Do you want to be a mentor at work but don’t know where to start? Are you looking for ways to offer guidance, advice, and support to your colleagues in a meaningful way?
Becoming a mentor can be incredibly rewarding; it’s not always easy, but with the right tools and attitude, being a good mentor is possible.
So whether you are new to mentoring or an experienced professional looking for fresh ideas, look no further! According to experts, here are ways to be a good mentor at work and make the most of your mentoring role.
Jen Emmons, PHR
HR Professional | Talent Strategist and Sourcing Specialist, Carex Consulting Group
Give thoughtful and intentional guidance to help another unearth talent and abilities
A mentor/mentee relationship, whether formal or informal, requires trust, support, and belief in someone at a time when they can’t see all the potential they possess.
It’s not simply sharing facts and philosophies but discernment and wisdom that comes hard-earned through years of life experience in various situations. It’s thoughtful and intentional guidance to help another unearth talent and abilities that lie within and build a future they couldn’t do alone.
Being a mentor can be highly fulfilling and mutually rewarding; however, before embarking on this collaboration, I invite you to consider three key areas:
- Qualities of a good mentor
- Have a plan
- Make a difference
Qualities of a good mentor
While you may feel that you should, you will never have all the answers — this in and of itself is a good lesson to pass on. It requires vulnerability to share what you’ve learned along the way.
Being a good mentor requires you to show up in various capacities, from being a sounding board, encourager, and teacher to celebrating successes, reframing “failures” into lessons, and helping others to access and hone their own innate capabilities.
Qualities and traits that will serve you well:
- Ability to ask thought-provoking questions
- Sense of humor
- Two-way communication
- Listening to hear and understand
- Constructive criticism
Have a plan
Know your “why” — what is your motivation to be a mentor? This is a big investment, and you may find it necessary to revisit this from time to time with the ups and downs of the journey together.
Get clear on the goals the two of you will focus on and what they are interested in learning and becoming. While sharing knowledge is essential, you are also there to help them in self-discovery, building confidence, and self-mastery.
Related: Why is Self Confidence Important?
It’s important to establish an agreement to ensure a meaningful and sustainable environment that may include:
- Commitment to the work and how you spend your time together (updates, progress, roadblocks, stretch goals, results)
Be mindful of various stages because how you show up will change from when you begin and as time passes. What growth stage is the mentee at in your work together?
- Foundational: Forming trust, getting to know each other, guiding, and sharing
- Growth: Building on trust and respect, continuing guidance, sharing, and feedback
- Maturing: Maintaining foundational elements while moving more into support, observing, listening, and asking more questions
- Closure: Transition
Also, due to experiences that unfold along the way, notice the impact—is the mentee open, receptive, ready for change, or frustrated, discouraged, and repeating old patterns? Adapt accordingly.
Make a difference
There isn’t one right way to be a good mentor. Beyond meeting with a mentee, it is really about being a role model, opening doors to your network, introducing them to new opportunities, and most importantly, believing in them and taking the time to show up.
Learning is a two-way street—most involved in mentoring start with the idea that they are here to help the mentee and later find they are learning right along with them.
Research has shown that employees that are mentored have higher retention rates, are more likely to receive raises, and are promoted more often. In addition, those that are mentored are more likely to become a mentor in the future.
Most importantly, the time you spend with this individual not only impacts their career but their life—and everyone their life touches.
Executive Coach and Founder, Amplify Living
Generational differences in the workplace and working remotely during COVID have changed the corporate landscape. Younger generations of employees demand that they show up to work daily as their whole selves.
They embrace what makes them unique—race, religion, cultural differences, body art, gender identity, sexual orientation, marital status, parental status, etc. Employees reject the idea that people must conform to succeed.
The COVID years changed where we work. Employees had to work remotely, and they proved that the work product would not suffer. They met work commitments while they simultaneously attended to parenting and home responsibilities. Working from home allowed them to bounce between duties and effectively manage responsibilities.
Today, two things stand clear: employees value flexible schedules and are transparent about their values. With these things in mind, mentors will develop talent and foster meaningful mentoring relationships.
Here are four ways to be a good mentor at work:
Give performative workaholism a rest
The days of pretending that work is the center of our lives and our number one source of happiness are over.
Because we worked remotely for so long and saw and heard our coworkers’ pets, kids, and significant others on Zoom daily, we can no longer deny that we have commitments and interests outside work.
Performative workaholism doesn’t allow us to unplug from work in the evenings, early mornings, weekends, or during scheduled time off. Being chronically available to our jobs hinders us from resting and living a well-rounded life.
Acknowledge that you have a dynamic career and an active personal life.
Lead by example
Let your mentees see that you take time off to pursue personal interests and family commitments. Everyone desires a meaningful life where they can pursue personal interests and deep relationships with friends and family in addition to their careers.
Let your mentee know that you block time on your calendar for commitments and interests outside of work. Demonstrate through your actions that you can excel in your career and have a meaningful personal life.
Trust that others can meet their work demands remotely
Before COVID, employees earned permission to work remotely on occasion after many years of advancement. COVID demonstrated that employees at all levels could meet work commitments outside the office.
Trust others to manage their workdays, whether working at the company office, home office, or another location far away. Resist the urge to demand more facetime in the office unless necessary.
Encourage mentees to ask for clarity around deadlines, if needed, and schedule regular check-ins with supervisors and the teams they manage, if appropriate.
Give straight talk
Let your mentees know what they need to do to succeed. Because employees are leading with their values, it is even more critical to provide feedback that allows them to achieve success, as they define it.
Be direct about what skills they need to improve or acquire to get to the next level. Provide advice on company or industry politics, as appropriate.
Be a sounding board for your mentees. Allow them to shadow you when appropriate. Be forthcoming so they can make career decisions that align with their goals.
