Successful mentoring requires work and commitment from both the mentor and the mentee, and understanding the qualities that help to drive the process means that both sides are likely to get more out of it in the long term.
First-time mentors may need some training to help them approach mentoring in the best way, whilst those who have mentored before might find it useful to brush up on their skills. For us, there are six key qualities that lead to the most effective mentoring relationships:
Mentoring is about trust. Both the mentor and mentee need to feel comfortable and be willing to ask questions and be honest about how they are feeling. A good mentor is approachable, responds quickly and keeps appointments and commitments. Creating a schedule helps to set expectations – boundaries are important – so agree the times and days that you are prepared to be contacted and make sure you keep to them.
Mentoring relationships require honesty from the outset. Your mentee needs to feel they can trust you, and vice-versa. You may send your mentee away with tasks to do or achievements to record, and you need to be sure they will complete those tasks to an agreed schedule. You’ll need to give honest feedback and proactive suggestions and know that they will be taken as constructive, rather than negative, criticism.
The best mentoring programmes are structured, with agreed goals and timescales. Although you’ll set and measure these goals together with your mentee, you’ll take the lead. That means having a plan for the complete programme as well as an outline structure for each individual session. And, once the programme is finished, you need to plan for the occasional top-up session to make sure things are still going in the right direction.
A mentor needs to be a good communicator. This doesn’t just mean someone who’s good at talking; it means someone who’s good at listening; someone who can direct a positive discussion; someone who can use open questions to gather information and someone who can share information simply and clearly. A great mentor asks questions that allow their mentee to explore new ideas about themselves and their situation, and listen closely to find new insights into their mentee.
5. Positive attitude
The power of positive thinking means engaged, motivated mentors get great results. If you lead by example, your mentee will gain not only from your knowledge and insights, but from your attitude to getting things done.
A mentoring relationship is a long-term commitment. You and your mentee may not always see eye-to-eye and you may become impatient with progress or understanding. It’s important to know when to take a step back, when to challenge and when to look for a new way to do things in order to achieve the goals you have set together.
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