A mentor can take many roles in the mentoring relationship:

  • A guide
  • A sounding board
  • A challenger
  • A supporter and encourager
  • A confidante
  • A career coach
  • A networking facilitator

A developmental mentor is most often not the mentee’s line manager, or someone who is in that person’s direct line. It is usually someone from either outside the organisation or, if in the same organisation, then not in the same area, so that the mentor can be more objective and provide a fresh perspective.

It is important that the mentor responds to the mentee’s agenda. Many mentors leap straight into giving advice based on their own experience, spending a great deal of the time talking about themselves. Whilst this may help the mentee, it is helpful to ask questions and do some deep listening before handing over pearls of wisdom. Let the mentee drive the agenda and determine what they can best interpret from your experience.

A good mentor is able to:

  1. Listen well
  2. Provide guidance rather than advice when appropriate
  3. Challenge respectfully and be challenged without offense
  4. Be patient – he or she will let the mentee tell their story without rushing them to a solution, and will let the mentee tackle challenges at their own pace
  5. Offer different perspectives – and knows that there is no one right way to look at things
  6. Introduce the mentee to relevant people in her/his network
  7. Minimise the impact of the power difference between him or her and the mentee – especially if there is a big difference in level of experience or seniority
  8. Give time, encouragement, support, constructive feedback and unconditional respect to the mentee
  9. Know when to use each mentoring mode i.e. when to listen, when to give advice, when to challenge
  10. Maintain confidentiality

Refer also to: