Effective Mentoring Skills

August 10, 2016

There are a set of skills possessed by good mentors that make them sought out for their knowledge and ability to guide mentees.

If you’re going to properly set up a mentoring program, your mentors will need to be prepared for the job. After all, they are equipping your organization’s next generation of leaders. Without properly qualified mentors, the product of their union with your organization's future leaders can’t be guaranteed. Simply put - if your mentors aren’t ready, then neither will your mentees be when it’s time for their call up to the big leagues.

Mentors may already have some skills needed, like being a good speaker and a good coach, but one of the key mentoring traits needed to prosper are expertise and experience relevant to the mentee. There are a host of other traits needed to excel in this position as well. Here are a few we believe to be the most effective in achieving mentorship objectives.

Competencies needed to be an effective mentor

Be able to actively communicate.- The mentorship is mentor guided and mentee driven. Though mentors are being sought out for their skill and knowledge, they are there for the mentee. Make sure they are actively listening and responding appropriately to concerns or comments from the mentee. As they say, communication is key.

Be able to set goals and stick to them - Unlike other professional relationships mentees may have had in the past, mentoring comes with a set of SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound) goals. Make sure they both parties use resources as efficiently as possible, and are focusing on the mentoring objective.

Be able to coach constructively - The mentee is going to rely on the mentor to let them know how they are progressing. Both parties need to be comfortable enough to give praise where it’s due, and to let the mentee know if there is an area they could improve upon. Mentors should also serve as a motivator, let the mentee know when they are doing a great job. A pat on the back can go a long way.

Have the skill expertise needed to serve as a totem to success - There are many possible fields to mentor in. For instance, the mentor may need to help the mentee advance in their career by developing essential skills needed. Or they could be developing leadership skills in high potential employees. The mentor needs to have those leadership skills.

Interpersonal traits needed to be an effective mentor:

Desire to be a part of the relationship - Not only are mentors helping a mentee advance their skill set, but they should be picking up a few things along the way. The relationship may not be focused on the mentor, but that doesn’t mean they can’t learn from it. Some of the most successful relationships we’ve seen came by way of reverse mentoring (link)

Have an open mind and a positive attitude- Mentors have the opportunity to make a lasting impression on a potentially “green” employee. Mentors serve as brand ambassadors. Keeping an open mind and having a positive attitude will help mentors connect with the mentees.

The ability to give their time as needed - Mentors are making a conscious commitment to help develop a mentee in an area of need. It would be highly unprofessional and disadvantageous to the relationship if it were to treat it as a bother. Mentors should make time to foster the relationship to grow.

Other Interpersonal traits include:

  • Having a visionary eye to see what mentees can achieve.
  • The ability to adapt to the relationship as it unfolds to meet mentees needs


Remember, mentoring is about transferring information, competence, and experience to mentees, so that they can make good use of this, and build their confidence accordingly. Mentors are there to encourage, nurture, and provide support, because they've already "walked the path" of the mentee.

Also remember that mentoring is about structured development – mentors don't have to tell the mentee everything they know about a subject, at every opportunity. Workers are now able to condition themselves using the skill and expertise of someone who has “been there, done that.”

A good thing to remember is no one was inherently born with all of the mentoring skills needed, and that's okay. Mentors may not also understand what the role is to be a mentor, or how the relationship will evolve. Insala offers mentor training to make sure you have harnessed all the skills needed to be a proficient mentor and understand their role on what they should be doing. Visit Insala today to see our webinar on possessing the skills needed to be a qualified mentor, or for mentor training tips. 

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