8 things that make a great mentor

The Link Mentorship Program

by Simone Lawrence

Imagine a young aspiring female leader climbing the ladder of success, with the name Hannah. She is not only confronted by the fact that she has to compete with male colleagues in an anti-female environment, but also the expectations of her family towards her role outside of her working life. She knows what she wants for her career and feels what is missing is the right person to turn to for advice.

It is suggested to join a mentoring program, where she is introduced to an experienced senior manager who has climbed the ladder herself called Mary. Mary has a similar background and has experienced the same challenges in her career and has excelled. As they work in different organizations, perhaps Hannah would not have had the chance to connect with Mary if it was not for both of them joining the mentoring program. Mary because she wants to give back and support early career women through providing guidance and sharing her experiences and Hannah because she wants to grow and stretch herself and have access to support that she needs.

8 things towards making a great mentor:

  1. A willingness to give back.
    Mentors care deeply about giving back a certain % of their time and energy to support the development of earlier career professionals. Perhaps they have been the recipient of such support in their earlier careers or they recognize the value that sharing their knowledge, experience and listening ears can make significant difference to the career trajectory of early career professionals.

    Mary, the mentor started herself as an aspiring female amongst a tough competition and has fond memories of her first boss, who took her under his wings. Even after changing jobs and moving to other companies, she kept in touch and received guidance throughout her career. Guidance, she would have never had from her parents, peers or friends, as they were all from a different background.
  2. Commitment and reliability.
    Professional development is not a one hit wonder. Sometimes topics need to be revisited until the learning is embedded, different people learn and absorb at different paces. A mentoring relationship helps create lasting impact on goal realization and behavioral change. This can only come to fruition if the mentor continues to lead by example and shows commitment, resilience and reliability to their mentee. Sticking to agreed timings, seeing through the whole program, encouraging forward movement when the going gets tough. This is not to say mentors are at the mentee’s disposal, a shared agreement is created at the outset on what the level of contact and commitment will look like and then honor that or create new agreements. The important thing is that the mentor is role modelling the right behaviors and attitudes for their more junior counterpart.
  3. The ability to be present and listen
    Although mentoring is very focused on knowledge sharing and sharing of experiences it is important that the mentor also demonstrates a strong ability to listen. It is through listening that we build trust and rapport and that is the foundation of any developmental partnership. A mentor must demonstrate to their mentee that the mentee is important to them and that they genuinely care about their development. Minimizing distractions and being fully present during catchups is essential.
  4. An encouraging and supportive nature.
    The mentee has signed up to seek support from a mentor because there are challenges, they are facing that they need support with. Bringing a can-do attitude even when the going gets tough will encourage progress and innovative thinking and help the mentee to relax, open up and share, again, inviting a trusting two-way relationship.
  5. High levels of Emotional Intelligence.
    Partnering a more mature mentor with a younger mentee is often a successful paring because a mentor with high EQ will more likely to be able to stay more neutral in their opinions, manage their own emotional response to the situations presented and remain free of judgement. EQ builds with intention, experience and time, it makes sense that more mature mentors often demonstrates higher levels of EQ which can enhance the mentorship experience.
  6. The courage to challenge.
    The mentor needs to be courageous enough to call things out as they see them. There is no growth in the comfort zone and the mentor’s role is to keep the mentee in the learning zone. This requires stretching them into areas that may be uncomfortable for them and challenging any unhealthy patterns or habits that the mentor picks up on.
  7. Believe that feedback is a gift
    There is a way of delivering feedback that will be well received even if it is not what the mentee wants to hear. If there is a strong relationship and agreement in place that the feedback is a welcomed part of the development process, then it is more likely to be well received. When feedback is offered together with examples to back up the impact of what is being shared it can help growth.
  8. Love of learning
    Playing the mentor role has a parallel learning effect where not only does the mentor assist and guide the development of their mentee, the mentor will also generate new insights for themselves through creating a space for dialogue that sparks a deeper reflection and generates new ideas and approaches.

In particular, a cross generational approach helps encourage new perspectives and dimension for both the mentor and the mentee involved.

Do you have what it takes to help support future generations of female leaders? Sign up to The Link today to become a mentor and help support the career growth of ambitious women at work.