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The Top Characteristics of a Great Mentor
By now we are all aware of the benefits of finding a mentor, but what about becoming one?
For many, identifying yourself as a mentor can feel… audacious. Stepping into the role of the trusted advisor takes confidence and a common problem is that many people just don’t see themselves as ready. I mean mentors are older, grey-haired, all-knowing entities, right?
Wrong. There are key characteristics that any great mentor has that do not require 30 years of industry experience and a top-level job title. You likely have some or all of these qualities already and if you are looking to grow professionally or prepare for leadership, becoming a mentor could be just what you need.
So, what are the characteristics you need to be a great mentor and how do you know if you make the cut?
What are the top characteristics of a great mentor?
You are a great listener
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.
You are invested in others
Mentoring requires investment on both sides of the relationship to work. As the mentor, being able to commit time and energy to your mentee is essential.
If you’re someone that genuinely enjoys helping other people to learn and grow, and gets personal satisfaction from helping others in the process, then you could be a great mentor.
Investing in others also has profound benefits. Mentors report feeling less stress and anxiety than non-mentors, plus they often find a greater sense of meaning and satisfaction in their work.
Remember: It’s not just about the feel-good factor. Becoming a mentor ups your chances of promotion by 6 times and can increase your chances of a pay rise by 20%!
You have a growth mindset
Your job as a mentor isn’t only to give advice. There is learning to be done on both sides of the relationship. By adopting a growth mindset and an open mind, a mentor can benefit enormously from the relationship.
Mentoring opens up your network to a range of different people and perspectives. Throughout the relationship, you will be working together to learn how best to achieve the development goals set out 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.
You are respectful and responsive
Similarly, a great 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.
Respecting differences, whether it’s of 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 practice and nurture these important skills.
“Every day that you come into contact with different types of people and work through different challenges, issues, 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
Read more about our work with M&S here
You can give quality feedback
We all know that feedback can be as tricky to give as it is to receive. But constructive, tactfully delivered feedback is essential for personal growth and development.
As a mentor, you need to be comfortable giving and receiving feedback so that both sides of the mentoring relationship can develop. Feedback isn’t a one size fits all process. There are many different tricks and techniques to doing it well, the key is to work with your mentee to find the right way to deliver constructive criticism.
Learning how to tactfully deliver and receive feedback is an essential skill. It’s also another vital skill in management and senior leadership positions. If this is a skill you have or are looking to grow, you might make an excellent mentor!
Hear first-hand from our fantastic clients Clyde & Co the benefits of becoming a mentor. Find out more below
You have relevant knowledge and experience
Last but not least, having relevant knowledge and experience that you can impart to a mentee is a must. But hold on before you think you need to be an expert in your field before you can become a 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 mentor, in fact, it can be more helpful to provide advice when you are closer to a specific problem or experience.
Remember: Knowing all the answers doesn’t necessarily make you a good mentor but guiding someone to the right answer does!
Becoming a great mentor isn’t about age or job title, it’s about your attitude and the skills you bring to the table. With some positive self-reflection, many more people will find that they have what it takes to become a mentor than they realised.
There are many different ways to mentor someone. For example, peer mentoring is an excellent way to develop your skills and confidence as a mentor before stepping into a traditional 1:1 relationship.
So, if you have some or all of these top characteristics then why not give mentoring a go?
Want to find out more? Talk to us by booking a demo and find out how Guider can help you to create a smart, scalable mentoring solution for your organisation.