What It Takes To Be A Great Mentor

Posted by Bob Gibson on Fri, May 11, 2012 @ 09:55 AM

Here at Mentor Resources we interact with thousands of people who act as mentors in the course of a year. They all want to be a great mentor.

Bob GibsonAs we visit and train, I hear stories from them about their mentoring experience, and the mentors they had in their formative years. As they relay these stories, commonalities surface, and I find them to be universal. These are qualities that describe good mentors in any field of endeavor, any geographic region, and any age group.

The following are not the only qualities of good mentors, but they are the points I hear over and over, and if you’re wondering what sticks with the mentee over the long haul, what they’ll use to describe the mentoring experience several years from now, these are the phrases I hear.

They were good listeners.

Mentors have the ability to truly listen to their mentees. In today’s world, great listeners are in short supply. Hidden within that short phrase is a significant key to the relationship – it’s not the mentor laying down the devine word – the scripture of how things ought to be. When a mentor is described as being a good listener, we know that they asked questions, and that the relationship was not the authoritarian dominant mentor and the subservient mentee, but two people communicating with respect between them.

They were realistic about expectations.

Good mentors aren’t about pushing mentees to achieve unrealistic goals. Part of that is built into the relationship.

A manager, by definition, is pushing toward (and driven by) the goals of the organization, where a mentor can devote themselves strictly to the growth of the mentee.

They followed through on conversations and deliverables.

Good mentors are dependable. They take the relationship between themselves and the mentee seriously. They keep commitments, and can be counted on to uphold their end of the relationship. This in turn, is modeled by the mentee.

They kept conversations confidential.

This is key! In the course of a successful mentor/mentee relationship personal issues will emerge from time to time. These are the occasions where a mentoring relationship can be worth it’s weight in gold, and the occasions where other relationships simply will not work. Confidentiality allows the freedom for the mentee to openly expose themselves, to ask the questions they perhaps cannot ask anywhere else in their life.

They took an interest in me both professionally and personally.

Once again, good mentors are interested in helping the mentee become what they want to be, not what a company or organization wants. Unlike managers or coaches or teachers, there’s no hidden agenda with a good mentor. The personal attention is not given with the backdrop of having a job done well, or a task performed more effectively.

They were available to me.

When I hear stories from people about their mentors, over and over I hear phrases like, “I could call them day or night, and they always had time for me.” And, “They were never too busy to listen.”

So there you have it! Not a big list, and actually, no surprises. There are things in life that are simple, but not easy, and being a good mentor is one of them.

Look over the above and ask yourself, am I conducting my mentoring relationship in such a manner that in 15 years my mentee will say these things about me?

Topics: talent management, diversity, management development, Employee Engagement, Learning, NGO, Great Mentor