Professional Life and Executive Coach | Leadership Trainer
Since time immemorial, the true mentor has been an exceptional and valuable person. The first important consideration in becoming a mentor is that it involves building a real relationship based on a few key factors.
People who have a mentor report overall:
- Improved job performance
- Greater job satisfaction
- Faster career development
- Considerable personal growth
Becoming a good mentor is an honor as you can leave a lasting and positive impact on someone else’s life. Here are the essential points to becoming a good mentor.
Be present and create an atmosphere of trust
It is essential to create an area free from easy judgments and prejudices. Try to create an atmosphere of trust with your mentee, knowing that anything they share will be safe with you.
This way, you will give the person the space they need to express themselves with full freedom and transparency. This will provide you with more information about your mentee so that you can guide and assist them in a way that best suits their needs.
Active listening is essential for effective communication, allowing you to connect with others and build better relationships. Active listening will allow you to fully understand your mentee’s point of view and all the variables at play before offering your opinion and sharing your experience.
Offer sincere feedback through constructive criticism
Everyone loves to be liked, but sometimes the best advice is the hardest to swallow. The most valuable and correct approach is to offer sincere feedback through constructive criticism.
A good mentor must always be on his own by constantly committing himself, even through the sharing of criticisms. It is essential to never take anything for granted and, if something is not clear enough, ask for clarification and listen before answering.
Empathy is a key trait of a good mentor. You need to understand what your mentee is feeling and how to approach them in the best possible way.
It requires being sincerely curious about people, listening more, appreciating others’ differences, and educating yourself to break false and limiting beliefs.
Be an inspiration for your mentee
It can push someone to reach out and express their full potential. Try to set a positive example and always be a positive role model. Your mentee will tend to mimic your behavior and change their approach.
Being a good mentor is an opportunity to test your communication and leadership skills, discover new perspectives, and confront old beliefs and prejudices.
Most important, however, is the ability to pass on your experience and understanding of the world to others, allowing them to become leaders themselves and make a positive difference in business and society.
Put effort into the mentoring relationship
In a nutshell, being a good mentor requires that someone puts effort into the mentoring relationship (it’s a 2-way street) and provides their mentee with the:
- Opportunities for success
- Visibility to leadership and other parts of the organization
- Introductions and networking with key stakeholders and leaders
- Serve as a confidential sounding board
- Mentoring meetings are a priority (they are not routinely canceled/rescheduled).
- Mentor and mentee enjoy the experience and feel they have grown from it and have a high degree of positive challenge due to the relationship and process; an openness to learning, developing, and growing.
- Mentee gains new insight into an issue every meeting and is energized to take action on it.
- Trust/commitment and mutual respect.
- Creating and maintaining explicit boundaries, including a feedback process and realistic expectations of the relationship.
- Agreement to a no-fault termination clause.
In addition, effective mentors should be taking on these roles and responsibilities:
- Serve as a coach, teacher, motivator, counselor, guide, advisor, and role model (but not a supervisor)
- Pass along organizational knowledge (structure, values, culture, dynamics, politics)
- Provide candid, constructive feedback to mentee regarding strengths and development needs
- Provides structure and direction
- Identifies growth opportunities for mentee development and skills demonstration
- Warns mentee of potential pitfalls, derailers
- Advises mentee on overcoming challenges
- Serves as a sounding board for and facilitation of ideas
- Encourages and motivates the mentee
- Links/networks the mentee with organizational resources to be successful (provides opportunities for visibility and recognition and advertises the mentee’s talents)
- Meets with mentee (minimum monthly) for check-in and coaching (confidential location outside office preferable)
- Participate in a quarterly conference call with other mentors regarding successes/challenges
- Supports and provides a safety net for the mentee
- Smoothes out any rough edges
- Enhances mentee’s self-esteem
While refraining from these:
- Refrain from taking on the “Rescuer” role — refrain from fixing problems and assuming responsibility for the mentee’s challenges
- Refrain from being your mentee’s “Bodyguard” (fighting their battles and being overprotective of them)
- Avoid “Svengali” behaviors (dictating solutions and controlling learning)
- Eliminate “Mechanic” behaviors (seeking a quick fix and being insensitive to others’ feelings)
- Ensure you’re not being seen as a “Buckpasser” (someone who surrenders and doesn’t follow up)
- Control “Adversary” tendencies (pushing too far too quickly, playing devil’s advocate, and being negative)
- Minimize “Minesweeper” behaviors (removing obstacles so that the mentee doesn’t have to deal with politics)
- Balance “Smotherer” behaviors (giving too much feedback and discounting the mentee’s feelings/concerns)
- Quell “Stinger” behaviors (promoting your mentee at the expense of others)
Strategic HR Consultant and Owner, Patterson Consulting Group
Mentors in the workplace are vital because they help employees develop and reach their career goals. A good mentor can be a tremendous asset, offering advice and guidance on navigating the work environment, building relationships, and managing personal growth.
Related: Building Strong Work Relationships
But what does it take to be an effective mentor? Let’s explore some key tips for being a successful mentor in the workplace.
Develop trust and respect
The most crucial aspect of any mentorship is trust. If your mentee doesn’t trust you, they won’t feel comfortable sharing their ideas or asking questions and will likely not benefit from the relationship.
To establish trust, it is important to respect your mentee as a person and professional. Listen attentively when they speak, share honest feedback, and be open-minded about their perspectives.
Additionally, encourage them to speak openly without judgment or criticism so that they feel comfortable expressing themselves in a safe space.
Provide guidance and encouragement
Mentors should provide guidance to help their mentees reach their goals and grow professionally. Provide advice on career development strategies like networking opportunities or skill-building workshops that can help further their career trajectory.
Additionally, encourage your mentee by highlighting their strengths and celebrating successes with them along the way! This will motivate them to continue striving forward even when challenges arise.
