What It Takes to be a Mentor Other Cool & Meaningful Topics

Have you ever thought about being a mentor to someone? It can be very fulfilling to help someone along their learning path.

Mentors are people with knowledge and experience in a particular subject area helping those with less knowledge and experience in that area grow. They help the mentee navigate through challenges. They can create access to opportunities in the areas the mentee wants to develop. Perhaps you have unknowingly been a mentor already!

We at Launch Leadership Development encourage people to have mentors and be a mentor. It is a leadership skill well worth developing, my friend, because both parties reap great benefits. But to be an effective partnership, there are some basic guidelines to consider before jumping in.

Today let’s explore four basic characteristics of being a strong and effective mentor:

  • Be available
  • Be intentional
  • Be a cheerleader
  • Be a guide

Be available

  • Simon Sinek says a mentor is someone who always has time for you.
  • It will always require more time than you first think- many would-be mentors find they do not want to invest the needed time. The idea of mentoring sounds great but then they find it intrusive or burdensome. Before beginning a mentor relationship, honestly evaluate your schedule and make sure you are willing to invest the time.
  • Ideally meetings should be face to face either in person or through zoom meetings.  Email communication leaves room for miscommunicatin.
  • You can observe them practicing a skill or they can observe you practicing a skill and then meet to go over feedback and questions.

 Be intentional

  • Do not assume just meeting once a week and visiting will be valuable. If you are meeting each week, have a plan.
  • The plan should be based on what the mentee wants to learn. Figure out their goals, and then reverse engineer from there.   
  • Ask questions rather than tell. Lead the mentee to figure out answers themselves, when possible.
  • Seek resources to help them grow- Give a relevant book and read a chapter each week and discuss.  Email them Tedtalks, then discuss them at your meetings.
  • Give them access to your circle when the time is right if there is an opportunity to help them grow.
  • Plan to learn from them, as well. You will be surprised at what you will learn from a fresh perspective and different background.

 Be a cheerleader

  • Each time you see them you should have praise, gratitude, or encouragement.
  • Praise choices and behavior rather than natural talent. Positive reinforcement will encourage desired behaviors to be repeated.
  • Share your experience and wisdom but in a respectful way. Let the mentee know you believe they can be competent, and not play “the expert” role, but more the guiding role.
  • Use coaching methods. Try to avoid saying “you ought to…” “if I were you I would…” Instead, set up questions where they will come to the solution on their own, such as “What exactly do you want to happen?” “What are some ways this could be accomplished?”
  • Help them find their voice and passion. They will never forget you for this!
  • Celebrate progress and achievements.  Find your unique style of celebrating. It could be an activity you both enjoy, a card with a personal note about how proud you are of them, a book for their professional library, or a step up in their access into your professional circles.

 Be a guide when they get off track

  • Know how to bring corrections and instructions when needed. Many people struggle with this. Either they are afraid to offend or to do it wrong. But it is a necessary part of being a mentor.
  • Read our article on Constructive Criticism in our resources.
  • Make sure you are kind, but bold and clear in an encouraging way. Sometimes ask permission- “Can I tell you a better way to do that?” and “ May I make a suggestion?”

These are just the basics to being a good mentor. I encourage you to research further for ideas to make your experience great for the both of you!

-Jan Jones

Check out this video that I used as part of my own research!