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Advice for Mentors

How to Be a Good Mentor: Guider’s Top Tips

  • 09/12/2019
  • Nicola Cronin
  • 3 mins read

Being asked to be a mentor is a highly rewarding privilege. It means somebody has identified you as an intelligent and inspirational figure who could benefit others with their guidance (good work).

But the difference between a good and a bad mentor can be life-changing, so we’re sure you want to get it right.

Working with thousands of mentors at Guider, we know a thing or two about what makes a good mentor. So below are our Top 5 Tips on How To Be A Good Mentor…

1. Set mutual expectations and goals

This is highly important to establish early on in your mentoring relationship. To avoid any miscommunication and disappointment, outline together:

  • What your mentee wants to get out of a mentoring relationship with you
  • What you are prepared and not prepared to do for them
  • What you expect of them, and vice versa
  • How often you will meet / talk

Ensure that you work with your mentee to identify what they want to achieve and that the goals they set are SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-bound).

The best time to set these expectations is in your intro session! Check out our full guide here: ☕️ How To Run A Successful Intro Session With Your Mentee ☕️

2. Study your mentee

In order to be a good mentor, you must listen, observe, ask questions, and only then advise.

Gain as much information and clarity about your mentee’s aspirations, situation and roadblocks as you can. Be open-minded and inquisitive!

Here are some more tips for how to be a good mentor:

  • Never assume anything about your mentee
  • Be patient and allow them to explore their own ideas
  • Dig deep and ask open-ended questions
  • Get to know your mentee on a personal level
  • Read your mentee’s body language and expressions
  • Take notes during your mentoring sessions and follow up on what was said

It’s important to remember that you are not trying to create a ‘mini me’, but helping them figure out who they want to be and supporting them to get there.

3. Provide honest feedback and share your faults

Some of the best mentors are the harshest critics, so don’t be afraid to offer some constructive criticism, followed by advice on how to improve.

Keep feedback specific and neutral – critique an action or a behaviour, not their personality – and also make it a two-way conversation!

Good mentors can help their mentees realise their own mistakes or areas of improvement with insightful questions, rather than simply telling them what to do. This is known as the ‘Socratic method’ – try it by asking questions such as:

  • “What went right?”
  • “What could have gone better?”
  • “What could you do differently in the future?”
  • “What assumptions are you making here?”
  • “Are there alternative viewpoints you’ve not considered?”

Equally, be open to sharing your own mistakes and failures! This will enable you to build trust with your mentee quicker and will strengthen the relationship overall.

Admitting faults will make you more human and approachable, and is likely to also encourage mentees to be more open about their own mistakes with you.

4. Let your mentee do the driving, and don’t be afraid to challenge them

To be a good mentor, you must realise that it’s your job to provide the directions, not to drive the car.

Think of yourself as a driving instructor in a passenger’s seat. You can encourage them to tackle more challenging routes and give your advice, but ultimately, they’re in control of the vehicle.

Use the Socratic method we just discussed, and get your mentee to arrive at the conclusion you want by asking them thought-provoking questions. Remember, you’re a guide – not a manager and not a parent figure. Point them in the right direction but let them figure out the way.

It’s important to also always expect more from your mentee. This will mean you naturally challenge them and push them out of their comfort zone, which is when some of the best learning happens!

Find out more about how to keep your mentoring sessions productive in our guide

5. Take action and open doors

Mentors who follow through with actions are the ones who stand out the most!

Take note of the areas in which your mentee wants to grow, and always look for opportunities to point them in the right direction.

Remember to:

  • Recommend relevant books, events, podcasts, blogs or classes
  • Seek out or create projects related to skills your mentee wants to develop
  • Introduce them to appropriate people in your network
  • Enable quick wins by establishing short-term goals and measuring their success
  • Celebrate your mentees’ progress by recapping their accomplishments

At its core, being a mentor is being a trusted advisor. It involves making yourself available to support and advise someone when they need it, delivering that support in a way that makes sense to them, and always keeping that person’s best interests in mind.

Being a mentor is an amazing and rewarding thing to do, read this article for more tips on how to start mentoring programs, and we wish you the best of luck on your mentoring journey