7 Traits of a Great Mentor

Just because you're a great leader doesn't mean you'd make a great mentor. Do you have these 7 characteristics of a master mentor?
May 02, 2013

Winston Churchill once said, "We make a living by what we get; we make a life by what we give." That statement should resonate with anyone who is a mentor, or aspires to be one.

Great mentors are rare. They're like guardian angels. If you've seen the movie It’s a Wonderful Life, you know the story of Clarence, the guardian angel. His mission was to help George Bailey through a difficult period. Clarence listened, comforted and offered indirect advice to George, who didn’t want to hear it, as he questioned everything in his life. In the end, George realized his good fortune, and Clarence left his mark on the world.

Want to be a better mentor? Here are seven things all great mentors should do.

1. Listen. As a great mentor, you must understand it’s not about you, it's about them. Listen to their complaints, concerns, fears, frustrations, ideas and opportunities without interruption.

2. Be there when people need you. Great mentors consider this mentoring relationship a priority. When that person calls, texts or emails you with a request, respond in a timely manner.

3. Teach. This trait in mentors comes from the analogy “give a man a fish; feed him for a day. Teach him how to fish; feed him for a lifetime.” Fish are answers. Teaching represents the rod and reel. Don’t give away too many fishes, but the tools to find the answers.

4. Let them fall. As hard as it is to watch, a great mentor understands the importance of letting people stumble, cutting their hands and knees. They know entrepreneurs will learn more from their failures than from their successes. The worst mistake a mentor can make is to bubble wrap someone before sending him or her out into the world. These business owners become brittle and fragile; it almost guarantees failure.

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5. Pick people up. One of the greatest traits of the best mentors is helping someone through a failed moment. Success at this juncture requires the right balance of listening, consoling, offering advice and a kick in the pants. Only a mentor who knows someone's true personality can give that business owner the right mix of these possible solutions to keep him or her going.

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6. Keep them grounded. When business owners experience success, they may develop a following of people who will only tell them what they want to hear. A great mentor isn’t looking for that person's approval, but instead will tell him or her the truth when no one else will.

7. Leave a legacy. Great mentors won’t live forever, but their words can. If you have been blessed by having a great mentor in your life, pay it forward, by sharing what you have learned.

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