What All Good Mentors Do

06/18/2010 03:59 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Most people we know have benefited from having a great mentor, someone who has helped accelerate their career. Because of that, they're now in a position to be a mentor themselves. While companies encourage mentoring there's often little guidance on how to do it well.

Whether you are a novice or an experienced mentor, here is what all good mentors do:


Set Goals - It's important to set expectations around the relationship. Be clear as to what you can do for them and what you expect from them. They should have a defined goal that includes what they would like to accomplish in what time frame and a plan to make that happen. For example, a finance manager at a Fortune 500 company wanted to learn how to work better cross functionally. Her mentor gave her a number of suggestions on how she could achieve this. In addition, she made it a point to include her in a meeting with multiple departments so the finance manager could learn who the players were and what their perspectives were. The mentor made sure her goal tied to a long-term one. In this case, the finance manager wanted to be a general manager someday. Working cross functionally was key to achieving that goal.

Have an Honest Interest in the Person - Sometimes people are arbitrarily assigned to a mentor. If the match isn't a good one, lack of chemistry, etc, asked to be reassigned to a different mentee. It's important to have a connection and care about your mentee's success.

Be Accessible - In addition to your formal meetings, let your mentee know that you are available between meetings, especially if they need your assistance in a pinch. This could be a quick call or email. The time you'll be expending is minimal but the impact could be significant.

Actively Look for Ways to Help Them - Maybe they would benefit from listening in on a call or meeting you'll be attending. The relationship you have is a two-way street. Don't wait for them to come to you. If you are aware of resources (e.g., seminars, training, etc.) that could be of help, be proactive and let them know about it.

Talk Them Up - When you're in meetings, let your peers and boss know how well your mentee is doing. That will help their visibility and ultimately their career. It will also help to increase their self-confidence knowing that key people in the organization are aware of their contributions.

Mentoring is a great way to give back and can make all the difference in someone's career. Useful advice at the right moment can provide the spark to help someone through a rough patch or deal with a major project which has key implications for a potential promotion. The wonderful aspect of mentoring is that it is the gift that rewards the giver as well as the receiver.

Fred & Gladys
Whelan Stone
Executive Search and Coaching
Authors of GOAL! Your 30 Day Career Plan for Business & Career Success