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How to be a great mentor: 10 practical tips

Updated: Nov 22, 2023

Mentor in a mentoring program

A mentor can have a great impact on the personal and professional growth of a mentee during the course of a mentoring program. By investing in the right tools and attitude, mentors stand to learn a lot from a mentoring relationship themselves.

Here are ten practical tips on how to be a great mentor.

Set clear expectations as a mentor

As a mentor, be clear about the expectations you have from your mentee. After a few initial discussions with them, you should define the goals you expect them to reach and skills you would like them to learn during the course of the program. This clarity along with direct communication will help your mentee share their expectations from you as a mentor as well and will together set the stage for a mutually beneficial outcome.

Make time for the mentoring program

A mentoring program can span months. If you tend to have a hectic schedule, it would help to block time on your calendar for the planned meetings with your mentee. Mentoring software solutions automate this process so that all future sessions reflect on your calendar. Make it a point not to cancel or reschedule these sessions though some other activities and tasks may seem more urgent. It is your way to demonstrate your commitment to your mentee.

Be present and listen actively

Lay some ground rules for yourself about being mentally and physically present for meetings with your mentee. Avoid multitasking and give them your full attention. Respect your mentee’s time just as much as you would want them to respect yours. Lead by example by showing up on time and not canceling touchpoint meetings at the last minute. Practice active listening - pick up verbal and non-verbal cues, avoid judgment and projecting personal experiences.

Share practical knowledge

A primary aim of a mentoring program is to match mentors and mentees so that they can learn from real-life experiences. As a mentor, steer away from theoretical knowledge sessions which can be found in books. Instead, share real world experiences and anecdotes with your mentees to make guidance more relatable. Equip them with practical nuggets of knowledge which they can use in their day-to-day lives. A mentee is looking to learn from your challenges, so be authentic and pragmatic in your approach.

Practice empathy

A mentor and mentee might have had life experiences that are quite different from each other. At such times, a mentor should be empathetic towards the needs of their mentee and should proactively work towards creating a safe space for them to share their thoughts and feelings without reproach. In case of generational differences, it becomes all the more important to be cognizant of the underlying differences and be objective about them. A mentor who validates the experiences of their mentees and provides thoughtful responses will have a richer and more meaningful mentoring relationship.

Be flexible and adaptable

Different individuals might need different mentoring styles. Every mentee is unique. Though your mentoring style would be unique to you as well, be flexible in your approach. Take the personality of your mentee into consideration and tweak the way you would like to get the message across to them. A good leader is adaptable and navigates changing situations with ease. Recognize the value of different perspectives and make it work to your advantage.

Find opportunities for reverse mentoring

Learning need not be a one-way street. There are a lot of things that a mentor can learn from a mentee as well. Your mentee can provide valuable insights on how their generation views your organization’s processes and policies. With reverse mentoring, you can get feedback about the work culture while also learning about the latest technology and communication styles from them. It also boosts their confidence and creates a more approachable relationship between the mentee and mentor.

Provide networking opportunities

Access to a professional network can have a tremendous impact on the professional development and career path of a mentee. If your mentee is a high potential individual or would benefit from interacting with the right people, then introduce your mentee to valuable networks, resources and opportunities. Assure them that you have their back as they broaden their professional horizons through professional connections. Have a welcoming and open attitude towards your mentee and be their cheerleader.

Be encouraging and empowering

Encourage your mentee to think critically and take ownership of their choices. Help them to make smart decisions and guide them on how to navigate high-impact decisions that have a short turnaround time. Empower them with your words and demonstrate your faith in their abilities. Ideally, at the end of the mentoring program, your mentee should no longer need your input and assistance. By facilitating autonomy you will be creating leaders of tomorrow.

Be open to give and receive feedback

Your mentee might need to improve certain skills to get better at what they do. Share constructive feedback by being specific while also being kind. Provide actionable input on how they can overcome their shortcomings and focus on their growth and betterment. When they work on the identified areas of improvement make sure to celebrate their successes. Be open to the feedback they share about you and your approach to mentoring. Block time with the program manager to assimilate the feedback received from different mentees and work on improving the aspects that get highlighted.

Being a mentor is a dynamic and fulfilling experience that involves empathy and guidance. A mentor who is committed to their mentee’s success will be a successful leader and demonstrates their ability to lead an organization and its employees to greater heights.

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