A friend recently asked me to become a mentor to a board of an organization I am a member of. That precipitated a thought-provoking conversation that spurred me to address the makings of a good mentor. I am enclosing an excerpt from my recent book, The Flight To Excellence, which addresses mentorship qualities.
Key Qualities of a Great Mentor
A great mentor will have expertise and knowledge in your field of endeavor.
It's important to have a mentor whose journey is complementary to yours and who has seen, done, or accomplished the things you are trying to achieve. They have probably been there and done that and can help keep you from making similar mistakes to those they made. If you want to make partner in a large law firm, seek out a senior partner who understands the process and can help guide you along the track. If you want to become a successful fast-food franchisee, find a mentor who owns her stores. She'll be better positioned to help you with the business and advise you on how best to navigate the relationship with the corporate franchisor.
A great mentor will be invested in your success.
While a close personal relationship is not required, your mentor must have a strong interest in seeing you succeed. He will be invested in your achievements, much like a coach is invested in his players' success. Often a mentor will take on a mentee as a way of giving back. She may have been mentored at a critical stage of her career and understands the value a mentor can provide.
A great mentor will provide honest and constructive feedback.
A knowledgeable mentor will be able to help evaluate your strengths and weaknesses. He will help you see where you are deficient and where you need help to improve your skills. While always respectful and courteous, he will be brutally honest about what you need to do to progress.
A great mentor gives encouragement and emotional support.
We all have our ups and downs and times when we are just drained because of the turbulence we must navigate through. A good mentor will offer support and reassurance and help keep things in perspective when you are feeling overwhelmed. He can often see your potential when you don't see it in yourself.
A great mentor will act as an effective sounding board for your ideas.
She will be a person you can trust to give you sound advice and honest opinions about your ideas and the route you may be taking or thinking of taking. When you are excited about a new concept or direction, it's extremely valuable to have someone who is not as emotionally engaged with your plan to give you that dispassionate critique.
A great mentor can be willing to share their network.
A great mentor will introduce you to folks who can help you out and shorten your learning curve. The people in their network may be able to do business with you, provide you with investment capital, or facilitate an employment opportunity at a higher level. Sharing a mentor's contact list may give you more marketing opportunities or introduce you to an entirely new social set. You may end up in a world that you would otherwise have never been exposed to.
By the way, I accepted the call to help the board. I have had several outstanding mentors in my life who have significantly propelled my life forward. Hopefully, I can assist similarly.