Habits of the Best Mentors:

What separates them from the rest?

In 2020, we closely examined the nominations in the Art of Mentoring Mentor of the Year Award, to uncover what the most impressive Mentors had in common. Here’s what we found.

In the very initial phase of the mentoring relationship, great Mentors made a very welcoming first impression on their Mentees.

1. They project warmth and were generous and approachable
They enabled a very comfortable space for a Mentee to approach and discuss topics and issues which would otherwise be difficult to address in a different context. Some Mentors laughed and cried with their Mentees through the pandemic year, helped them through the grieving process after loss of a loved one, comforted them after a job loss, showed genuine care and commitment. The tone was set from their first connections.

2. They quickly built rapport and trust
These great Mentors were described as being 100% attentive & interested. They took time to get to know their mentees, looked for common ground, made it clear they would keep discussions confidential. Many Mentors were described as creating a “calm space” for reflection and discussion.

3. They were humble and authentic
The best Mentors shared their stories, warts and all, made sure the Mentee realised no question was a dumb question, and did what they could to minimise the power difference between them.

4. They demonstrated that they were self-aware, and still developing
Mentors that share mistakes and things that have gone wrong not only encourage a similar level of self-disclosure from the Mentee, but they also demonstrate their own self-awareness. Our great mentors shared their own developmental journeys which still continue.

5. They were inspirational
Nominating mentees described how their Mentors role-modelled behaviour rather than just talking about it. The Mentees were able to directly observe their Mentor displaying the behaviour they aspire to.

As the relationship evolved, nominated Mentors had these habits in common:

6. They helped their Mentees formulate motivating goals by starting with deep, attentive listening, getting beyond the surface issues and asking questions to elicit the mentee’s reflection on whether the goals really serve them. Their skilful questions come from curiosity and also a desire to move the mentee on in their own thinking.

7. They challenged unhelpful thinking on the part of the Mentee.

8. They went the extra mile 
Perhaps the best examples of this were Mentors who gave up time to help their Mentees who had lost their jobs due to the pandemic, assisting them through the job-seeking and networking journey and helping them prepare and build confidence. There were also stories of mentors who provided extraordinary emotional support during the worst of the pandemic.

These Mentors not only impressed their Mentees enough for them to nominate them for our Award, but they were, not surprisingly, the ones that derived the most benefit from the experience themselves and delivered the best outcomes for their Mentees. We also know from running programs with thousands of Mentors over a couple of decades that the best results are gained by the Mentors that spend more time listening than talking, know when to hold back on giving advice, and manage to get their own egos out of the way.

Which of these habits do you practice?
We can all aspire to these behaviours and work mindfully towards trying to be the best version of ourselves as mentors. There is always more to learn and improve, as even the best mentors will tell you.

Some useful questions to ask yourself:
1. What could you do, to be the best Mentor you can be? (you’ll make it a more worthwhile experience for you and your partner).
2. What could get in the way of this?
3. Do you need to upskill in mentoring technique?
4. What will you commit to?

Some useful questions to ask your mentee:
1. What can I do to make this a worthwhile experience for you?
2. Will you give me feedback if you think I’m not giving all that I could to this relationship?
3. What would I need to do to be the best Mentor you’ve ever had?