What makes a good mentor? Thoughts and ideas from Richard Appleby.
Here at TEC, we know just how important mentoring is. But, what truly makes a good mentor? TEC Chair Richard Appleby has written this piece for us to share his thoughts on the subject:
In my experience, it’s all too easy to have a mentoring relationship that ends up being a ‘nice chat’ type format, where the nitty gritty of how you can actually help a mentee develop begins to fall by the wayside. So, what makes a really successful mentoring relationship?
1) The best mentors ask the great questions
There’s as much significance in what someone doesn’t tell you as what they do say.
It’s important to always question your mentees – if they’ve got a particular issue, ask them what the options are, how they think it will play out, what they need to put in place to make something happen. Too often mentees think it’s about asking what the mentor thinks, what we would do if we were in our mentee’s position. But the reality is we’re not in their position, so we’ve really got to make them think.
Part of this is being able to listen. We need to understand what our mentee is talking about, to know how to read between the lines – there’s as much significance in what someone doesn’t tell you as what they do say. Then, you can find a way of asking the great questions that will get them to open up to the things they’re not telling you. Great listening will also enable you to understand your mentees’ strengths and weaknesses. The best mentors will ask the great questions.
2) Consider what your mentee wants out of the relationship
It’s important to have a degree of formality. You and your mentee need to sit down and work out what the objectives of these meetings are and really find out where your mentee wants to go. Once you’ve defined what success will look like at the end of the process, you can develop a plan of exactly how you’re going to get there. This introduces a level of accountability to the process that will steer it away from this “nice chat” model.
3) An holistic approach works best
I believe a really great mentor teaches people how to approach the whole journey, to be holistic and therefore long term and strategic. In the past, mentors have enabled me to understand the need to take on extra responsibility to help me get to where I want to be, and to show myself that I have the passion, integrity and skills to get there. A great mentor in my life taught me the value of ethics.
If your mentee isn’t looking at the bigger picture, they’re going to find it difficult to succeed.
They’ve also taught me the value of ethics. In business, it’s all too easy to cut corners, but if you’re really going to develop you’ve got to stay true to your ethics. This involves being strong of character and resilient.
I’ll always remember the time I was working for a company and there was a supplier who had been trying to do the right thing by us, but had gotten it wrong and cost us money. My mentor at the time taught me how important it was to focus on the fact that they were trying to do the right thing, and they were really trying to add value – even if it didn’t work out, you need to appreciate this.
This holistic approach has also been important when I’ve helped mentees. I see a lot of young people come to me and they’re desperate to be an entrepreneur, but they’re not looking at the whole picture. They might have a really nice product, but is there a demand for it, is it solving a problem? If your mentee isn’t looking at the bigger picture, they’re going to find it difficult to succeed.
Richard Appleby has been a member of TEC for almost 10 years and a Chair since 2015. His mentoring has helped countless managers and executives to succeed. Click here to find out more about becoming a CEO mentor.