The Best Mentors Do These Six Things
New Book Giveaway!
Leave a comment on this guest post by Lisa Z. Fain to become eligible win a complimentary copy of her and Lois J. Zachary’s new book, The Mentor’s Guide, 3rd Edition. (20 available)
Deadline for eligibility is 1/21/2023.
International winners will receive an electronic version.
Whether you are part of a formal mentoring program or have an informal mentoring relationship that has formed organically, here’s how to level up your mentoring.
6 things the best mentors do:
Take time to think about your past mentoring relationships and the qualities you want to demonstrate to your mentee. Determine your own motivation for mentoring and how you’d like to grow as a leader through this relationship.
#2. Create structure.
Spend some time early in the relationship discussing what good mentoring looks like, how you will determine success, and what ground rules you are going to set to make sure you stay on track.
#3. Invest in the relationship and the learning.
Great mentors know that good conversations require investing in both the relationship and the learning. Take time at the beginning of the relationship to get to know each other. At each meeting, spend a set amount of time catching up before you dive into working on goals.
#4. Share openly.
Mentees frequently tell us that knowing their mentor experiences their own challenges made all the difference in encouraging them to share openly. Mentors, you can set the tone by sharing first.
#5. Follow up.
Maintain momentum and ensure continuity between meetings by following up on the items discussed at prior meetings. This is much easier to do if you take a few notes on your mentee’s takeaways and commitments at each meeting and review them before you meet again.
#6. Seek and provide feedback (in that order).
Every few months, ask your mentee how the mentoring relationship is going. Encourage them to share what you can do better as a mentor (and really listen). Then, share your thoughts on the same.
What do you do to make the most of your mentoring relationships?
What have you seen the best mentors do?
Lisa Z. Fain is the co-author of The Mentor’s Guide, 3rd Edition and Bridging Differences for Better Mentoring. A global speaker, Lisa is also the CEO of Center for Mentoring Excellence and an expert in creating inclusive cultures through mentoring.
I make the most out of mentoring relationships by string to know the person. Where they have been is just as important and where they want to get there.
The best mentors listen and work with the mentee to find a solution. They don’t take up all the time spouting wisdom but work with the mentee to bing out their inner knowledge.
– know the reality of the mentoree’s market very well
– recognize innovation as soon as they see it
– look through the mentoree’s potential customers’ eyes
– perceive real value on mentoree’s product/service/positioning
– tell the truth
Mentoring is one of the greatest teaching/learning tools available to us. Your approach is filled with compassion and kindness – essential to success. Thanks.
A great post indeed no.3 very helpful to invest in a relationship taking time has really uplifted me .nothing happens without commitment.more so sharing feedback is paramount too.
These six elements are essential to positive mentoring outcomes. I particularly like and try to share the challenges that I have experienced and continue to experience in my career. Leadership is also positively influenced by these recommendations.
I would love a copy of the book for my professional and personal growth.
Looking forward to learning more on mentorship through your book!
What I have seen from some amazing mentors is that they care about you like family, Take you to dinner, have genuine conversations about what it took them to get a head and provide on going support when they are done mentoring you. Your book sounds wonderful I would love a copy.
That’s a nice 6…..but it seems like there are many more things that are equally important: being empathetic, being present and attentive, being patient and supportive, and restoring confidence when the mentee stumbles….
Mentoring is akin to what used to be known as apprenticeship. Co-creating clear expectations (structure) and accountability/responsibility (follow-up), are instrumental pieces in any mentoring relationship.
Mentoring: I was I had had some! But I can mentor others!
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Mentoring should be a requirement when someone joins an organization.
When mentoring or being mentored, I appreciate a structure so the meetings feel proactive and not just reactive when there’s a specific need.
Mentoring should be a requirement for all new staff.
I like how you mentioned that you need to seek AND give feedback (in that order). I often find myself giving feedback without thinking about asking the mentee how I could be giving more to the mentoring relationship. This is a great reminder!
For me the most powerful parts of mentoring are #’s 4 & 5 from your list above.
Sharing Openly- this is important to me because as you mentioned it shows the mentee that I am also experiencing troubles and struggles. That is beneficial because it makes my position as mentor and supervisor more “real” for the mentee. Along with that, there are times where the mentee can provide suggestions to me for addressing my problems and struggles. This makes our interaction a two-way street. Also, sharing openly provides the mentee with a picture of what the next position looks like, so they can make an informed decision about whether they want to move to that next leadership position.