Set boundaries and expectations
Establishing boundaries with your mentees early on is essential to ensure a successful relationship going forward.
Clearly communicate expectations of communication frequency (e.g., weekly check-ins) and mutually agreed upon topics that are off limits (e.g., salary negotiation).
By setting boundaries right away, you can avoid potential issues down the road while still providing your mentee with valuable support and guidance throughout their career journey.
Being a good mentor at work requires patience, understanding, and commitment from both sides of the relationship—both mentors and mentees need to put forth effort to succeed.
As long as you are able to cultivate trust between you and your mentee by respecting each other’s perspectives while providing guidance and encouragement along with setting clear boundaries and expectations—you’ll be well on your way toward becoming an effective mentor.
With these tips in mind, business owners can create an environment where mentorships thrive, helping employees reach new heights in their professional development journeys.
Executive Coach and HR Thought Leader | Founder, Teresa Vozza Coaching
Volunteering to mentor a colleague at work is the ultimate power move. Not only does mentorship demonstrate that you have “a desire to lead others,” but becoming a mentor can also highlight underutilized skills that you may not even know exist! Skills such as deep listening, coaching, training, and teaching.
However, before you sign up, let’s take a deep dive into understanding how to be a good mentor at work. Here are my top 3 recommendations for standing out as a mentor:
Be available; don’t ghost your mentee
Sounds captain-obvious, but you would be surprised at the number of times mentorship programs fall flat because the mentors or mentees are “unavailable.”
What sounds like a great idea at the time of volunteering to mentor a colleague can quickly become a “nuisance” when unexpected meetings or other priorities come up.
Instead, set expectations for the relationship ahead of time. This includes how often you will meet, for how long, on what days, and what a proposed agenda might look like.
I have had great mentor sessions in less than 30 minutes. The duration is less important than the consistency, reliability, and tightness of the pre-planning.
Listen more, talk less
Refrain from over-talking. A great mentor is a deep listener. Rather than drone on for 30 minutes telling your mentee “what you would do” in this situation, just listen.
The best mentors are deep listeners and encourage mentees to become critical thinkers. While a mentor is defined as “a trusted advisor,” that doesn’t mean you simply give advice. A great advisor seeks to understand the situation and help the mentee formulate his own opinions and solutions.
Related: Why is Critical Thinking Important?
My rule of thumb for mentors is “ask, listen, advise.” In that order. Become a beautiful questioner.
Share your vulnerability, don’t just shop-talk
A good mentor will also share the ups and downs in their career path. That includes their struggles and their accomplishments.
When I was an aspiring executive, I can still recall the tremendous amount of relief I felt when my mentor shared vulnerable stories of times she made mistakes in her career journey.
She role-modeled for me how to gracefully overcome those challenges and still be wildly successful. Being vulnerable will guarantee that you will be a mentor that is remembered.
Aviva Pinto, CDFA, CDS
Managing Director, Wealthspire Advisors
I have been a mentor to many in not-for-profit organizations and younger members of our team. The overriding goal is to build talent from within and intentionally leverage leaders throughout our company.
They say that giving back makes one happier—in this case, it certainly is true for me. I had more informal than formal mentors as I was advancing in my career, but I still think fondly of those who took the time to guide me, be role models and provide much-needed feedback.
Good mentors provide mentees with the opportunity to gain insights into areas such as career development, conflict management, business development & marketing, leadership, work-life balance, client service, culture, teamwork, and personal brand management.
Keep everything confidential
Ideally, I try to work with mentees from another office so that they can feel comfortable confiding in me without worrying about their direct report.
Anything my mentees want or need to talk about is fine. Some sessions center on navigating the firm, who to call, how to accomplish something, firm politics, solving a problem, asking for guidance, and requesting feedback.
The desired outcome for any mentor is to build a world-class business with an awesome* internal culture of human growth and professional support development.
We want to care for and look after talent development and improve the retention of good people through strong culture, training, and experiences. *Word used a lot by the young mentees!
Those of us that are mentors find it is probably more satisfying to us than it was to our mentee. Sure, they probably learn a bit from those of us who have been around the block a few times, but the benefits to us are greater.
- I can learn about workloads in levels under me in the firm, making me more aware of how and when I delegate.
- I learn how other offices and functions operate.
- It can open your eyes to some of the ideas and struggles of the younger generation coming up behind you and give you a different perspective.
- It can make you a better leader to your immediate team.
- You can provide thoughtful career advice and guidance.
- You can create connections with those not usually in your peer group.
- You can be a teacher, pass on the hard knocks you learned along the way, and hopefully spare your mentee from making the same mistakes.
- It better hones your leadership skills.
- It feels good!
You do not need to train to become a mentor. In reality, there are no special skills you need other than to be able to listen well and use your experience to help guide someone else.
Executive Coach | CEO and Founder, Win The Room
Have excellent communication skills
Being a mentor to someone at work can be a rewarding and fulfilling experience. Mentoring takes excellent communication skills.
Here are some seven excellent tips to help you succeed in this vital role:
- Be available and approachable. They should feel emotionally secure coming to you with their concerns. Create an environment of trust. When people trust us, they open up and are comfortable sharing their challenges.
- Practice active listening and ask strategic questions to understand their situation more profoundly before offering solutions. Sometimes, people just need to be heard and feel seen.
- Set established expectations for your mentorship relationship from the start. This information will help them understand how you can contribute to their growth, what they can expect from you, and what you expect from them.
- Assist them in breaking down and structuring their goals. They should clearly understand the steps involved, how to measure their success, and have clarity around a reasonable time frame for completing certain milestones.
- Be patient and understanding. Remember that someone still needs the experience to gain expertise, and it may take some time to absorb certain wisdom and knowledge.
- Throughout the mentoring process, ensure to offer your support and check in with them. This type of guidance may be feedback, resources, and shared experiences.
