What Is a Mentor (and Can You Be One)?

Mentors are often assigned, but often not successful. Throughout my client base I have begun coaching mentors on …how to mentor.

It’s been my experience that rarely does a mentor understand their importance and the gift they have just been given. Coaching and shaping another person is an important responsibility. It requires a formal set of observations and meetings not an ad hoc series of tips.

First, when you are asked to become a mentor, discuss with your management team what the essential development needs are of the person you will be mentoring. It’s important to know where they currently are in their abilities and how your management team ideally wants them to evolve.

Set a Mentoring Schedule

Once you know this, create a series of coaching observation times to observe their behavior for yourself. Once you see their skill level, you can then create a formalized mentoring program. This is critical. Setting a schedule by which you will provide your guidance will let your mentee know that you are considering the mentoring to be important. Setting a schedule for the coaching program and sticking to it will demonstrate you have their back.

What Are Their Goals?

Next, listen to your mentee to determine what their goals and challenges are. This will give you a foundation from which you can present your advice and coaching. Presenting your experience is immensely valuable. However, it needs to be delivered from their frame of reference, not yours. In other words, coach them based on their experience, skill level and goals.

Check In

As your mentoring program progresses, it’s imperative that you check in with your mentee’s goals and ask them what they want to accomplish next.  This check-in will give you a clear window into what’s important to them and if they are on or off the mark. You can manage the mentoring more effectively from that viewpoint.


You may initially find your mentee resistant to your input or coaching. But by following the steps above, they will see the value they will get out of working with you, someone with more experience, and that you believe in their ability to become a strong company leader.