Follow Up- I have a standing weekly meeting with 2 mentees. We catch up on a personal level, follow up on items discussed in the past, check items that have been completed off the list and plan for the next week. We also find time for “leadership chats” that typically revolve around relationship and rapport building. The frequency of these meetings is the key part. I also limit them to under an hour because I know their time is valuable.
Mentoring is so important in today’s workforce. New employees need to know they have an ally they can turn to for questions about the job tasks, processes, or company culture.
Anyone desiring to experience more value in life should find a mentor and faithfully pursue mentorship. Then, while being mentored, they should mentor someone as well. There’s significant growth available for those willing to make the investment.
Regarding Mentoring, a wise “old” Mentor of mine would often say, regarding Mentoring, “Be one, and have many!”
Sage Advice, don’t you think?
I prefer informal mentoring over formal company mentoring programs.
I have had a mentee be told that they should find another mentor. 🙂
To me true mentoring is mostly mentee driven with some coaching, otherwise why are you coming to me, (or me coming to you for mentoring). The mentor should be chosen for a reason. Also let that mentor know the reason for the relationship.
The reason I was told to be “deselected” is that I was helping the mentee go down a road they wanted to go down. Live the life they want to live. Which I guess didn’t line up with what their manager was expecting me to do.
I’d say for the best mentoring results…
* the right motivation has to be there – mentee has to want to be mentored; know what they are looking for; want to improve
* the mentor needs to be informed of the goals
* others need to not be involved (unless they are another mentor), or accept that personal experiences will be shared, and some of those may involve pushing limits or boundaries to get different results than others get.
I think that also surprises people. I’m comfortable with causing discomfort and being pulled into a 1:1 about boundary pushing (all within safe HR and legal limits), but that is how I’ve been able to move things forward, and if you want someone to learn from me… LOL You’re probably going to see them get frustrated with the status quo, voicing it, and sometimes going against the grain. Watch what you are asking for. LOL
If you want them to become a better employee who fits in and works with no complaints. Pick a different mentor.
If you only want them to learn from my facilitation skills, then let me know and will gets lots of help to improve. 🙂
Love the emphasis on more give and take in mentoring!
I would love to have a copy of your book!
I’ve had one mentoring experience. It was facilitated by an association but they didn’t provide any guidance on how to achieve a successful relationship or successful sessions. The above guidance is helpful. On a practical note, I would add that the sessions should be meetings, not lunches and especially not drinks. Having some to-dos for the next meeting and taking notes is great advice. Lots of listening!
I have had many mentoring relationships and the ones that have been the most successful are those that are open. Where we both freely and openly share.
I entered into my first formal mentoring role last year with someone that I did not know, but was matched with me through our company’s formal mentoring program. While I much more preferred mentoring someone who was in my division and I had a better understanding of their background and goals up front which I had done informally, I can stress that #3, creating that relationship is necessary. Once I knew my mentee much better personally, it felt more like my informal mentorships in the past and I was able to better predict and understand her reactions to some of her work concerns. I am now in a position where I work with our formal mentoring program so your book would be super helpful!
ACCOUNTABILITY is another golden nugget in mentorships! Thanks for the opportunity to learn more through more in-depth learnings from your book📕📗📘📙📖📚
Thanks for the reminders! As I mentor leaders, it’s important to reflect more. I have had great examples of mentors in my life and I seek to channel the best of those relationships as I guide others. One challenge is mentoring those older than me, especially in the workplace. Ultimately, the goal is the relationship and growth so keeping that focus is key.
Mentors and mentees have to be able to trust each other, because there will be vulnerabilities exposed on both sides. The relationship must also involve mutual respect. How can you mentor (or be mentored) without trust and respect?
It is a great honor to be considered a mentor. Someone is trusting you to help them. I get just as much from my mentees as they could ever get from me.
We utilize a mentor-mentee relationship for all first year teachers. I share a lot of Dan’s work with them. This one will be a great resource.
As I am leaning towards the end of my career, the one area I am most proud of is mentoring my employees. Seeing them flourish and having the confidence to move forward in the next steps of their career. It is all about trust between the two of us and the mutual respect.
As a veteran teacher and mentor, I am always looking for ways to stay motivated and fresh with my work. The Leadership Freak gives me new ideas and thoughtful reflections to inspire my work. Another resource to provide insight is always welcome.
I like that for point #6 you specified the order in which feedback flows. It goes a long way to establish trust if you ask for points of correction before offering some. Great technique!