- Strive to be a positive role model by demonstrating professionalism and integrity.
Mentoring can be an enriching experience for you as you guide and help someone grow and develop in their career.
Chief People Operations Officer, Checkr
Commit to being available and responsive
Good mentors understand that mentoring is not a one-time event but rather an ongoing process. They commit to being available and responsive to their mentees throughout their entire careers, not just during the initial onboarding process.
They are willing to listen and provide advice when sought, but they also know when to step back and let their mentees work things out by themselves.
Hold yourself accountable for helping your mentees achieve their goals
Additionally, good mentors recognize that mentoring is a two-way street and actively seek learning opportunities for themselves from their mentees.
They invest in their mentees and hold themselves accountable for helping them achieve their goals. They provide constructive feedback and support that challenges their mentees to find solutions, develop necessary skills, and become better professionals.
Demonstrate the qualities of dependability and reliability
Mentors need to consistently demonstrate the qualities of dependability and reliability for their mentorship relationships to be successful. This means they will show up on time for meetings, provide consistent advice and feedback, and be there when their mentees need them most.
By building trust with their mentees, mentors can create a safe space where they can have open, honest conversations about difficult topics.
Maintain strong communication with their mentees
Good mentors also understand the importance of maintaining strong communication with their mentees.
They stay in regular contact, check in on how things are going, and provide timely feedback when necessary. They ensure their mentees clearly understand what is expected from them and provide guidance to help them reach their goals.
Finally, good mentors strive to lead by example and demonstrate the behaviors they expect from their mentees. They are reliable and consistent in their actions, which builds trust between mentor and mentee and creates an environment of respect.
See things from your mentee’s perspective and help them navigate challenging situations
Above all else, effective mentors must possess empathy—the ability to recognize, understand and share the feelings of another person. Mentors must be able to put themselves in their mentees’ shoes, see things from their perspective and help them navigate challenging situations.
By doing so, mentors can build strong relationships with their mentees based on trust, respect, and understanding.
Matthew Paul Narciso
Managing Director and Chief Executive, SuperStaff
Acknowledge your mentee’s vast potential and the areas for improvement
For me, the key to being mentored was my mentor’s ability to make me see myself as they saw me. Each mentor took the time to acknowledge my vast potential and the areas for improvement. They didn’t dwell on either but put me in a position to accept both before they took me seriously.
They were a cocktail of motivation and accountability, with just a splash of empathy. But there was little appetite for excuses and an absolute zero-tolerance policy for laziness.
One CEO named Bill used to tell me, “Matt, you have unlimited vacation days. So, if you don’t feel like working like a President today, go take a day off.”
While this approach won’t work for everybody, it was the first time anybody ever acknowledged that I could reach the top. And given my mental framework, it motivated me beyond belief.
Now, mentoring a person isn’t all about motivation and accountability. It is also about showing them the technical side of the business, developing soft skills, et cetera. But I do believe that side comes more naturally to would-be mentors.
The advice I would give to aspiring “Leader Makers” would be to always keep an eye out for the younger version of you. Find the kid that has every ingredient for success except a mentor. And be that mentor by granting them a glimpse of the future and holding them to account.
Find the balance between being firm and compassionate
A good mentor is someone who can provide sound guidance and support to their mentees while also being firm when needed. This requires a delicate balance of compassion, empathy, and clear communication.
To be an effective mentor, always listen deeply to your mentee’s concerns, helping them to see all possible solutions to their problems.
At the same time, be willing to set boundaries and expectations when necessary, helping your mentee to recognize areas where they need to improve or change.
In other words, do your part and let your mentee do theirs. For example, be firm when your mentee is exhibiting toxic behaviors or making decisions that go against company standards, but be compassionate when they struggle with work-life balance or personal issues.
Miguel Custodio and Vineet Dubey
Co-Founding Partners, Custodio & Dubey LLP
Set clear expectations
Mentorships should be based on mutual respect and open communication. Before you start mentoring someone, it’s important to understand what each party is expected to bring to the table.
What ideas, insights, contacts, or resources do you offer as a mentor? How can you help your mentee reach their goals?
A successful mentorship requires effort from both parties—it’s not just about what the mentor can teach the mentee, so you should also think about how you can make this a two-way street with both parties learning from one another.
Establishing expectations will help set the parameters of your relationship, ensure that you both know what’s expected of each other, and ensure everyone is on the same page.
Talk about topics such as how often you plan to have meetings, how feedback will be given, and what areas of development you will focus on. This communication should take place early in the process and during regular check-ins.
Moreover, it’s important to discuss personal goals and any potential challenges that may arise throughout the duration of your partnership. By understanding one another’s needs, wants, and limits from the outset, you can build an effective mentoring relationship over time.
Celebrate achievements and growth
When mentoring, providing recognition and acknowledgment for your mentee’s successes is essential to not only building up their confidence but also fostering motivation to work towards further success.
Even small wins that might seem insignificant need to be celebrated. Recognizing the effort, they put into something can encourage them to keep going and make it easier for them to take on new challenges.
Sometimes, many workplaces are heavy-handed when it comes to giving constructive or negative feedback. A mentor should strive for a balance between positive feedback and guidance, which means taking the time to recognize achievements or moments of growth, no matter how big or small they may be.
Giving praise lets your mentee see that what they are doing has value and encourages them to continue growing.
Celebrating achievements and growth doesn’t have to be anything extravagant or expensive—a simple pat on the back or words of encouragement can do wonders for someone’s motivation and self-esteem.
The rewards don’t just end there. When you take the time to celebrate your mentee’s successes and foster their growth, you’re actively contributing to their development and helping them become better versions of themselves. With this approach, both mentor and mentee will continue learning from each other.
Make sure you have adequate time to be a mentor
Mentorship requires a commitment of both time and effort. Make sure that you give your mentee the attention they need and provide them with direction when it comes to their professional goals.
