • Goals                              …are dreams with deadlines.

 ‘A mentor is someone who sees more talent and ability within you, than you see in yourself’ – Bob Proctor