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Talent Management

The 10 Qualities of a Good Mentor in a Workplace

One Minute Takeaway

  • Employees who are mentored don’t just improve performance—they also stick around longer.
  • A mentor’s first step should be to listen and understand what’s holding a mentee back in their career.
  • Mentors are usually expected to give more general career advice, while coaches tend to focus on specific outcomes.

10 Qualities of a Good Mentor

Businesses need engaged employees. The problem is, there’s no silver bullet for engagement. Only 34% of U.S. employees are engaged, and this figure is going down, not up (Gallup). Now more than ever, mentorship has an important role to play. Employees who are mentored don’t just improve performance—they also stick around longer (HBS).

Businesses can’t afford to ignore such a powerful tool. That’s why more than 70% of Fortune 500 companies have mentoring programs (Forbes). This isn’t the end of the story, though. You need your top talent to be paired with the right mentors. So, what does it take to be a successful mentor? And how does mentorship differ from coaching?

Characteristics of a Good Mentor

There’s no magic formula for effective mentorship. Everyone learns in their own way and faces different challenges in their career. That said, if a mentor is stubborn, never listens and only interacts with their mentee (if they have time for them at all) to criticize, that’s not going to cut it.

Here are 10 essential qualities and characteristics you’ll find in mentors who really make a difference.

  • Relevant Experience
    The best mentor is someone who has achieved career success that a mentee finds inspiring. It gives their advice the credibility required to make mentorship worthwhile.

  • Positive Role Model
    An impressive resume isn’t enough, though. Mentors should be role models not only in what they’ve achieved, but in how they act. How someone treats their colleagues’ matters just as much as a job title.
  • The Right Fit
    The reality is, sometimes a mentorship pairing just isn’t a good match. Some personalities clash, and that’s normal. Ending a bad mentorship can be just as important as finding a good one. That’s why effective mentorship programs start with a trial period.

  • Willingness to listen
    Like in any role, listening matters. A mentor’s first step should be to take time and understand what’s holding a mentee back in their career. Being empathetic will help build rapport, which is a must if a mentor wants their advice to be taken seriously.

  • Dedication
    A mentorship program isn’t about checking a box. It takes commitment from both sides. Mentoring relationship programs typically last months, or even years. The more time and effort that a mentor puts in, the more a mentee will benefit.

  • Self-Reflection
    A great mentor takes time to look back at their own career and think about what it is that helped them get where they are.

  • Honesty
    A mentor might be tempted simply to say whatever a mentee wants to hear—or, worse, whatever makes the mentor look good. Instead, a mentor should tell it like it is.

  • Selflessness
    A big part of being an effective mentor is knowing that this isn’t about you. Everyone enjoys looking back on their career success. Often, mentorship means putting your story to one side, and concentrating on the challenges that the mentee is facing in their career day-to-day.

  • Non-Judgmental
    Mentors should be respectful and provide constructive feedback, even when they think their mentee is making mistakes. Too much criticism, at least before you build a strong rapport, could mean a mentee stops listening to your advice.
  • Can Get Out of Their Comfort Zone
    The best mentors push employees to new heights and encourage them to get out of their comfort zone. That might mean the mentor has to leave their comfort zone too. A flexible approach, on an employee’s own terms, can work wonders.

Coaching vs Mentoring: What’s the Difference?

People often confuse coaching and mentorship, and it’s easy to see why. The truth is, there’s a lot of overlap and not every organization has the same approach. Coaches are often brought in from outside an organization to improve employee performance. But anyone can be a coach, and at Paycor we believe that employees need more coaches, and fewer managers.

Mentors are usually from the same organization, though senior employees and those in the C-suite may have to look elsewhere for someone with the right experience. Mentors are usually expected to give more general advice, and think about a mentee’s career as a whole. Coaches tend to focus on specific outcomes, use formal assessment and aim for measurable improvement in particular skills.

How Paycor Helps

Paycor builds HR solutions for leaders. With Paycor, you can modernize every aspect of people management, from the way you recruit, onboard and professional development of your team, to the way you pay and retain them. See how Paycor can help the leaders of your organization solve the problems of today and tomorrow.