Mentor's Perspective

Becoming A Masterful Mentor

The goal of being a masterful mentor is to consciously move your mentee from dependent problem-solvers to independent, more skilled problem-solvers. Moving up the conceptual continuum from lower levels to higher levels of critical thinking becomes the mental exercise that mentors must infuse in their daily interactions with mentees.

Being an effective mentor requires certain personal qualities and skills (see Exhibit I). Whether or not you are ready to be a mentor is an important question to ask yourself before embarking on such a role.

Exhibit I: Qualities of a mentor
EssentialDesirable
  • Impartial
  • Good listener
  • Supportive
  • Interested
  • Perceptive
  • Self-aware
  • Trustworthy
  • Ethical
  • Respectful
  • An effective leader
  • Skilled in feedback
  • Chemistry: intellectual and emotional compatibility
  • Able to challenge
  • Non-judgemental
  • Confidential
  • Knowledge
  • Technical expertise
  • Instructor
  • Authority
  • Advisor
  • Seniority
  • Knows the industry
  • Inspiring
  • Able to receive feedback
  • Experience
  • Patient

Reflect on any mentoring you have done already, and think about your own experiences of being a mentee. Ensure that you are familiar with the differences between mentoring and other management-or education-related roles. You need to be able to resist the temptation to give advice, and instead help the mentee to arrive at their own solutions and conclusions.

The most important thing to the mentee will be your commitment to the mentoring relationship, and so it is vital that you protect time for your mentor sessions and do not continually cancel or shorten your meetings.

The questions below may help you to decide if being a mentor is really for you.

Exhibit II: What’s in it for you as a mentor?
  • Develops your own learning — by creating a two-way, co-learning relationship.
  • Gives you insight into relationships.
  • Satisfaction of seeing someone else ‘grow’.
  • An opportunity for you to be challenged in a safe environment (it is not just the mentee who can expect to be challenged).
Exhibit III: Why would a mentee choose you?
  • You have a track record for developing other people.
  • You seem to be committed to others’ personal and professional development.
  • You seem to have the time and energy to fulfill the mentoring contract and be flexible about developing the relationship to meet the mentee’s needs, not your own.
  • You are well thought of and respected as trustworthy.
  • You are up to date in your professional area and have a good understanding of how the industry works.

The Role of the Mentor

A mentor is usually an established professional who offers a mentee opportunities to develop, stimulate and maintain their professional development through an ongoing dialogue and relationship. They will adopt all four roles described below to a varying degree, depending on the needs of the mentee.

  • An envisioner — giving the mentee a picture of what the future can be like.
  • A standard prodder — pushing the mentee to achieve high standards and encouraging them to take risks in order to develop.
  • A challenger — making the mentee look more closely at their skills and the decisions they make.
  • A confidante — good listening skills, allowing the mentee to ‘open up’ with any problems or concerns.
Exhibit IV: Learning points for you as a mentor
  • It is not essential for mentors to have technical and/or specialist knowledge of the mentee’s fields of interest or work.
  • A mentor’s role is to be expert at helping the mentee to learn and develop — they do not need to be in a position of seniority or authority. This role is less like ‘tell him/her all you know’, and more like ‘help him/her to find what it is s/he needs.’
  • The quality of the relationship is vital, more so than the background of the mentor. Learning and development is unlikely to take place without the mentee and mentor establishing mutual trust, respect and safe ethical boundaries.