What is A Mentor?


We get this question a lot: What is a mentor?

Whether you are new to the concept of business mentoring or you've been involved in a mentoring relationship in the past, the following two lists will help you to understand better both the ideal mentor profile and the requirements for an effective mentor. Feel free to share these lists within your mentoring program. They may help your program to get back on track.

The Ideal Mentor Profile

  • Supportive: Encourages the mentoree to take risks that are reasonable under the circumstances and that will result in the mentoree’s professional and personal development.
  • Nurturing: Creates a “risk free” environment whereby the mentoree can share with the mentor the issues that are most critical to him/her knowing that it will only be utilized to aid in the mentoree’s development.
  • Protective: Makes certain that the mentoree has all the information needed to make informed decisions and provides the mentoree with critical knowledge and understanding of situations so that the mentoree gets the “complete picture” prior to taking any action.
  • Honest in Feedback: Provides necessary feedback, which allows the mentoree to know what s/he is doing well and what areas can be further developed for success.
  • Understands Boundaries: Is able to set limits with the mentoree and also understand that the mentor’s job is not to create a clone of the mentor but to share knowledge and information that can be useful to the mentoree as s/he develops in her/his own unique way.
  • Balanced Perspective: Brings a realistic viewpoint in discussions with the mentoree, looking at issues from the company’s perspective as well as the mentoree’s and is also aware of his/her own blind spots.

Requirements For An Effective Mentor

  • Time: Successful mentoring requires devoting necessary time to the relationship, using program guidelines, and being consistent with the mentoree.
  • Access: Mentoring cannot take place without contact. The mentor must be available to the mentoree based upon what is negotiated in the mentoring agreement and specified in the program guidelines. Regular contact for short periods of time is more desirable than less frequent contact for longer periods of time.
  • Credibility: Mentoring is based upon trust which comes from believing in what the mentor says and does. Being honest about what the mentor knows or does not know and modeling what is said to the mentoree is critical. Providing information that is timely and accurate is also an important part of credibility.
  • Vulnerability: Mentoring requires a mentor to be willing to share his/her own failures and successes as a way of encouraging the mentoree’s sharing. It also means being willing to listen when a mentoree provides feedback that one may not want to hear about how the mentor is relating to the mentoree.
  • Independence: Successful mentoring happens when a mentor focuses his/her attention on the mentoree’s needs and not vice versa. One of the benefits for mentors is the sense of satisfaction derived from mentoring. What’s important to remember is that this is a by-product of the relationship and not its purpose. Effective mentors have a strong sense of who they are and do not become dependent on the mentoree.
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Topics: Mentors & Mentorees