Before agreeing to be a mentor, consider how much time you can dedicate and what type of resources would be available for your mentee.
You may be passionate about helping others reach their potential, but overcommitting can leave you feeling overwhelmed and strain your professional and personal life.
It’s important to remember that even if you believe you can put in the effort required, the relationship must also be mutually beneficial. If at any point you feel overwhelmed or stretched too thin, take some time to re-evaluate if being a mentor is still something that fits into your schedule and lifestyle.
Remain honest with yourself and your mentee about where your limits are so everyone involved is on the same page.
Think honestly about how much time and energy you are willing to dedicate to mentoring someone else before committing to such an undertaking.
When setting expectations for each party involved in a mentorship relationship, consider what your limits are and let your prospective mentee know where those boundaries lie up front. This will help avoid any misunderstandings or disappointments down the line.
Adjunct Professor and Faculty Adviser, The University of Tampa
Mentoring is a “two-way street” on which the potential mentee has to be open to often unsolicited advice and assistance, and the mentor has to be ever-watchful for situations in which their input might be productive.
As a now long-time mentor for both students and young professionals in need of an encouraging word, I, too, benefited from a mentor (I didn’t realize until years later just what was happening!) who somehow knew instinctively when I needed a moral boost.
Be visible—get out, wander around, and be seen
One “must-do” for the mentor is to “be visible.” Don’t stay at your workstation/in your cubicle—get out, wander around, and be seen. Then you need to “pay attention.” Keep yourself alert and be on the lookout for often very low-key signs that a young (or not-so-young) co-worker is struggling.
Tactfulness is the watchword here as well. Don’t go barging in with a “You don’t know what you’re doing, so stand aside while this ‘expert’ shows you.”
Rather, a gentle “Looks like you’re having a little trouble with that. Can I help you?” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said these words, and the response has been a sigh of relief and “Yes, please.“
One caution, of course, is just this—if you aren’t confident in your ability to actually solve the problem, be able to suggest where to go for assistance. Nothing is worse than pretending you’re the world’s walking expert in a particular area and then seeing your “assistance” go up in smoke!
Mentoring is a personally and professionally rewarding endeavor. The mentee benefits from the advice and assistance of a professional. The mentor can take pride in lending a hand to an up-and-coming young professional.
To borrow shamelessly from the television ads of grocery chain Winn-Dixie, “It’s a win-win!“
CEO and Certified Counselor (CADC II), Sunshine Behavioral Health
Get to know how those you are mentoring learn best
The best way to be a good mentor at work is to get to know how those you are mentoring learn best. Not everyone learns at the same pace, and not everyone learns the same way.
Some people are visual learners, while others need to be more hands-on, for example. If you want to be a great mentor, you should be able to lean into their needs to ensure they are getting the most out of the mentorship.
The best way to do this is to ask those you mentor how they learn best. You want to be able to accommodate them as best they can so everyone benefits from the lessons. It also makes your job easier as a mentor as you know what you are teaching will stick better.
When those you teach, learn in a way that makes them feel comfortable, they tend to have better self-esteem. This translates into how they use the knowledge they acquire and tend to be even better students or mentees.
When you teach people, and it doesn’t help them to actually learn, they tend not to want to participate. This impedes how they learn, and then the mentorship could be wasted.
Process Improvement Expert | CEO, Outsourced CFO Consulting
Build a culture of coaching, mentoring, and training
One of the major fallacies organizations often don’t face is that people seldom come to an organization fully trained and ready to fulfill all their responsibilities in their new role. Almost all resumes are embellished to put on the candidate’s best face to the world of hiring managers and recruiters.
Therefore, expecting to parachute a new hire into place and be productive right away is hiding one’s head in the sand and possibly setting yourself up for disappointment.
The alternative is to have an ongoing mentality of coaching, mentoring, and training within a department so that skills are constantly upgraded and junior managers get the benefits of the experiences of senior managers. The metaphor would be a parent/child relationship.
This mentality and approach can also become part of the culture so that it is being done at all levels of an organization or department and, therefore, not be the sole burden of the senior manager.
This proactive approach always gets results, creates cohesion within a team, is appreciated by juniors who see that you care about their career growth, and sufficiently provides the organization with talent that can easily step up when required.
Managers who are good leaders see it as their responsibility to mentor and train their teams to build upcoming leaders and grow skills within the organization.
Strategic Communications Consultant, JLevin Communications
Listening is integral to being a supportive mentor
I have prided myself in being a mentor throughout my entire career. Even before I was in the working world, I made it a point to try to mentor others. I have found that listening is absolutely integral to being a good mentor.
Listening is essential to establishing and eventually building upon a relationship.
To be a supportive mentor, by definition, we have to listen to understand, for example, what it is that our mentee is hoping to achieve, what it is they are hoping to improve, and where they’re encountering obstacles. Not just hear people but truly practice active listening.
Active listening provides us with so much insight. It’s important to note that active listening refers to also the observation of non-verbal cues. Remember, even when someone is not verbally communicating, they’re communicating, so pay close attention.
With listening comes making and taking the time. If a mentor is really committed to listening, then time is of the essence. After all, we can’t actively listen if we’re rushing someone out of the conference room or the coffee shop where we’re meeting to get to our next obligation.
Just as a mentor must be dedicated to listening, the mentor must dedicate time. And, if a mentor is truly listening, any time allotted may never seem like enough, but it’s imperative to have a start and end time that is adhered to because we can only actively listen for so long.
Being a mentor and having the opportunity to help others is rewarding. Utilize your strengths and skillsets to have an impact.
Joseph T. Hackett
Founder, Black Wall Street AVL
Be reliable, consistent, and competent
People do not want a boss. People are less interested in a boss and more interested in a mentor. The old paradigm of corporate hierarchy is so linear that it becomes a secret breeding ground for corporate narcissism—the idea that it’s all about the boss and they’re always right.
