Management & Leadership

How to be a good mentor

Feb 07, 2018
How to be a good mentor

They don’t wear signs advertising that they’re willing to share their wisdom. So how do find your dream mentor? Look out for these six clues.

Key takeaways

  • Dynamism, self-evaluation and a dedication to their own personal growth are some of the traits that define a good mentor.
  • The best mentors foster a clear sense of purpose in their mentoring sessions, and make their mentees feel safe to share both ideas and concerns.
  • Mentoring is ‘relational’, while coaching is ‘functional’. Good mentors understand the key difference.

A mentor can do everything from showing you the ropes to advancing your career. But mentors don’t come easy. The good ones are snapped up immediately. And the ones still available and willing to share their wisdom don’t have signs around their necks.

But, you can improve your odds of finding your dream mentor by focusing on a few key qualities that separate the good from the great. Look out for these six defining traits, and, with any luck, you’ll strike mentoring gold.

The best mentors…

Identify a strategic purpose

Knowing what the desired outcomes are of mentoring provides both mentors and mentees with a foundation upon which they can build their relationship. For example, if the purpose of the mentorship initiative is to support leadership development, both mentors and mentees will know that this should be the main topic of discussion throughout their time together. No, it doesn’t need to be the only topic. Of course, other topics will evolve from this. But it does help if everyone starts on the same page.

…Differentiate between coaching and mentoring

Coaching and mentoring are not the same thing. And, while a mentor may coach, a coach does not mentor. Mentoring is ‘relational’, while coaching is ‘functional’. Understanding the definition of mentoring is crucial to establishing the desired relationship between mentor and mentee, and to obtain the desired results from that relationship.

…Foster a safe mentoring environment

Mentoring is a developmental relationship, one where feelings, thoughts and emotions come into play. In order for honest discussions to take place, the mentee must feel safe – safe with the mentor and safe in the overall environment. Mentees must be able to feel that they can share ‘real’ issues and ‘real’ obstacles they have or are encountering. Only when they feel safe and trust their mentors can they share these sorts of thoughts and experiences – and only then does real transformation take place.

Evaluate results

Seasoned mentors encourage reflection on the mentoring process itself, allowing a forum in which what is working, what’s not, and why, can be openly discussed. They then make suggestions for how things can be practically improved or accordingly changed. Good mentors are not adverse to even bringing in an objective third party at some point in the mentoring sessions in order to gain fresh perspectives on the process at hand.

…Are dynamic

Good mentors are open to experimentation, especially if it’s at the request of their mentees. Technology, for instance, can play a huge role in business mentoring thanks to email, smart phones ad video conferencing. Mentors who embrace new tools, new ideas and new ways to make the mentoring relationship as effective as possible often see the best results.

…Keep up to date with their own learning

It’s easy to think that there’s not much to mentoring. After all, it’s just two people getting together to discuss stuff, right? Wrong! Mentors themselves often need guidance as they head into a mentoring relationship. In fact, frequently great mentors are mentees themselves and draw on their own personal-development training to offer the best advice to those they in turn support.

Learn more about coaching and mentorship by studying a coaching course at SACAP. Professional coaches can help create the leaders of tomorrow by applying what they themselves have learned about leadership. Programmes on offer include the Postgraduate Diploma in Coaching and the Coach Practitioner Programme. For more information, enquire now.

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