In the first article, I discussed the importance of mentoring to career/life success and for extending your brand. In this article, I explore the essential skills and behaviors a mentor should possess and that you might want to look for when you evaluate someone as a potential mentor. This will ensure that you have a satisfying and productive mentoring relationship.

On the flip side, if someone asks you to become a mentor, you would want to exhibit these skills and behaviors as well.

What makes a good mentor?

  • Mentors are active listeners. A mentor listens well and demonstrates to their mentees that their concerns and issues have been heard and understood. This promotes confidence and builds trust, which is essential for any great mentoring relationship.
  • Build Trust. The more a mentee trusts you, the more committed he/she will be to the relationship. Be realistic and understand that trust develops over time, through spending quality time together, respecting your mentee’s boundaries, following through on your promises.
  • Identify Goals and Vision. A good mentor will help the mentee identify their goals, what’s important to them, their strengths and development needs.
  • Give Encouragement. Effective mentors encourage their mentees. It is as simple as complimenting your mentee on their accomplishments and positive traits, and commending them in front of others. Give them confidence to move forward despite their fears and doubts.
  • Be an informal teacher. As a mentor, you may need to do some informal teaching, so keep your eye out for teachable moments. Help your mentee find information and contacts. If appropriate, teach them new skills and help them acquire knowledge. Add model effective behavior.
  • Inspire Greatness. Do inspiring things yourself and model greatness; be a role model. Set a great example and help your mentees find other inspirational people and situations.
  • Provide Developmental Feedback. If you observe your mentee making mistakes, you should be direct with him or her and provide corrective feedback. Indicate some better ways to do something or how to act. Offer useful suggestions on what the mentee can do the next time. 
  • Be A Door Opener. Try to provide visibility for your mentee and their strengths. If possible, open doors for them to meet new people and take on challenging assignments. Make sure their abilities and strengths are noticed by others.
  • Build Your Brand. Walk the talk and show your mentee the importance of working ON their career and personal brand, and not just IN their career. Encourage them to get 360 feedback, engage in self-reflection, and determine what makes them unique, compelling, and differentiated.
  • Learn from Your Mentee. Don’t be too proud to learn from the protégé’s questions and experiences. The best mentoring is a two-way relationship in which people with various experiences and places in life learn from one another.