However, Howard Schwartz’s book, “The Customer Comes Second,” discusses how the business model of Starbucks is actually an effort at excellent “Staff Service,” which ultimately translates into “Customer Service.”
He describes that if a business takes care of its staff, then its staff will take care of the customer. The adverse, unfortunately, is also correct: if a business does not take care of its staff, then its staff cannot take care of the customer.
Learning this lesson from an MBA class, I tested it out while I was Executive Director of a local non-profit workforce development program. I had hired a high-performing case manager that was formerly a high school English teacher. She had been in a car accident and broke her neck, back and arms.
Although insurance said she could return to work, her body said she needed more time to recover. So she did not return to school. She started blogging online. When I hired her, I said, “If we do this right, I’ll be the last boss you ever have.” We laughed and went on with our work.
Demonstrate expertise by producing meaningful results for the team and the company
Having supervised staff for over 20 years, I realize that people lie about resumes. They stretch the truth of their work and don’t ever mention their mistakes. But whenever a new hire works under a supervisor, the supervisor must have a good grasp of their own job and let their expertise shine through.
This does not merit any bragging or “showboating.” In fact, that stuff is a turn-off, a sign of insecurity, and a deterrent to other brilliant people.
On the contrary, the supervisor needs to demonstrate expertise by producing meaningful results for the team and the company.
Hewlett Packard researched job satisfaction and determined that people do not stay at jobs because of the money. They stay because of the culture, the power of the brand in the community, and alignment with the company vision.
Mentorship is a value proposition
A supervisor must earn the title or position of “mentor” by demonstrating their expertise in building teams, purpose, and alignment.
My staff member had ideas that were so far beyond what the agency had already done. But I took a chance and ensured her ideas had a home. I interpreted the policy for her, I shared the organizational budget with her. I invited her to partner meetings. I added value so that she could understand where and how ideas came to manifestation.
To be clear, she had more degrees than me and probably could have run the whole agency. However, I had great respect for her, and she had similar respect for me. I proposed questions that invited her to help me solve agency problems.
Let them create and implement strategies
It probably goes without saying that people want to preserve themselves. So I used that to my advantage. So long as it was helping us reach our mission, I made space for her to create and implement strategies. Not surprisingly, it saved time and money.
I know she was not doing it for our benefit. She was doing it for her own benefit. Why are we re-creating documents when we can use templates? Why are we asking teens and young adults to handwrite applications on intake day when we can use a JotForm and get them to do it on their cellphones?
These things were spilling out of her like water, and we were trying to keep up. But I took it seriously, and she became an advocate not only for the clients on her caseload but for the agency as a whole.
Make the first move
She called me her mentor first. After 18 months of great work and partnership, she came into my office and turned in her notice. She explained, “my company is growing, and I need to focus on that, but I’ll be here as long as you need me. You can just let me know when you think my last day should be.”
Her name is Aisha Adams, and she had actually begun developing an Equity and Diversity Institute for Lenoir-Rhyne University, training supervisors and business leaders to become Equity Advocates. And she hired me as an Instructor.
She regularly and proudly introduces me as her mentor and tells the story of how we met, what I promised her, and how wonderful it was to work with me.
It was not easy. But it was worth it. Each generation thinks and responds to leadership differently:
- Baby Boomers: ok with “bosses” and “doing what you’re told”
- Gen X: is interested in being heard and included
- Gen Z: is interested in creating “their own path”
But no matter what generation a person is in, everybody needs proof. They need to see that this person is reliable, consistent, and competent.
Overall, mentorship makes the workplace an exploration lab where teams function under guidance to advance the mission. It’s teamwork with the mentor as a guide.
Allan M. Siegel
Establish a social media policy
Mentoring at work just used to be someone showing you the ropes, and their door being “metaphorically” open for any questions you may have.
The big mistake is that it used to be taken lightly, which has caused major legal problems for a few major industries players over the last ten years.
Companies should utilize mentoring to the full effect. The advent of hybrid and remote working has changed the landscape for mentoring, with much of it not being in person anymore.
There are many legal frameworks and red tape in most businesses; I’d put social media policy on top of that list to get sorted. Social media law is a rapidly developing area of law that covers both criminal and civil aspects—as such, employees can get themselves into hot water with the most innocuous of tweets or Instagram posts.
The law covers issues related to user-generated content and the online sites that host or transmit such content. Every company should have its own social media policy in place.
Be trained in HR/legal practices
Mentors should be trained in HR/legal practices, so while training new recruits or coaching/mentoring current employees, they should be running through the social media policy(among other things) as part of their development.
Mentoring isn’t just about progression; it’s about building a comfortable and holistic atmosphere in the workplace. Employees worrying about what they can say about work – even in a generic sense – on their social media platforms is detrimental to their mental health and can cause anxiety in the workplace.
In our situation, for example, our business is very private and, of course, litigious; any employee posting about an ongoing or even previous case can have drastic consequences.
However, this information is private and well-guarded, so most/all workers already know what is acceptable and what isn’t. The same can’t be said for companies in other professions.
A candle maker company—as a random example, might not think twice about ranting on their personal social media about an abusive customer. Potential libel suit right there!
If you’re wondering whether or not to press that post/publish button, then the answer is always no.
An example is Ally, an account executive, who was fed for posting about landing a client on her Instagram. Her excitement got the better of her, and while she was sharing good, positive news, it directly violated her company’s media policy.
CEO and Co-Founder, Serviap Global
A good mentor helps someone develop certain skills, achieve new career goals, or improve in specific areas. Being a good mentor involves having a strong influence on the person being mentored. To do that, the following tips should be helpful:
Have good and effective communication
Good communication includes mutual trust and respect. The more you know someone you mentor, the better you can guide them.
