5 Essentials To Make Mentoring Worthwhile

A good mentor is hard to find. Before trusting someone with your personal and professional goals, consider these characteristics.

From Mark Zuckerberg to Tony Robbins, some of the most successful people in all forms of business have credited part of their success to having a great mentor.

Mentors are not always well known people who work in the same field as the people they are mentoring. They can be family members or others who serve as moral and character guides. Herb Kelleher, founder and chairman of Southwest Airlines, was mentored by his mother Ruth, who told him, "Respect people for who they are, not for what their titles are."

Before you look for a mentor, consider the following.

1. What skills do you want to build?

Before you consider looking for a mentor, you have to visualize your future. Where do you see yourself down the road in five, 10, or 15 years? What kind of work are you doing? What kind of a person have you become? Realize that every worthwhile accomplishment has started out as a dream in someone’s mind. After you have your future goals fixed in your mind, ask yourself who would be the best person to serve as your guide on your journey? What kind of help would be of most benefit to you? Is it technical knowledge, business acumen, or personal guidance? A mentor can serve all these purposes, but usually one is predominant.

2. Look for character before qualifications

Before moving on to what you think your mentor needs to know, think of the kind of person he or she needs to be. Do you have respect for them as a person apart from what they know? Would you be pleased to have them as part of your family? If the answer to these questions is no, look elsewhere. Even though they may be highly knowledgeable, intelligent and technically brilliant, your subconscious may have a hard time accepting any advice or ideas that come from them. A good mentor should always leave you feeling positive and inspired.

3. Someone who won't tell you what to do.

In order to grow, we need to make our own decisions and mistakes. A good mentor will allow us to do both. He or she will never tell us what we should or need to do. Instead they will offer and share ideas based on their own experiences. They will freely offer what has or hasn’t worked for them and leave it up to you as to whether you take their advice. Take from them what is valuable to you and leave the rest.

4. Find a person who is open, honest, and not ego driven

In order for feedback to be worthy from anyone, it must be honest and forthright. As well as giving you praise when your mentor thinks you have done something well, it is equally important that they challenge and encourage you to accomplish more when you are struggling. A good mentor does not get upset or angry when you don’t follow their advice. They are not ego driven and don’t see your success or failure as a direct reflection on their mentoring skills. They accept and know that, like themselves, you are your totally responsible for your own success and failure in life.

5. Does your potential mentor have a history of crediting others for success?

Effective mentors are people who have a record of service to their community, organizations or groups they belong to. They see beyond their own needs and have a desire to make their community and the world a better place to live. While others recognize them for their success, they don’t bring this up, and if asked about it, will give credit to others. Others will know them for their unselfishness and desire to give back.

Harvey Deutschendorf is an emotional intelligence expert, speaker, and internationally published author of THE OTHER KIND OF SMART, Simple Ways to Boost Your Emotional Intelligence for Greater Personal Effectiveness and Success. Follow him on Twitter at @Theeiguy

[Image: Flickr user Jarle Refsnes]

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4 Comments

  • I especially like the first point as it is about having a certain amount of clarify and self awareness. I feel that that's something that's lacking in many people who are seeking for mentors and yet to find one.

    Will be interesting to hear your views on after finding such a mentor, how should you engage them and maintain the relationship?

    Cheers, Lujie @chen_lujie

  • "Would you be pleased to have them as part of your family? If the answer to these questions is no, look elsewhere. " -- this statement stood out for me, as if based on skills and knowledge, there are plenty of people who can be mentors. But to have someone who can truly speak into another's life, there must be a certain depth of trust.

  • Fabian Cowan

    I found this article very useful and timely....thanks Harvey for sharing this...i also believe while most of us may not have a defined mentor, there are times when we get mentored ( sometime in a days work) by the unlikeliest of people, and hence your suggestions on looking for the right mentor are so true and apt....appreciated....many thanks.

  • So much of this comes down to personality and approachability/accessibility. At the end of the day, people deal with people they like and trust. Especially important in a mentoring relationship. Great article Harvey, thanks for sharing. Best. Kevin Sheldrake @rebucouk