How to Be the Mentor You Wish You Had

Mentorship is one of the most powerful gifts you can give as a leader – and it’s a gift that gives back. It provides a unique opportunity to share knowledge, foster growth, and build meaningful connections—all of which are essential components of personal and business success.

As a mentor, you have the power to shape someone’s future by providing advice and direction on achieving their goals – and hence, the company goals. You can also help others identify their strengths and weaknesses in order to better understand themselves as individuals. In addition, mentorship allows both parties involved to learn from each other’s experiences so that they may continue growing professionally together.

When done well, this will be one of the most fulfilling things you do as a leader.

However, becoming an effective mentor requires more than simply having experience or expertise in your field; it also involves certain qualities and skills that allow you to successfully guide another person down their chosen path.

I’m fortunate to have a handful of amazing mentors in my life, so I’ll share a few traits I’ve observed that my best mentors have in common.

How to Be the Mentor You Wish You Had

What qualifications do you need to be a mentor?

Being a great mentor requires a mix of the right character traits and competence. In other words, professional experience alone isn’t enough. You have to become a person who others want to learn from, not just because you’re good at your job, but because there are other aspects of your character that attract them to you as a person they want to learn from or emulate in their career.

Leaders also need to have strong interpersonal and communication skills, be able to give honest feedback, understand the needs of their mentees in order to successfully mentor those who work for them. They should also be empathetic and open-minded so they can provide meaningful support that will help others grow professionally. Additionally, leaders should set an example by remaining current on skills, industry trends and demonstrating ethical behavior at all times.

What makes a great mentor?

As a business owner or executive, you have the power to shape and develop the careers of those who work for you. But don’t assume that being a boss is synonymous with being a great mentor.

It is one thing for an employee to respect you because you are their boss, or because you have a specific expertise; however, it is an entirely different level of trust for an individual to choose you as their mentor. After all, this is a 2-way road. Giving someone advice is not “mentoring,” unless the other person is committed to being mentored or coached, and you are equally engaged in the process.

To do this effectively, you must build a foundation of trust with your team, if you want them to be vulnerable with you, and take your suggestions. Building this level of trust requires dedication but will ultimately pay off when your mentees become successful professionals in their own right.

9 Ways to become a good mentor

1. Communicate and listen

To be an effective communicator, you must be able to adapt your style to the other person. That might mean stepping out of your comfort zone by being more or less direct than you would normally be, but it’s worth taking on the challenge to create an environment where the other person feels comfortable engaging in a meaningful conversation, asking questions or seeking guidance.

Listening actively and without judgement will also help foster trust. It is essential that mentors use both verbal and nonverbal cues such as body language in order to show that they are truly engaged in the conversation. Furthermore, being patient while giving thoughtful responses is key in establishing a strong relationship.

2. Practice empathy

Great mentors understand that the key to successful mentorship lies in their ability to demonstrate empathy – that is, showing that you understand their feelings and perspectives.

Recognize that everyone has different experiences, backgrounds and motivations which can affect how they respond to situations. By being willing to listen and try to understand an individual’s perspective, you are better able to provide guidance and support tailored specifically for them.

This helps foster a sense of trust between mentor and mentee, creating an environment where both parties feel comfortable expressing themselves openly without fear of judgement or criticism.

3. Offer constructive criticism

Constructive criticism helps employees learn and grow, giving them the opportunity to receive insights that can help them become more efficient and successful.

Feedback is a gift. Don’t withhold it because you’re uncomfortable.

Constructive criticism should be given in a kind, supportive way that makes the employee feel respected and valued. Start by acknowledging the employee’s progress and effort in specific areas, then provide some encouragement on where they can improve, and suggest new techniques or approaches to help them get started.

It is important to be honest with constructive criticism while making sure that it is not overly critical or offensive. Include a heavy dose of patience, understanding that learning takes time and not everyone will learn at the same rate.

