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What It Takes To Be a Mentor





I was fortunate to speak at the IPMA 2017 Conference this past week. We did something a little different in that the format that we used was a round table discussion rather than a straight presentation/lecture. Like any mentoring opportunity I came away from the experience learning something about myself but also about a number of other people. What I heard were some of the common questions that people have about mentoring. One person related being asked to be a mentor but they did not think that they had anything to offer. I would like to spend some time today touching on that particular point!

A couple of messages that came through loud and clear from our conversations was that people that are involved in a “corporate” mentoring program do not spend much time on the personal growth of the person that they are spending time with. The mandate of the program is such that it focuses on the professional growth only as that as seen as having the most impact on the bottom line – productivity and profitability. Nothing could be further from the truth. If we do not address the personal growth challenges we will struggle moving forward with anything to do with the professional growth. Dealing with the personal growth first removes the obstacles and barriers that we may encounter in moving forward with any professional growth. Recognizing and then being able to work with someone to address these issues is best accomplished with some mentor training.

What do I need to have in order to be a good mentor? This was a question that was asked a lot during the round table discussion. The two primary skills that I see in most good mentors are the ability to build trusted relationships and the ability to communicate effectively. Ironically these are also skills that we see in great leaders. I have always said that a great leader is a great mentor and a great mentor is a great leader. In order to build a trusted relationship we sometimes have to share something very personal about ourselves. It is a humbling experience to share that information and see the impact that it can have on the person that you are spending time with.

I want to talk about communicating effectively for a moment. It is by far one of the biggest challenges that we face in most organizations. I am not sure if the use of technology has diminished our communication skill sets but most of the work that I do inside organizations is directly the result of poor communication. Effective communication is a transferable skill that can be used in your personal (family) life, in the community and in the organization that you work in. Good leaders have developed this skill as do good mentors. What is also interesting is that much of the family turmoil that we experience is also directly related to poor or in some cases non-existent communication.

As we discussed during the round table all is not lost. Providing mentors with the tools they need to be successful is crucial to the success of that relationship. Proper training can provide you with skills that are transferable and that will make a difference in the many different aspects of your life. One of the main reasons that mentor programs fail is due to lack of training. The same could be said for organizations and for your personal life as well. Investing in ourselves is not something that we do much of until it is sometimes too late to do so.

We all have something to offer as a mentor. The more involved in mentoring you become the better you are at sharing the “the gift of mentoring”. With proper training you will develop new skills or enhance the ones you already have and be in a better place to experience the power of the “the gift of mentoring”. “Can you afford not to?”


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