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What Makes an Effective Mentor?






It was a question that had haunted him for a while. He wondered how effective he was being in mentoring this young professional that had come to him for guidance. He was concerned that he was not bringing value to the relationship that they were developing and was afraid to ask the question. He had lots of experience and wanted to share that with this person but was that what they were looking for? His leadership style was one that would be called transformational and he was trying to do much the same thing in his mentoring attempts with this young person. He had been to a number of leadership training courses but had not had any formal training on how to mentor others.

These are all questions that we are asked regularly. Mentors have big hearts and they want to do the right thing. They want to see you grow personally and professionally. They care about you and your well-being. When you are not having a good day chances are your mentor is sharing your pain. It all comes down to the ability to build a trusted relationship and the art of communication. Effective mentors are those that you want to spend time with. They are some of the finest active listeners and communicators. They know when it is time to listen and when it is time to ask you a number of questions to guide you to the answers. They have the key to unlock all the answers to those questions that you have and once they unlock that door they will guide you to the answers. They want you to take ownership of the challenges and the answers.

All of this sounds good but what are some of the character strengths of an effective mentor? An effective mentor is one with humility. You put others before yourself; you are not more special or important than others. You let your actions and accomplishments speak for themselves. You readily acknowledge your mistakes, gaps in knowledge and imperfections. Modest people are seen as quite likable , less threatening to others, and people enjoy spending time with you. Humility is a key factor in your ability to develop relationships – trusted relationships.

An effective mentor is honest. This is all about being genuine and sincere. You are seen by others as being “real”. You are truthful and keep your promises and commitments. You are genuine in your interactions with others and that builds trusted relationships.

An effective mentor is one with gratitude. You express thankfulness to those who provide you with a gift or an act of kindness and you are grateful for your life, your relationships and the level of health that you have. You count your blessings regularly and reflect on your life in general. Gratitude connects you to the larger universe. Your gratitude may be responsible for the positive emotions you experience and opens the door to other strengths such as kindness and curiosity towards others and humility and forgiveness.

An effective mentor is one with the character strength of judgement. Don’t panic as this does not mean that you pass judgement regularly on others. When you are using this strength you are looking at things from all angles. You are thinking through problems and challenges that come up and you are not quick to jump to conclusions. You share this technique with others as part of your effective mentoring process. You weigh issues fairly and will change your mind in the light of new evidence. If you find yourself getting caught in negative thinking situations, you have the benefit of your judgement strength to find the balance in the situation. Others look to you for that balance making you a good friend and confidante. You are a great listener which helps you form meaningful relationships.

An effective mentor is one with the character strength of fairness. With this strength you treat all people according to principles of fairness and justice. You do not treat everyone the same though as each person that you form a relationship with is a unique person and should be treated as such. You are good at seeing things from someone else’s reality and you do not let personal bias or feelings impact your decisions. You are willing to stand up for those who are cast aside in society or are mistreated. You are good at seeing different perspectives when moral dilemmas arise. This character strength provides you with the benefits of self-reflection and self-knowledge. Fairness causes other people to trust you – a key element in developing trusted relationships.

There are a number of other character strengths that can play a role in shaping what we would call an effective mentor. These five are some of the more predominant ones as they feed your ability to develop the trusted relationships, active listening and communication skills that you need to be successful as an effective mentor.

Choose your mentor wisely. An effective mentor should get you to sleep on your first meeting before committing to developing the relationship. If the chemistry is not evident chances are it will be a failed relationship. Mentoring is a gift; embrace the “power of mentoring”! Can you afford not to?