4. Let your mentee make decisions

By allowing employees to make their own decisions, rather than simply telling them what to do, they will become more confident in their own abilities and develop skills that are necessary for success.

As a mentor, you should provide your employee with the tools and guidance necessary to make informed decisions. Provide them with information about the options available, relevant advice on how to weigh their choices, and feedback on the decision they did make.

In the event that your mentee makes the wrong decision and later regrets it, be there to help them digest the lessons and course correct. Ensure they know that it’s not a failure, as long as they learn from the experience and grow.

5. Share your journey

Sharing your own journey with the employee you are mentoring helps them to expand their own vision. It can paint a picture of where they can go in their career, explore and clarify what they aspire to be,  and provide insight into the obstacles that may have to overcome on the way. Sharing your journey also gives the employee a role model that they can look up to and emulate.

At the same time, being vulnerable enough to share the highs and lows of your own journey let’s them know that they are not alone in their own challenges, and will help them feel more comfortable opening up about their goals and any issues they may be facing in their professional development.

6. Be sure you have the bandwidth

Being an intentional mentor to an employee requires dedication, focus, and energy. It can be time-consuming, so it’s important to ensure you have enough bandwidth before you commit.

While mentoring sessions can be frequent or occasional, you should expect that it will take time and energy to be the kind of mentor that you wish you had when you were in their shoes.

Even if you don’t see immediate results, your true leadership will shine through when you continue to show that you truly care about the mentee’s personal and professional success.

7. Be accountable

Accountability is demonstrated by being dependable and reliable. Show up on time to mentoring sessions, honor your commitments, and give direct feedback about the progress of your mentee. Being willing to be accountable, and even giving your mentee permission to give you constructive feedback, is truly leading by example.

Most importantly, remember that your mentee will learn more from your actions than from your words.

8. Know your strengths

It might seem obvious, but the reality is that many high performers have blind spots when it comes to recognizing their own strengths. However, this is crucial step in a mentor-mentee relationship, as it helps you hone in on where you can offer the most value… and where you cannot!

Being aware of both your strengths and weaknesses will also help you to guide the employee on how to acknowledge their own.

9. Celebrate their achievements

Receiving heartfelt recognition from a leader you admire is one of the most impactful experiences for a person growing in their career – so don’t hold back on acknowledgement and celebration!

A simple “great job!” can go a long way, so do that often. However, you can make an even more substantial impact by taking a few minutes to highlight specifics about their achievements – noting their character, work ethic, commitment, and specific improvements that you know they worked hard to make.

It takes less time than pouring a cup of coffee, but the effect can last a lifetime.

Become a good mentor

Conclusion

Being a great mentor doesn’t just happen overnight, but it is possible with the right qualifications, attitude and commitment. It takes time to develop trust between mentors and mentees, so patience is key when setting out on this journey. Be willing to listen carefully to your mentee’s needs, provide honest insights in an encouraging way, and help them grow both professionally and personally.

With these steps in mind, you can become the kind of mentor that you wish you had during your own career growth journey.

FAQs

How can I be an effective mentor?

To be an effective mentor, there must be a foundation of trust between you and your mentee. Build trust by listening carefully, and showing that you genuinely care about their success. Invest in the relationship by fostering their growth and development, but remember that your role as a mentor is not to create a clone of yourself – it is to help your employees to develop their own abilities, skills, and perspectives.

Encourage them to take on new tasks and responsibilities that align with their career goals. Provide constructive feedback and challenge them in a supportive way. Celebrate their successes and help them learn from their failures.

What is a mentor supposed to do ?

The primary responsibility of a mentor is to provide guidance and advice that will ultimately lead to your mentee’s success in achieving their own goals. It is helpful to share your own experience and insights, but do so with the focus of helping the other person develop their own skills and experience. Lastly, having crucial mentoring conversations allows you to be a powerful source of encouragement, support and motivation, helping your mentee to build the confidence they need to take their career to the next level.