I chair a mentoring committee, and getting mentors to actually invest is my biggest challenge. The worst thing a mentor can do is to tell their mentee “I was never mentored”. It starts the relationship with the mentee feeling inadequate and perhaps disinclined to share that feeling.
This book would be super helpful to me!
I was speaking with someone this weekend about the absence of mentors in the church. The Old Testament called it “casting your mantle”. When Elijah cast his mantle on Elisha, he was quick to follow because he had witnessed Elijah’s testimony, relationship and power and he wanted that for himself. Elijah was a powerful force in Elisha’s life – a mentor. This is a challenge to all of us. First to live a life worth emulating, second to share that life’s experiences with others..
Finding myself more and more in mentor roles and these are great reminders for me. Thank you.
Getting to know the mentee first is vital. A mentor should also be open about themselves and allow the mentee into their world. It’s a two way street to effective communication and to grow the relationship.
Very practical list is steps to improve one of the most important tools any leader can use. Whether you are the mentor or the mentee, you will certainly grow from one of these relationships.
I see my role more and more as a mentor. The most important aspect that I see is availability. Both in regards to time and mentally/emotionally for those that I come in contact with.
Seeing someone you have mentored reach their goals brings so much joy. My experience with mentorship has always been more informal. Thank you for sharing this information.
The key ingredient, in mentoring for me is trust. Trust is earned, thus it takes time for the relationship to grow in trust. All the things listed in this post are fantastic for the process of trust building and necessary. The mentor needs to reflect, as mentioned, and set the notion of “fixing” the issue aside. Wisdom, counsel and advice will most often be received if there is trust. Trust building requires vulnerability on the part of the mentor, sharing experiences vulnerably is huge.
The more continual you provide feedback, the less confrontational it becomes. It instead becomes part of the normal relationship between the mentor and mentee. Hopefully, that creates a culture that grows throughout the organization to evolve a culture of good communication and improvement.
I am wondering about when the mentor is a supervisor, would there be some additional tips about the mentoring relationship? Would love to win the book and learn more!
Really appreciate the simplicity of this list. Straightforward and clear, doing them is of course more difficult. Too often I find myself going into problem solving mode instead of listening closely enough.
Great mentors are open to learning from their mentees, as well as mentoring them.
Great 6 points! Many of us forget some of the basics, this is a quick short read reminder. Thanks for sharing!
Also, thank you for the book giveaway option.
I am working on setting up a mentorship program at my school and am looking forward to reading this book.
Mentoring is an important skill to continue to work on.
The best mentors really develop the relationship and continue the relations even years later.
We will be forwarding this article on to our mentors! I look forward to reading the book and helping our mentors grow so they are able to support their mentees more.
This is a lot more difficult to put into practice. I’ll be adding this to my reading list for sure.
This is an excellent list and tremendously helpful guidance. I would be lucky to win a copy of Lois J. Zachary’s new book, The Mentor’s Guide, 3rd Edition. It would be quite helpful as I grow as a mentor for my newest team.
Structure and time are both key, and both require intentionality. Definitely a practice and not just something to fit in. Great challenge, the book sounds intriguing!
I love the point about developing relationships. Most of my mentoring experiences have been informal but they have always started with by building relationships. Someone once said people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.
This is an amazing article! Mentoring can take so many forms. So many people have so much that they can share or that we can share to others to make all our lives better. I really want to know more!
Thank you for this list – I’ll be sharing it with our mentors. Looking forward to the book!
Thank you for this post, it is wonderful to see the discussion around mentorship. I take time to understand my mentee and what they see as their most important next step. Once I understand that we collaborate on a plan to help them achieve their success!
I’m early in my mentorship journey, however I have found their successes that they own are very rewarding. I’m just a fly on the wall in their journey, but it’s so fun!
Listening is one of the greatest mentoring techniques… listen to their needs. I would love a copy, thank you
It is all about the relationships. You need to build trust “Take time at the beginning of the relationship to get to know each other,” and “Mentors, you can set the tone by sharing first.” This goes a long way to create the safe environment for working together. Can’t wait to read more in this book!
I am entering into a new leadership role in which I would like to formalize a mentoring component for our new educators. My experience with mentoring has been limited to an informal process of encouraging folks to find a mentor and the rest is up to the mentor and mentee. I would love a copy of this book to help us to dig deeper into mentoring and how we can more effectively implement.
Very good advice.
Would love a copy
This a quick refresher for us all. Thanks
Mentoring is SUCH an important part of all teams and staff development and sadly sometimes overlooked. Also, feedback is a gift!
