How to be a good mentor? It’s a common question, and you’ll get different answers everywhere. 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.
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. Explore our tips for becoming a good mentor below:
1. To be a better mentor, start by setting 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:
2. Good mentors study their 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!
It’s essential 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.
With any form of communication, there’s a lot more to it than simply what your mentee is saying. Analysing their body language and expressions is also a vital part of the mentoring process, as their words may be telling you one thing, but their body language is telling you something completely different.
3. Never assume anything about your mentee
Assuming what someone is thinking is never an effective way to communicate, and this is no different in the relationship between a mentor and a mentee.
When communicating with your mentee, ensure that you’re conducting ‘Active Listening’, and avoid any preconceived notions you may have.
Promoting an environment for growth and collaborating between yourself and your mentee will help them to reach their full potential and get the most out of their experience with you.
4. Be patient and allow them to explore their own ideas
It’s important that both you and your mentee are patient with their development, as they need time to process their own ideas and understanding.
As a mentor, you should be promoting a safe place which allows your mentee to learn from their own unique perspectives and self-discovery should be encouraged.
Embracing mistakes that your mentee makes as ‘learning opportunities’ creates a positive environment for personal growth and development, as well as building up your mentee’s confidence and resilience.
5. Dig deep and ask open-ended questions
Closed questions lead to closed answers, so it’s vital to ask open questions which make your mentee think and explain their thoughts and feelings behind their answer.
Asking questions that lead to deeper conversations helps your mentee foster more critical thinking and encourages them to think about new and different ideas.
6. Listen to what your mentee has to say
Listening is not just a core characteristic of a great mentor but of a colleague, manager, and leader.
As a mentor, a big part of your role is to create a space in which your mentee feels safe, validated and heard. While you will impart wisdom and advice, it’s important to remember that your job is to listen to your mentee first and foremost.
If you already count yourself as a great listener or are trying to grow in this area, becoming a mentor is a great way to do this.
Try practising the art of listening, validating and responding thoughtfully. It’s a key way to build positive relationships, show others that they are supported and prepare yourself for senior leadership in which listening is a key, yet underrated, skill.
7. Share your knowledge and experience
Having relevant knowledge and experience that you can impart to a mentee is a must, but you don’t need to know absolutely everything about your field to be a successful mentor.
The point of a mentor is that you use your experience to guide others. This doesn’t mean having all the answers. Supporting someone to work things out for themselves is a more powerful way to learn than simply being told what to do.
As a mentor, you may have experiences that you don’t count as mentor ready yet. Completed a few rounds of appraisals? Managed a team? Successfully transitioned career? These are all skills that many people value and need advice on.
You don’t need 20 years of experience to become a great mentor, in fact, it can be more helpful to provide advice when you are closer to a specific problem or experience.
8. Adopt a growth mindset
Your job as a mentor isn’t only to give advice. There’s learning on both sides of the relationship. By adopting a growth mindset and an open mind, a mentor can benefit enormously from the relationship. This also ties into a commitment to continuous learning, an essential skill to foster.
Mentoring opens up your network to a range of different people and perspectives. Throughout the relationship, you will work together to learn how best to achieve the development goals for the mentee. In order to do this, a mentor needs to stay flexible and attentive to how they too can adapt too.
Staying open-minded about what you can learn from your mentee will turn you from a good mentor, into a great one.
📖 These qualities are also important in a buddying system, find out more in our guide 📖
9. Get to know your mentee on a personal level
Taking the time to get to know your mentee and developing a personal bond with them is an important part of the mentoring process.
Doing this helps to build trust between the pair of you, and can help lead to a more supportive mentor-mentee relationship.
Taking the time to learn more about your mentee’s personal interests and core values means you can tailor your mentoring accordingly and helps to grow an environment that encourages openness and trust.
10. Be respective and responsive
A good mentor is both respectful of others and responsive. Your mentee will bring with them their own life experience and perspective, the goal of a mentor is to help them grow and to do that you need to create space for them to be themselves and overcome limiting beliefs.
Respecting differences, whether it’s opinion or life experience, creates the right environment for mentoring to work. Without this, the mentoring relationship would be negative and unproductive for both parties. Imagine sitting down with someone for a mentoring session, only to find that they are disrespectful of your thoughts and opinions.
Respect and responsiveness are core skills needed as a manager and leader. Becoming a mentor is a great way to practise and nurture these important skills.
“Every day that you come into contact with different types of people and work through different challenges, issues, and successes, you learn something. Every single time you have a conversation, you learn something about people’s behaviour, you learn something about their motivations, and you learn something about yourself…it’s rich, it’s rewarding…it’s a win-win.” — James Newton-Brown, Head of Product Development at Marks & Spencer
11. Take notes during the mentoring sessions and follow up
This is a fairly simple tip, but note-taking is an effective part of any meeting or conversation and can be easily forgotten when the conversation is flowing.
When having a conversation with your mentee, taking notes can help you capture and retain the information they are giving you, as it’s difficult to remember everything you will have discussed during your hour-long conversation.
These notes can also be shared at the end of the meeting, so both you and your mentee can reflect on what was talked about.
It’s also critical to create action points throughout the meeting, which can be added to your meeting notes. This helps to create accountability, and both you as the mentor and your mentee can return to the notes to see what needs to happen before your next catch-up.
12. 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 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 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.
13. 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 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 also important to 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.
14. Recommend relevant books, events, podcasts, blogs, or classes
By recommending books, blogs, and podcasts to your mentee, you are helping to provide them with other people’s thoughts that are not solely your own, widening their experience and knowledge of your shared sector.
Developing new skills and accessing expert insights are vital for continuous development, which is something that you should be encouraging as a mentor. No one is ever the finished article, so continuing to develop and harness your skills is essential to any successful career.
15. Measure your mentee’s success
To understand the impact that your mentoring is having on your mentee, it is essential to establish measurable outcomes. By setting clear KPIs from the start, you will be able to effectively measure the success of the mentorship.
It’s important to refer back to these goals when you have catch-ups to see what progress has been made towards achieving them.
If you’re a business looking to measure the success of a mentoring programme, Guider has a guide on how you can do just that!
16. Celebrate their success
Celebrating success is the final tip in our guide to being a good mentor.
Boosting motivation and keeping morale high is essential to encouraging a mentee to continue to make progress, and celebrating their success and do just that. It also helps to reinforce their positive attitude, which helps build more self-belief and confidence.
Many mentees are looking to feel acknowledged and appreciated with positive recognition, as well as the guidance and support that you give them along their journey. Celebrating success, such as meeting a goal you set out to achieve at the start of the mentorship, is an important part of the process.
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.
Read this article for more tips on how to start mentoring programs, and we wish you the best of luck on your mentoring journey.
How Guider Can Help
Guider AI is an award-winning mentoring platform that provides support, reporting and ongoing optimisation to develop people and businesses through mentoring.
If you’d like to find out more information about how your business can create and scale impactful mentoring programs, book a demo today.