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What does it take to be a good mentor? Related: Mentoring Vs Managing: Does It Have To Be One Or The Other? Mentoring is the development of a relationship, a partnership between two individuals where one more experienced person guides the less experienced person, developing and strengthening their abilities. The participants in the relationship, the subject matter and where the process occurs will vary. However, the common denominators in what makes a good mentor will always include the following:

  • An interest level in their subject and their mentee
  • A commitment to the process
  • A belief that their mentee is equally committed to the process
  • Confidence in their own abilities
  • Good communication skills
  • Excellent listening skills
  • Enthusiasm for their chosen profession
  • A positive force adding value in ones industry and community
  • A personal interest in seeing their mentee succeed
  • A constant pursuit of excellence in their profession by staying current
  • A desire to pay it forward
How does one become a more valuable mentor?

Provide Valuable Feedback

An even more valuable mentor makes it clear to their mentee that this is a two-way street. A mentor is teacher and guide. The knowledge and experience that they can share is a valuable resource. Allowing their mentee to be heard and providing feedback that is positive, supportive, and constructive is a necessary skill that adds value to the mentoring partnership. The traits that a mentee observes about their mentor are equally telling. For example, is their mentor respected by and respectful of their colleagues? Does their mentor communicate well? Is the mentor available to the mentee, initiating interaction and encouraging the mentee to question and evaluate what they are learning?


The mentor/mentee relationship starts with the mentee seeking guidance and learning from the mentor. In the early stages, the scales are tipped heavily toward the mentor. It is the responsibility of the mentor to lay the foundation for the mentee. As the relationship progresses, a successful mentor will be nurturing the mentee's growth by encouraging curiosity. Although a mentor is a teacher and guide, the strongest skill that they possess is that of being able to listen, not only to what is being said by their mentee, but also to the unspoken cues. This happens most effectively when there is chemistry between the mentor and the mentee. Fostering a compatible bond with their mentee adds a dimension to the mentor /mentee partnership that enhances the experience for both. This will encourage the move toward equilibrium in the relationship, an important next phase in the mentoring process.

Tip The Learning Curve

Now, the dynamic is moving toward a more level interaction, where the mentee is not only encouraged but is now expected to question and become more proactive. The best of mentors will tip the learning curve increasingly in the direction of the mentee and move the process into the final phase, that of the independent mentee. The development that takes place from start to finish is unique in each mentor/mentee relationship. One common thread, however, is the value added by the mentor who believes in them self and in their mentee, the mentor who is able to share the experience not only for the mentee but with them.

Lead By Example

Ultimately, the qualities that make a good mentor, and that allow them to add value to the mentor/mentee relationship, are the same set of personal and professional qualities that one finds in an excellent role model. An excellent role model is the kind of person who is insightful, a good listener, supportive, caring, admirable, and accessible. The mentor/role model who adds value is a guide and educator who is able to add practical advice and provide constructive criticism. Role models are successful individuals and they desire success for others. They not only 'talk the talk,' they 'walk the walk.' Who is the most valuable mentor? The person who leads by example! This post was originally published on an earlier date.

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About the author

Anne Marie Cooley is a Management Services Professional with 25+ years of experience helping others succeed by finding their strengths! She is also a virtual career coach at CareerHMO.com. Disclosure: This post is sponsored by a CareerHMO coach.
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