What Makes a Good Mentor?

Businesswoman mentoring another businesswoman

We’ve all seen the movies and TV shows — the ones that feature a promising young individual who struggles to overcome the external and self-imposed barriers surrounding them until an older and wiser guide enters the fold and aids in the protagonist’s growth. Sure, real life is never as cut and dry as the stories that inspire us, but the student-mentor relationship is anything but fictional. Mentor figures come in many forms and the best ones provide important guidance, feedback, and the occasional nudge that allows their pupils to flourish. But what exactly defines a good mentor? What are the components that allow one individual to instruct another in such a meaningful way?

What Are the Qualities of a Good Business Mentor?

Has Relevant Experience

If you’re not sure how to find a business coach or mentor, a great place to start is by seeking those who have worked in your field for a long time. Those with years of experience are able to naturally impart their wisdom to those with less experience and identify issues and opportunities that others might miss. This isn’t to say that mentors have nothing left to learn, of course — part of being experienced is knowing that the learning process never ends.

Able and Willing to Listen

As we’ve discussed many times before, being a good listener is one of the most important leadership skills one can acquire. Having experience matters, but a good mentor is careful not to hijack the student’s natural growth process. In many cases, an individual will learn more by mulling over a problem on their own and asking plenty of questions. By listening to their pupil’s questions and concerns, a mentor gains a better understanding of their student’s thought processes and can provide answers when needed without simply solving the problem for them.

Passionate about Teaching

Though pop culture gives us many examples of the reluctant instructor, a good mentor must want to fulfill this crucial role. We respond to each other’s energy levels, after all — if your teacher doesn’t seem interested in the subject matter or in helping you out, odds are you won’t feel too enthusiastic, either. The same principle applies in regards to mentoring in business. For the best results, the level of interest must be reciprocal between mentor and mentee.

Respectful

The mentor-mentee relationship is also built on mutual respect. Both parties must retain a level of humility, good faith, and kindness to get the most out of this symbiotic bond. Mentors and pupils can show respect for one another by showing up on time, paying attention to one another, avoiding judgment and hurtful language, and so on.

Eager to Push Their Students

While the best mentors are respectful and kind, this doesn’t mean that they are pushovers. Personal growth only occurs when one steps outside of their comfort zone. Mentors must not be afraid to nudge their students into new and uncomfortable territories every now and then — this might mean having them take on new roles, tackle a challenging project, etc. It’s possible to push a pupil too far, of course, which is why communication is so important — the better a mentor and mentee know one another, the more productive these exercises will be.

Objective and Direct

Lastly, a good mentor doesn’t hold back when delivering feedback. At the same time, this feedback must be free from personal judgments and delivered in a constructive, transparent way. Simply put, we don’t learn or grow without becoming aware of our shortcomings. We might try to ignore our own flaws or downplay our own strengths, which is why it’s so important for mentors to plainly reveal them. Having an external, objective point of view is paramount for personal progress and reducing leadership stress.

In business and in life, everyone should be so lucky to have a good mentor by their side. Fortunately, there are many resources available that help establish these key relationships.At Leadership Resources, our purpose is making the impossible possible through people. We aim to do so by helping individuals develop patterns of success that will decrease stress levels and maximize productivity. Contact us here to learn more about what we do and how it can help your business succeed and grow at times like these when you need it most.

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