14 Behaviors of Amazing Mentors in the Workplace

Mentoring Discussion
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What is a mentor? Here’s the dictionary definition:

Noun: an experienced and trusted adviser.

Synonyms: adviser, guide, guru, counselor, consultant, trainer, teacher, tutor, instructor

Verb: Advise or train (someone, especially a younger, less experienced colleague).

In order to be a mentor, you need to be seen as experienced and successful at something. A mentor gives advice and guides someone who is less experienced.

 

Mentoring is a gift and a privilege. To be asked by someone for mentoring means that person sees you as a role model and believes your wisdom will support their professional growth. 

Mentoring someone has the potential to be one of the most rewarding and satisfying things you’ll ever do in your career.

If you have been asked by someone to be their mentor – don’t just be an okay mentor – be an amazing mentor! Be that person who made a difference in a person’s life!

14 Behaviors of Amazing Mentors:

What does an amazing mentor do? When people are asked to describe their most amazing mentors, here are the behaviors most often mentioned:

1. Great mentors are “present”.

The best mentors are incredibly focused and in the moment. They take a sincere interest in their mentees, and treat their time spent as important. They hold their calls, shut their doors, turn off their phones, and offer 100% undivided attention.

2. They listen.

Active listening is the most visible skill most often used to demonstrate presence. Active listening comes across with eye contact, attentive body language, paraphrasing, and offering encouragement to open up. Great listeners are genuinely curious about learning more, and they listen to understand, withholding judgment and striving to "walk in the other person's shoes." Sometimes, that’s all someone needs – just to be heard, and to think things through for themselves.

Listening is the ultimate form of respect.

3. The best mentors ask questions.

Amazing mentors don’t just tell war stories and spew advice. In addition to listening, they ask questions and don't just preach. They use questions as a way to learn more, and more importantly, as a way to help the mentee clarify and solve his/her own problems.

4. They are role models.

Amazing mentors are always aware of the impact of their behaviors on others. The lessons learned are, “Do as I do, not just what I say”.

5. Effective mentors keep their promises and hold their mentee accountable.

Mentoring sessions often end with a list of action items, and amazing mentors are very adept at summarizing who is going to do what by when. Then, at the start of the next session, they will report on what they did and ask the mentee to do the same. By doing so, they are modeling personal accountability, and they don’t appreciate it when a mentee hasn’t completed their homework. They will let them know that it’s an expectation and condition of continuing the mentoring relationship.

6. They learn from their mentees.

Amazing mentors learn as much from their mentees and their mentees learn from them – it's a two-way relationship.

 

7. The best mentors are humble.

Being asked to be a mentor can be a huge ego trip if you let it be. Amazing mentors realize mentoring is not all about them – it’s about the growth and development of the mentee. Being a role model does not mean having to be seen as perfect. Mentees can learn just as much about your mistakes and shortcomings as they can your successes and strengths. Sharing your mistakes and lessons learned, and what you are doing to develop yourself helps establish trust and gives your mentee permission to be vulnerable.

8. Mentors share amazing stories.

In addition to listening and asking great questions, mentors can teach by telling compelling stories about their own lessons learned. Storytelling is an art and should not be overused – a good rule of thumb is one story per mentoring session, but make it a good one.

9. They give feedback.

When a mentor offers feedback, it’s offered as a gift with the intention of helping the mentee learn about himself/herself and grow. Amazing mentors – because they take such a genuine interest, listen, and ask such great questions – will learn a lot about what makes a mentee tick. They have the ability and sensitivity to offer specific, sincere, and timely feedback.

10. Mentors are patient.

Amazing mentors remember what it’s like to be new or inexperienced, and will allow their mentees the time to reflect, form insights, make mistakes, learn, and grow at their own pace. While they set high standards and will push a mentee to do more than they thought they could do, they don’t expect unrealistic, overnight improvement.

11. They respect and honor confidentiality.

Amazing mentors never compromise on confidentiality. This guarantee of privacy is foundational to the development of trust in the relationship. 

12. Great mentors practice “Situational Leadership”.

The same approach shouldn’t be used for every mentee. Some people are less experienced and require more direction and support, while others are more experienced and may just need to be listened to and given a vote of confidence. Amazing mentors vary their approach to the individual and to the situation.

13. They set boundaries.

The best mentors don’t date their mentees, are not friends with their mentees, and know where to draw the line between a trusted professional relationship and an intimate personal relationship.

14. They value diversity.

Amazing mentors don’t just seek or do well with mentees that remind them of themselves when they were younger. They are willing to push themselves out of their comfort zone and mentor those are very different than themselves.

The Bottom-Line:

If you are given the opportunity to serve as a mentor, seize it and do your best to live up to the 14 behaviors described above. If you are seeking a mentor, strive to find individuals who have experience serving as an "amazing" mentor. 

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Updated by Art Petty