We have no formal mentor program where I work, but I finally realized that doesn’t need to keep me from acting as a mentor. I’m always thrilled when our younger staff comes to me saying they want some coaching because they like the way I do things. I always find myself learning something from them, too.
Would love to receive the new book on mentoring. I am an administrator in a senior retirement community and am always looking for ideas to mentor the team members.
Becoming a mentor for a young person is a huge responsibility. You are presenting yourself as a role model and a source of information and advice. What you say and do matters. I follow Dan’s blog religiously. I would love to get a copy of The Mentor’s Guide to start on that journey.
Be authentic, look for what your mentee does well, and help guide them in areas that need a bit of polish. Find a working relationship with them as well…..some do not feel that they need a mentor and in those cases, you walk a fine line, while keeping in touch and discovering ways to help them.
#4 Resonated with me. However, when I meet with staff, or new hires, I consciously do NOT take notes during our meetings, as I personally find it anxiety-producing to see someone jotting things down during conversations that are meant to be genuine and candid. That doesn’t mean I don’t document the conversations and important points, however I do it immediately after the meeting, not during. During our conversation, it is all about listening, seeking understanding, and providing pertinent information.
This is a great post, and while I appreciate each of the six items listed, #6 really resonates with me after having a mentoring relationship go horribly wrong a couple of years ago. Giving and receiving constructive feedback is incredibly valuable, as we cannot reasonably fix what we do not know is broken. As a mentor (or leader), if you see that someone has a “blind spot,” your role is to help them see it.
This couldn’t have been more timely for me! I just finished a mentoring meeting; I was asked to mentor someone, and we were given guidance for frequency and structure of meetings. The one item missing from the guidance was incorporating #6, which I will definitely add to our next meeting. So much of what makes mentorship valuable to both the mentor and the mentee should include all of these items!
Great mentoring really does begin with developing a relationship with your mentee. The tips above break down how best to do that and create an environment in which you both feel empowered to let each other know how they can do better and what their expectations are.
One of the best mentors I have had always starts leadership meetings by going around the table first to see how everyone is doing and what is going on in their lives. This isn’t a time for work discussion, but personal challenges, achievements, or just how life is treating you. It helps our leadership team get to know each other better and breaks down barriers.
Great summary and looks like it would be a great book! I’ve benefitted enormously in having a business mentor for that last ~8 years!
#1 Reflect: You do this because you believe in it and are passionate about it. Otherwise you shouldn’t be doing it.
#2 Create structure: … but not too much. Structure regular meetings and perhaps milestones to check how you’re doing. But no more. The best mentoring “goes with the flow,” albeit with the mentor quietly directing the flow if it isn’t occurring naturally.
#3 Invest in the relationship and learning: It’s all about learning. On both sides.
#4 Share openly: Of course. But be careful about sharing first or sharing too much. You don’t want the relationship to turn into a lecture.
#5 Follow up: Part of what your mentee is learning is to follow up, and learning from examples is powerful. It’s amazing how many apparently successful people lack the discipline to follow up.
#6 Seek and provide feedback: That’s what it’s all about.
Very thoughtful comments. All great points to consider in a mentoring relationship. Personal reflection of past mentoring relationships often sets the tone for future success.
Great Comments, Thank you for the 6 things. Relationship is where it all begins.
The 6 tips are a great start. One comment that has always stuck with me is to be curious.
This is really great information. I think #3 is the best idea so you as the mentor are actively engaged.
Really good reminders on mentoring. I have shared this with my aspiring leaders.
Sage advice. #3 resonated with me. The importance of “investing” in the relationship demonstrates the commitment that we must make. A relationship by definition is requires a commitment from both parties.
Great advice! I find these mentoring relationships to be very fulfilling. As a young mentor, this advice is really helpful as I build my mentoring strategies. I will be sharing this with my mentees and colleagues as well.
Thank you for this article.
While all six points resonate with previous mentors in my life, number 3 seems to stick out to me tonight. The following section under number 3 states,
“Take time at the beginning of the relationship to get to know each other. At each meeting, spend a set amount of time catching up before you dive into working on goals.”
All too often, most of us (including myself) are too anxious to get to the “business at hand” and forget the person in front of us.
Thank you for this reminder. I look forward to learning more from this insightful book by Lisa and Lois.
