Avoid 5 Mentoring Mindtraps for Transformational Mentoring

Mentoring skills can be taught, but a mentor’s mindset determines relationship success.

Chances are, you’ve been or had a mentor sometime in your life. But was it a transformational experience for you or the other person? Quite possibly not.  

In our recent research, in which we benchmarked mentoring program results, 47% of mentees thought being mentored was one of the best things they’d ever done. Pretty impressive, right? Maybe, but I believe every mentoring relationship has the potential to be transformational for the mentee (and mentor). 

How do we create the conditions for life-changing mentoring and get that more than half of the time? It’s all about mindset. The mentee’s mindset matters too, but we know mentoring dissatisfaction occurs, typically, when the mentor falls for one of these mentoring mindtraps we’ve identified. 

5 Mentoring Mindtraps to avoid 

Nothing more to learn 

When a mentor thinks they know everything, they stop listening and asking questions. Curiosity is critical if you want to be a transformational mentor. Don’t over-simplify the mentee’s story, dig deeper and find out what the real issues are. Be open to learning – about the mentee, their world, and about yourself. 

Being right 

Experienced managers are paid to devise solutions and offering them becomes habitual. When you’re certain of the answers, you are blind to alternatives that might work better for the mentee. Question your own assumptions and be tentative with advice you offer. 

Lack of compassion 

Neurological studies suggest that we find it easier to be compassionate to people in our “in-groups”, like family and friends. But your mentee may be quite unlike you. The antidote to this mindtrap is to reflect on: 

Can I respect their difference? 

What kindness could I offer to someone, towards whom I feel disapproval? 

What’s the most generous thing I could think or do right now? 

Prioritising comfort over courage 

Do you have a strong need to be liked or avoid conflict? Do you prioritise agreement? Allowing the mentoring relationship to be too cosy can lead to a lack of challenge and real impact from your engagement. Question more, dig deeper, have the courage to offer feedback (respectfully) and stretch the mentee harder.  

Thinking “I’m not enough” 

Believing that you can’t offer the mentee anything useful is disempowering for both of you. Don’t hide away – you can provide compassion, powerful listening and ask great questions. Think of yourself as a container for their learning. You just need to ‘hold the space’ for them to work things out for themselves. Even when you think you have nothing to offer, you do! 


I’ve learned over 25 years of mentoring that if you mind your mindset and avoid these traps, you’ll discover the power mentor within. The question is, are you up for it? 


© Melissa Richardson