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How to Be a Good Mentor

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A mentor serves as an adviser to a new employee or intern. Working with a mentor often has a positive effect on the mentee's career and life, as a good mentor not only helps to foster insight, but also helps to identify and expand the mentee's growth opportunities. Serving as a mentor is a big responsibility, but it can allow you to help someone new to your field as you pay it forward.

Give Encouragement but Demand Accountability

Bob Buford, cable-TV pioneer and venture philanthropist, talks about the importance of accountability in his book, “Drucker & Me.” Buford relates how before every consulting session, his mentor, Peter Drucker, had him write a synopsis which detailed everything Buford had done since their previous session. This exercise not only demonstrated to Drucker how his mentee had followed up on his advice, but also helped to keep Buford accountable for his actions. Follow up with the details from your last meeting to ensure your mentee is staying accountable.

Invest in the Relationship

Becoming a good mentor is a commitment of both time and resources. You have the right to expect certain things from the mentee, such as accountability and the willingness to take action. You must also invest time in the relationship and follow through by being there when she needs you as well. Schedule regular appointments for a designated time to meet each week or month. If you must postpone your meeting, reschedule the appointment with your mentee as soon as possible to help keep her on track.

Focus on the Big Picture

As a mentor, it is easy to get caught up in your mentee's day-to-day problems or small concerns. Instead of focusing on these types of problems, however, direct his attention to the bigger picture and focus on the overall direction of his career. Encourage your protege to develop the skills to help him reach his full potential while assisting him in building the tools needed to achieve his long-term career goals.

Stop Talking and Listen

Sometimes a mentee doesn't really need to hear great words of wisdom. Instead, she simply needs someone to listen to her as she talks out the problem and reaches her own conclusions. David Parnell, a legal consultant, communication coach and author, tells "Forbes" that good mentors spend considerably more time listening than they do actually speaking. This not only lets mentees say what is on their mind -- it also helps the mentor to better understand the situation.

Patience, Patience, Patience

Sometimes you will have to give a bit of constructive criticism that your mentee may find hard to take, so be patient as you gauge how to respond on these occasions and work to meet your mentee's needs. Realizing this in advance gives you the opportunity to temper your responses, allowing you a chance to offer an appropriate strategy and more support instead of immediately jumping in to give direct advice. As Parnell notes, "It is vital that a mentor be a patient soul, because tempers may flare, and quick fixes are few and far between.”