How Effective Are You as a Mentor?

Laura Francis
Written by
Laura Francis

Mentor Training Resources

Effective Characteristics of MentorsIn a recent blog, I wrote about effective and ineffective qualities of mentees. Let’s turn our attention now to effective and ineffective qualities of mentors.

As I stated last time, mentoring success truly comes down to the people involved: the level of commitment you have toward the mentoring relationship, and your willingness to work with your mentoring partner to achieve the goals you set or the development needs you identify.

There isn’t a magic formula for being a great mentor or mentee, but there are certainly effective and ineffective characteristics that people display when it comes to mentoring. The good news is that these characteristics can be learned (and therefore changed!) when it comes to negative traits, while the positive traits can be achieved if you are willing to make the effort.

Here are five effective and ineffective characteristics of mentors. (Check out my blog on mentee traits here.)

Effective Characteristics of Mentors

  1. Thumbs UpSpot the Potential in Others: Effective mentors have a positive view of others that greatly increases how much learning can be transferred. They push their mentees to achieve their goals and stretch themselves, in large part because they believe the mentees have the potential to succeed.
  2. Are Networked and Resourceful Guides: Effective mentors enjoy a positive reputation and are held in high regard by colleagues at various levels in the organization and in different functions. They can help broker new interpersonal connections for their mentees, and can also act as resource who provides insights into where to go for information and just-in-time learning.
  3. Display Patience and Tolerance: Effective mentors allow mentees to make mistakes, and then use the mistakes as positive opportunities to learn. They know that they were once in a similar position, and have empathy for the mentees as they take risks and seek to grow in their desired skill or field.
  4. Give Encouragement: Effective mentors possess the ability to build up mentees’ self-esteem and encourage them. This is a quintessential trait of a mentor, in fact, and helps them embody the role of coach and advocate for their mentees. Mentors should not give false or inflated praise, but they should be encouraging.
  5. See the Big Picture: Effective mentors have a larger perspective of the organization and/or their area of expertise. This helps them generate useful suggestions and bring up points that their mentees would otherwise not consider.

Ineffective Characteristics of Mentors

  1. Try AgainToo Busy to Mentor: Being busy doesn’t have to kill a mentoring relationship; however, being too busy will. If a person is forgetful, fails to return phone calls/texts/emails, misses scheduled meetings, or is not accessible in an hour of need, then they are too busy to be a mentor.
  2. Use the Mentee as Help: Instead of having the mentee’s best interests at heart, an ineffective mentor passes on to the mentee some of the responsibilities, assignments, or extra work that the mentor does not want to do—even if it has nothing to do with the mentee’s development goals. This type of activity or mindset (what is actually an abuse of power) has no place in a mentoring relationship.
  3. Overly Critical: Yes, mentors need to help their mentees identify problems and mistakes, but some mentors take this too far and always point out why something is wrong. Ineffective mentors feel that their position gives them the right to point out mistakes—all of them. Mentoring should be about helping the mentee learn and discover, not about pointing out all the things they’ve done wrong.
  4. Not with the Times: Ineffective mentors do not keep pace with the times and don’t know the current trends, issues or strategic business case of their company. In today’s fast-paced world, mentees need mentors who can help guide them with up-to-date ideas and information.
  5. Ego Striving: Unfortunately, some mentors feel it might endanger their place in the spotlight if their mentee becomes more successful than they are. For these people, mentoring is not an activity they should take part in. Always having to be a notch up on the mentee will interfere with the learning relationship that should be occurring and be a disservice to the mentee.

Mentoring can be a rewarding endeavor, and if you approach it with the right mindset and intentions, it can have a powerful impact on you and your mentoring partner.

Want to learn more? Check out our blog on 5 Tips for Being a Better Mentor.


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