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How To Become A Great Mentor

Written by: Dr. Margaret Potter, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.


Mentorship typically involves an experienced individual (mentor) sharing their knowledge, skills, and expertise with a less experienced individual (mentee). However, just because an individual has sufficient experience in their role, it does not guarantee that they will be a great mentor.

To be a great mentor you must be genuinely interested in developing the talent of others and have a broad skill set that addresses the following areas:

1. Listening with care and compassion

Active listening skills are paramount in successful mentoring, but there is more to it than listening to the words that are spoken. A mentor needs to be able to read the body language of their mentee; to be able to tap into their mentee’s emotions, while also having self-awareness and self-management skills so that they can demonstrate patience, care, and concern without judgement.

2. Developing questioning skills

In general, a mentor should ask open and probing questions to build self-awareness, decision-making and self-management skills. Therefore, a mentor needs to develop their repertoire of questions to cover areas such as; building rapport, goal setting, establishing expectations, personal and professional growth, motivation, strengths, weaknesses, reflective practice, gratitude, as well as insightful questions that explore mentee success and failure.

3. Enhancing teaching skills

A great mentor will ensure there is structure to any teaching they deliver. This will include setting learning outcomes and having a lesson plan to guide the session. A mentor will also be cognisant of the amount of material to cover in the time available and use a range of teaching techniques to optimise their effectiveness.

4. Correct coaching skills

When a mentor chooses to coach a mentee, they are seeking to empower that individual to maximise their personal and professional potential. This is achieved through a collaborative dialogue that encourages reflection and builds mentee resilience. It is a completely different approach to teaching, as the focus is on asking questions, rather than telling a mentee what to do and consequently coaching draws out the creativity and resourcefulness of the mentee.

5. Providing constructive feedback

There are a range of feedback methods a mentor can use, so it is important that the approach chosen suits the mentee and situation. For example, if a mentee is seeking feedback regarding a decision or action they have taken, a mentor-led debrief discussion may be appropriate. If the goal is to optimise learning and development of the mentee a feedback approach that encourages self-assessment, self-reflection and self-regulation would be more ideal.

A well-run mentoring program has the potential to grow future leaders from within an organisation, promote cross-organisational sharing, broaden the perspective of both mentors and mentees and build an organisational culture that supports recruitment and retention of staff. So, if you are thinking about implementing a mentoring program or already have one up and running in your organisation, why not provide training for mentors so that they feel confident and competent in their role and can readily evolve from being good to great!

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Dr. Margaret Potter, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Dr. Margaret Potter is a highly respected educational leader and an internationally certified performance coach with more than 20-years of experience. She is Director of the TELL Centre, which provides short courses to support health professionals with their teaching, supervision and assessment activities. As a consequence of her PhD research on the patient-practitioner interaction in healthcare, Margaret is a sought-after speaker and expert on various topics associated with optimising communication. Her motto: Keep learning – keep growing!



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