10 Ways to Mentor

Perhaps someone in your organization has approached you about being their mentor. Or maybe your organization has assigned you to be someone’s mentor.

The first question that may come to your mind: How do I mentor this person?

It’s one thing to have knowledge. Do I really have that much knowledge? Is it knowledge that would be helpful to others? How do I decide which knowledge is good enough to share?

Related post: Mentoring Strategically

So where do you start?  Here are ten ways to begin and continue adding value to any mentoring relationship.

  1. By Example: Many think that mentoring is sitting down and teaching someone. “This is how you do this, this is how you do that.” The fact is, you can mentor by example.  That can be done by portraying a positive attitude.  Maybe you can show them how to act with humility. Or maybe by acting in ethical ways, they will learn from your example and eventually act accordingly.
  2. Be a Mentee: Everybody has something to teach others.  While you mentor someone, you may notice that they have a deep knowledge in some other area that you lack.  If you’re mentoring a twenty-something (a Generation Y-er), they may be able to teach you something about establishing their own website or even some tips and techniques for more efficient Google searches. If he feels that he can teach you, he may be more willing to learn from you.
  3. Collaborate with other mentors: If mentoring is common in your organization, talk to more experienced mentors (a mentor’s mentor, if you will). Find out how they approach mentoring, what they teach and how they teach it.
  4. Collaborate with your mentee: Rather than just sitting down with your mentee and spewing out everything you know in a one-way knowledge road, ask them what they want to learn.  Mentoring is for them after all, not you.  By soliciting what they want to learn, you can seek alignment with their mentoring needs.
  5. Be a “Know a-Little”: Mentoring can go to one’s head.  It gives people a feeling of superiority, especially if they already feel inferior deep down.  As a result, a mentor’s advice can sound like orders given to a subordinate. Instead, give advice in suggestion form rather than instruction.  (“Here’s what I would do, but you should do what you feel most comfortable with…”) Additionally, you can ask your mentee leading questions that makes her think of various approaches and the possible ramifications of each.
  6. Have personality awareness: Not every mentoring relationship clicks. If you’ve given the relationship time and the two of you just haven’t developed a close relationship, accept that maybe you aren’t meant to be in that mentoring relationship.  Diplomatically suggest that maybe you each try someone else for mentoring relationships.
  7. Let them learn from your mistakes: Be open about the times in your career that you’ve screwed up.  Teach them the lessons you learned from them.  They’ll appreciate your vulnerability and will likely learn a lot from those lessons.
  8. Remove formalities: Mentoring doesn’t need to be two people meeting face to face in a conference room or across a desk. Go to lunch, for coffee or out for a beer.  Find casual (yet appropriate) surroundings where you can simply talk and exchange ideas rather than a formal mundane instruction period.
  9. Have an end game: Find out what your mentee would like to get out of the relationship and set some goals. Monitor for those goals on a regular basis to make sure that you’re on the right track. It’s also good to determine whether the goals have changed.
  10. Know when to stop: A mentoring relationship can – and sometimes does – last a lifetime.  Other times, it can be no more than a single conversation. Your mentee’s needs may have evolved to something that you can’t provide.  If that’s the case, help her find someone that might be a more appropriate mentor. But always keep the door open for advice if they need it.

For more information, see How to Mentor for Maximum Benefit

If you would like to learn more about mentoring between Millennials and Baby Boomers, get Lew and Jeff’s book The Reluctant Mentor on Amazon.


I welcome your questions and comments.

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