There is no one size fits all approach to mentoring because it all depends on the needs and character of the person being mentored, as well as the ability of the mentor to understand those things.
Set goals based on their expectations and needs
Setting goals based on their expectations and the company’s needs is critical when mentoring someone. Setting benchmarks to monitor progress towards those goals is also important.
Empower them to take ownership of their role
Giving someone the opportunity to take ownership of their role, including hearing their ideas and actioning some, is an important part of the mentoring process.
Have the perseverance to mentor
Mentoring someone to become a better professional is not an overnight thing. There will be pitfalls and missteps along the way, like there are on almost any kind of journey, so being able to persevere is also very important.
Celebrate small accomplishments
In all likelihood, there will be larger or broader goals that the person you are mentoring is working towards, but there will also be smaller goals along the way.
Recognizing the accomplishment of those goals is critical to boosting the person’s confidence and showing them that you are engaged in their development.
Head of Growth, Instrumentl
Uplift others in the workplace
I believe that good managers are more than just people who keep employees in line.
In fact, managers who act like leaders, coaches, or mentors make a positive difference in their workplace by teaching, motivating, and inspiring workers how to find purpose, which ultimately benefits productivity, engagement, and behavior toward work.
How can you become a good mentor at work?
Good mentors are known to uplift others in the workplace. Whether it’s a personal or workplace matter, managers should show that they genuinely care for the people who work for them.
Here are a few tips on how to be a good mentor at work:
Know when to talk and when to listen
Listening intently to what someone’s going through makes a huge difference in building trust and vulnerability, and you’ll better understand the message they’re trying to convey.
Be inclusive and be patient
People have different sets of skills and capabilities. Some people are high performers, while others aren’t. As a mentor, you need to put yourself in their shoes and be patient in teaching them how they can perform better.
Be open and constructive
When you teach or advise your employees, you always want to be clear, constructive, and open to questions.
Avoid using a tone that is undermining or condescending so they won’t feel judged for their lack of knowledge or understanding.
Senior Editor, Tandem
In the 30+ years I have worked, I have always done my best to lead by example. Though you might not be able to mentor everyone, that doesn’t mean there aren’t things you can teach others.
Here are some tips for how to be a good mentor at work.
Listen more than you speak
To be a good mentor, you must be a good listener. It’s important to listen to others so that you truly understand a situation. Then, once you understand the situation, you will be better able to give any advice.
Additionally, some mentees merely want to be heard. Telling you how they feel about a situation may make them feel appreciated and understood.
Remember that it’s not always about you
You want to teach others to do what is right and not to make the same mistakes you made. Because of this, most of your stories might be about things you previously experienced at work.
Just make sure when you tell stories that it isn’t only about you. Try to give kudos when you see they handled something better than you did or would have done.
Don’t worry, be happy
I like advice that works in multiple situations. Bobby McFerrin’s song “Don’t Worry, Be Happy“ is a piece of that advice. Do your best to be positive around your mentee.
If they are sad or upset about something, show them empathy and offer ways that you can help. The more positive they see you acting, the more likely they are to try and emulate you.
Being available doesn’t mean you have to work the same days and hours as your mentee. But it might help if you have a schedule with them when the two of you can meet and talk about things that might concern them. Whether this is done over the phone or at a nice lunch, they will appreciate that you made the time for them.
Now that you know how to be a good mentor, do you know what not to do?
- Don’t be overly critical. Remember that you made many mistakes throughout your career, and it’s okay for them to make some. Instead of criticizing, remind them that they should learn from their mistakes.
- Don’t try to take over. Your mentee could be young or just starting out, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have valid ideas that could benefit the company.
- Most importantly, don’t give up. It can take some time for two people to really click. Even if you don’t find a connection with your mentee immediately, that doesn’t mean there can’t be one in the future.
Being a mentor is one way to teach others what to do. Being a good mentor is a great one.
College Counselor and Community Manager, Transizion
Being a good mentor at work is more than being a good listener or even training your mentees. It’s also about championing their success, so they can reach the heights they desire and deserve.
Listen to your mentees
One of the biggest mistakes a mentor can make is to assume that your hurdles are the same barriers your mentee faces, particularly if they are of a different gender or ethnicity.
Rather than jumping in to help them solve problems that may or may not exist, one of the best things you can do as a mentor is to listen to your mentee and help them with the challenges they are facing.
Help them demonstrate their strengths and improve upon their weaknesses
Every person has unique weaknesses and strengths. As a mentor, you want to acknowledge that and help them demonstrate their strengths and improve upon their weaknesses.
For example, if you have an excellent analyst on your team who has never managed someone, consider assigning them a direct report to help with more labor-intensive analysis.
This will allow them to grow their management and communication skills while enabling them to shine and learn through the more complicated analysis you’ve assigned them.
Sponsor your mentee
More than training your mentee and listening to your mentee, promotions at companies are usually given to employees that have someone willing to go to bat for them.
So, as a mentor, one of the best gifts you can give your mentee is to talk up their skills and achievements to the decision-makers above you.
Ask what your mentee needs to demonstrate to get that next promotion, help them achieve it, and then go back to that key player and point out how awesome your mentee is again. This is particularly useful if your mentee is from a minority group, as they usually have more difficulty breaking into leadership roles.
Françoise M. Haasch
Founding Attorney, Fran Haasch Law Group
Do not micromanage
When mentoring, it’s easy to take the reigns yourself to accomplish tasks you’re teaching your trainee to do. While this may seem like the easiest route to take, it’s actually micromanaging, not mentoring, which doesn’t help your trainee learn anything.
Related: How to Deal With Micromanagers
A mentor shouldn’t be completely hands-off, but they shouldn’t take an entirely hands-on approach either. You must strike a clear balance between giving someone assistance without undermining their ability to complete tasks and work autonomously.
