What makes a good mentor? Lessonly CEO Max Yoder posed the question in one of his recent weekly notes, and as the leader of a mentoring organization, I’ve often been asked the same question. I’ve had many conversations with people who don’t think they are qualified enough to mentor others, but I hope that this list can encourage them to stretch a bit outside of their comfort zone and to think intentionally about the potential mentoring relationships in their lives.
Here are 10 qualities that I’ve observed good mentors share:
1. They are available and accessible.
However, the strength of any mentoring relationship rests 80 percent on the mentee’s shoulders. It is on the mentee to drive the interactions with their mentor; the mentor’s job should not be to chase the mentee down every time they meet.
2. They listen and share experiences instead of passing immediate judgment.
This builds trust and does not make it feel like the mentors are forcing their views onto the mentees.
3. They remember specific details about their mentees.
If a mentor struggles to remember little else except generalities about his or her mentee, then it’s probably best for both parties not to engage.
4. They provide actionable insights.
Good mentors provide aspirational advice but are also able to make it actionable with shared tactics from experience. As the mentoring relationship grows, it creates pathways for more specific feedback from time to time.
5. They are present and focused, giving you their full attention.
Distracted mentors portray a vibe that they have better things to do than invest in this relationship.
6. They ask good questions or “question talk.”
This muscle can help mentees get “unstuck” in their own thinking. Many young people need these sounding boards in their lives. While they have some knowledge, what they most lack is the wisdom that comes with years of experience.
7. They are energy givers, not takers.
And they expect the same from their mentees. Mentors want to be around young people who energize them and give them new ideas.
8. They share their networks with mentees.
This won’t happen overnight – and the trust must be earned by the mentees – but good mentors invite mentees into their circle and look for strategic ways to connect them with people or opportunities that can broaden their experience and skill set.
9. They bring an edge to their interactions.
Good mentors are willing to push their mentees into discomfort (and even restlessness) in order to produce growth. This also will come with time. When there is a strong base of trust already established, that’s when mentees may start to experience breakthroughs – even though it is not always easy.
10. They mentor the whole person.
This doesn’t mean that the mentors and mentees need to agree on everything, but the relationship shouldn’t be too one-dimensional either. Good mentors incorporate personal, professional and even deeper conversations around faith, purpose and meaning. We are not silos – everything is interconnected in how we think, the decisions we make and the actions we take.
What else makes a good mentor? I would love to hear from you in the comments below,or feel free to shoot me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org. And in the spirit of National Mentoring Month, take a minute to thank someone who has had an impact on your life with a quick text, email, call or handwritten note.
President & CEO