Signs of a Great Mentor

Mentoring programs help an organization ensure employees are paired with someone to help them through hurdles. These mentoring programs also help the mentees by building stronger relationships to senior management and the mentors by giving them exposure to new perspectives. However, a mentee needs to know when they’ve found a great mentor – whether or not the company appoints them. Here are some signs of a great mentor.

A Great Mentor…

An Older Business Woman Mentor with a Younger Businessman Mentee1. Listens

Authentic listening stems from genuine interest. When the mentee speaks, the mentor is focused. The mentor is not multi-tasking, checking mail or thinking of anything, but what the mentee says. This includes not thinking ahead to their response.

“It takes a great man to be a good listener.” ― Calvin Coolidge

2. Tells You What You Need to Hear

Anyone can say what you want to hear and make you feel good. A great mentor tells you what you need to hear. This means their feedback may surprise you or even sting a bit, but it helps the mentee grow.

“The secret of success is learning how to use pain and pleasure instead of having pain and pleasure use you. If you do that, you’re in control of your life. If you don’t, life controls you.” -Tony Robbins

3. Gives Constant Feedback

This means not just during the formal, regularly scheduled “mentoring meetings“. Instead, a great mentor reaches out, off-cycle, to see how you’re doing. They give feedback on the little things, as well as the big.

“I think it’s very important to have a feedback loop, where you’re constantly thinking about what you’ve done and how you could be doing it better.” – Elon Musk

4. Gets to Know the Mentee Personally

Professional mentoring is only part of the equation. A great mentor knows the mentee on a personal level. They know what you’re objectives in life are, not just at work. The mentor understands the struggles you have on the home front, as well as within the cubicle.

“And it is time for those who talk about family values to start valuing families.” – John Kerry

I encourage everyone, regardless of career stage, age or position in life, to find several mentors. If your employer assigns you one and you don’t see these signs in that person, find another. Keep searching until you find at least one, great mentor. You career, and more importantly your life, will be richer for it.

About the Author:

Ben Lichtenwalner is the founder - the leading blog on servant leadership and top 35 site for any leadership topic, globally. Ben also speaks and consults on IT and management topics for a large variety of clients. Find out more about him at


  1. Bill | LeadershipHeartCoaching February 28, 2013 at 8:54 am - Reply

    I have not previously considered myself a mentor, but I do hang a shingle for my coaching practice.  The two are very common with maybe the one difference – mentoring is more about the individual and encompasses his or her entire life spectrum and coaching is more about the performance.

    I totally agree, your life will be richer with a solid mentor!

    • Ben Lichtenwalner February 28, 2013 at 10:20 am - Reply

      Thanks Bill. Great comparison of coaching and mentoring. I also love the name you chose: Leadership Heart Coaching.

  2. Bo Barron, CCIM March 3, 2013 at 1:10 pm - Reply

    I think the other key to being a mentor is summed up from the cliche that say “more is caught than taught.” What I mean is that after a mentor tells the mentee what he/she needs to hear, the mentor then demonstrates. He models key behaviors in front of the mentee. This requires that the two are actually together – working or living life together. I enjoy your blog and thanks for another great post!

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