Answers: “What makes a good mentor?”

Your thoughts on mentoring were awesome. Here are some highlighted quotes from you all.

A good mentor:

  • Models the behaviors and approaches they recommend (i.e., they walk the talk).
  • Puts the mentee first in the conversation.
  • Helps the mentee think as big as they can. For example, a mentee might be thinking, “Should I go left or right?” A mentor helps them see the full menu of options: up, down, sideways, and byways.
  • Is an excellent listener who also asks clarifying questions, seeking to understand where a person is at before offering their thoughts.
  • Provides mental frameworks that their mentee can use, rather than providing black and white advice.
  • Acknowledges when they are not the best person to consult with and connects mentees with folks in their network who are better guides on relevant topics
  • Shows their humanity and does not try to portray perfection all the time. While being a good example is key, a mentor should share their own faults and failures. Doing so is vital in establishing a true connection of trust.
  • Sets clear expectations with their mentee about how they can expect to engage with them. This includes everything from how often they’ll meet to what communication channels they are comfortable with.
  • Learns about and seeks to help the whole person, not just the professional aspects of a mentee’s life.
  • Avoids taking ownership of a mentee’s outcomes when a mentee doesn’t follow advice, doesn’t work as hard as the mentor thinks they should, or isn’t as proactive as the mentor thinks they need to be. A good mentor is there for their mentee when needed, but gives their mentee space to earn their own success and make their own mistakes.

And to put a bow on it, Dave Neff and Casey Crouse at Edge Mentoring offered a guide that sums up nearly all of these sentiments and offers practical ways to apply them. It’s an essay called “How to be a Great Mentor” by Rick Woolworth. Here’s the PDF. I hope you read and share it! I found it to be excellent.

This was fun. Let’s do more of it.

—Max

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