Practice delegating. This means giving clear instructions without providing step-by-step instructions. You should also let go of a perfectionist attitude and empower your employees to experiment with their thoughts and ideas.
With different minds come different ideas; these ideas should not be discouraged but encouraged as new insights help a company move forward.
As a mentor, it’s your job to focus on helping your employees learn and grow, but it’s also your responsibility to help them move toward autonomy. You cannot do this if you micromanage.
CEO and Founder, Bullseye Locations
Connect on a human level
Even before teaching your subordinates how the tangible tasks of their roles are executed, you have to connect on a human level. There is a high chance that any subordinate will be intimidated with respect to the first impression they make on you and how they do the task assigned to them.
Hence, allow them the room to breathe and let them know they can freely express their concerns. This is the first step to them being able to do well at their job.
To do this, have a few brief one-on-one sessions with them. Ask them what they would like to know. And tell them it is okay to genuinely learn on the job and make mistakes as they go. Tell them about your own experience traversing through the learning curve and allow them to take hope from it.
Tell them about the main vision you have with the tasks they are being given
You have to get to the bottom line too. I would advise that you tell them about the main vision you have with the tasks they are being given. This will give them a broader perspective on what they are required to do, and they will feel part of something big.
You also need to break those goals down into actionable tasks that can be achieved on a daily basis. This is what makes roles less overwhelming and more achievable. Make it clear what each task requires from a worker and what skills they can best utilize.
Founder, Lower Street
Offer criticism in a way that motivates them not brings them down
The first and most important thing is to offer criticism in a way that motivates them, not brings them down.
A huge part of mentorship involves offering your employees feedback on how they can better their approach and level up. What makes all the difference is how this feedback is delivered to your mentee.
You want to inspire your mentee to take action, not demotivate them and make them doubt themselves.
Rather than fixating on their weaknesses, reprimanding them for mistakes, or judging them in any capacity — identify what you want to communicate and the best way that you can make an impact.
For example, start by acknowledging what they did right and offer suggestions on what they could have done better. You can even fall back on your own experiences and share what happened when you made similar mistakes and how you avoided them in the future.
This allows your mentee to build a positive relationship with constructive criticism and not see failure as something crippling.
Lead Business Expert, Step By Step Business
Be an example—lead with integrity and exhibit the company’s values
To be a good mentor, you must make yourself available and communicate that your door is open. You should make it known that you want to help your team advance their careers in any way possible.
You can also be a mentor by example, leading with integrity and exhibiting the company’s values. It’s also a good idea to meet with team members one on one periodically to talk to them about their goals and what they need to do to achieve them.
These meetings will allow you to form a personal connection with people, making them more comfortable coming to you for advice and guidance.
CEO and Founder, The Upper Ranks
You must have the expertise, consistency, and integrity
It takes three characteristics to be a good mentor at work: expertise, consistency, and integrity.
Expertise is the first on the list because we cannot teach what we do not know. We’re like blind people leading the blind if we don’t have expertise in a certain field to pass on to the mentee.
Knowledge, skills, and even attitude at work can be acquired and honed through time—sharing our expertise through our experiences with our mentee can help find real solutions to real problems at work.
Next is consistency, which forms a good habit in whatever we do at work and in our personal lives. Consistency can transform into conformity, accuracy, and fairness in a working environment. This ideal attitude can serve as a model attitude for the mentee, and they may also become consistent with whatever they do with passion.
Lastly, integrity—the highest form of honesty and moral uprightness. Without this characteristic, one doesn’t have the right to be a mentor, which culminates the expertise and consistency one has as a mentor and person.
Help your mentee identify and set goals for their career development
Helping your mentee to identify and set goals for their career development is an important part of being a good mentor.
This can involve asking your mentee about their long-term career aspirations and helping them to break those goals down into smaller, more achievable steps.
It can also involve helping your mentee to identify any skills or knowledge gaps that may be standing in the way of achieving their goals and finding ways to address those gaps through learning and development opportunities.
Once your mentee has identified their career goals, it’s important to work with them to create a plan to achieve those goals. This can involve setting short-term and long-term milestones and regularly reviewing progress toward those milestones.
By helping your mentee to identify and set goals and by working with them to create a plan to achieve those goals, you can help to support their career development and help them to reach their full potential.
CEO and Founder, Financer.com
Mentorship is super essential in workplaces amidst all the chaos and stress. Having a mentor to guide you always works out well when dealing with the burden of work-life issues.
Although, the mentors must actually inflect it all within their actions, and here’s how you can serve as a mentor:
Schedule one-on-one sessions
As common as it may sound, scheduling one-on-one sessions with your workforce is the best therapy.
Listening to all the issues and suggesting what’s best in a friendly manner is what the employees need. This can be well achieved by either sharing your own experiences, storytelling, or even having them perform a little task out of the box.
All such moves eliminate the formal boundaries, and that’s where you actually become a mentor; always stay true to what you suggest working in the best interest of your employee.
Show the truest reflection of your mentee to them
Being a mentor, showing the truest reflection of your mentee to them is crucial within the process. Rudely adhering to such conversations never goes well; instead, you can calm up by showing them the right direction and how to cope with it.
You can portray your own self and go on to speak that you were too in the same place. This particular thing would surely motivate the employee to accept it as a challenge and prove it to themself.
Be aware of when to offer assistance
When you are serving as a mentor to another person, you could feel pressured to provide them with guidance right away. However, not all input is beneficial feedback, and it is essential to understand the difference between the two.
A skilled mentor is able to recognize when it is appropriate to pause the conversation. In my opinion, you should press the “stop” button whenever you find yourself in a situation where you do not possess the necessary information, experience, or emotional condition to react appropriately.
This will allow you to gather additional information, consult with the resources at your disposal, and return with an answer that is lucid and helpful.
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