Mentoring is a buzzword in todays organizational circle and I too have been a part of this relation as a mentor and a mentee. There is a serious commitment and time required in this relationship. The mentee needs to aspire to learn and give himself totally by trusting the mentor in this relation and the mentor needs to believe in the potential to transform his knowledge through his mentee for the mentee to grow. I have seen it becoming very informal and something that is forced upon a majority of the times and no commitments – which does not benefit either party and ends up being a waste of time and effort. I also found that the most successful mentee / mentor relations i have had was – there should be a vibe on a deeper lever of connection without any expectations but only a belief that both the mentor and mentee will equally benefit and grow from this relationship – its never a one way street – the mentee learns from my guidance but i also learn from the mentees questions and curiosity.
It’s great to see the five and take aspect of the mentoring process highlighted. Mentors being seen as learning as much as the mentees is a quality takeaway. Thank you.
Mentoring is beneficial for the mentee and the mentor – it is a circle of influence that builds capacity in both parties as well as others that they interact with. Mentoring is one of the most public yet private forms of support. My favorite is #1, reflection. We learn new lessons along the way as we change through reflection. The effects of mentoring last for a lifetime. I would be honored to have a copy of this new work. Thank you!
I had many relationships over the years where I can say in retrospect we’re mentoring. They were organic. Nobody was trying to mentor, they just did. That is a wonderful thing. But not everyone has that luck. The process can certainly get a jump start by making an arrangement up front, but then the tricky part is finding the right pairing. I did a formal mentoring program as a mentor and the set up included training for all as well as thoughtful pairing. That went really well. I have been thinking about starting such a thing where I currently work.
I would very much like a copy of this book. I have never really had a mentor and my one didcated attempt at being a mentor to someone, was a failure in my opinion, as I had know idea what it looks like or how to facilitate such a relationship outside of a work environment (boss to employee). This is an area where I would like to improve as my desire is to help others grow
So thankful for the many mentors in my life that have left their mark. I have evolved as a person by taking bits and pieces of impactful individuals through my career to become the much more well-rounded person I am today.
I am a teacher/coach and more recently a speaker/writer on coaching (sports) topics, trying to help coaches create positive experiences for kids by adopting a character-based approach. I believe that teachers & coaches, especially those new to the professions, need a lot of mentoring in order to learn how to create the best experiences possible for kids. I am grateful to the mentors I had early on in my career who helped guide me down the right path, and I am grateful to those mentors out there who continue to do the same for others. I think it is critical, though, that mentors have resources to turn to that will help them in their role as mentors. Thanks for providing those kinds of invaluable resources.
If a mentor asks, “what happens if I don’t like the person I am mentoring?” I would challenge that the deeper the mentor relationship goes, the more differences you will find, and the mentor’s challenge is to love unconditionally those you serve.
Great leadership is about great relationships. I like all you points but #3 hits home for me. Too many leaders lead with authority and not trust. Without trust leadership fails. If you look at employee disengagement stats (85% disengaged globally), organizations have a problem here. Genuine mentoring and coaching are keys to success. I think of this as Servant Leadership, putting people-first. Thanks for the article.
I am a mentor for new teachers and administrators. Mentoring is critical to increasing your skills to the craft of teaching and learning. “No one can be a great leader unless they genuinely care about the success of each member on the T.E.A.M.
Reflect, this part if often left out of the process. Take the time to look back, learn, and move forward with renewed and informed focus!
My summary: To be a successful mentor or to benefit from a mentor to us, the relationship must be strong, empathetic, open, and honest – as must be the conversations.
#3 really resonates with me. I have had many mentors over the years and the clear winners in my heart have been the ones who were genuinely invested in my success and improvement. They really cared, and that was evident in every meeting with them. They listened without judgement and helped me see the possibilities and realize my strengths. I have had mentors who did not do this, and the contrast was stark.
I have been on the receiving end in terms of mentorship so I appreciate this post which lays down the mentor aspect of it as well.
Chip Conley talks about being a mentern–mentor and intern. We can all teach (mentor) and learn (intern) from each other. I would love the mentor guide! Thanks
As an aspiring leader in education, I appreciate feedback given to me as well as the reflection which results because of it. I am grateful to learn how to sharpen my own skills and learn how to pull other staff up.
The best mentors employ listening skills to really hear the mentee. As the relationship forms and trust is established, both parties open up creating a deeper connection. This book would be so helpful to empower me to become a better mentor.
My leadership coaching and mentoring motto is “Bringing out the best in leaders.” I do that by asking powerful questions, challenging growth through change, and empowering leaders to take actions to measurably improve their values, character, knowledge, and skills. A great mentor is a good accountability partner.
Enjoyed the article. I especially liked #5… following up is almost a lost art.