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A mentor is someone who coaches or guides the development of a new or existing worker in an organization, department or work team. While good mentors are unique in their personalities and abilities, they share some common qualities, including expertise in their work, a professional attitude, a supportive approach and a team-oriented mentality.
Experienced and Knowledgeable
To help develop a protégé, a mentor must have experience and knowledge in his domains or fields to have credibility. Typically, a mentor emphasizes the development of both soft skills and technical competence. A mentor must be very familiar with the roles and situations experienced by the person he mentors. To successfully mentor someone developing a start-up business, for instance, the mentor normally needs hands-on experience in the start-up environment himself, according to an August 2014 article by LockerDome CEO Gabe Lozano.
A Professional and Ethical Attitude
One of a mentor's primary roles is to help the mentee learn not just how to do things, but how to do them the right way. Good mentors guide mentees on proper dress, etiquette and behaviors for their roles, while also modeling appropriate ethics. A mentor guides the path of his protégé in a way that ensures he makes sound decisions. The mentor also demonstrates how to conduct job-specific activities in a credible way to optimize performance and help the organization. Mentors recognize and coach on skills applicable to the field, such as networking and public speaking for a sales position.
A Supportive and Encouraging Approach
Being a mentor may be frustrating at times, as those you try to develop don't always figure things out the first time. A rookie may make a poor ethical decision, for instance. More established workers may have developed poor work habits or attitudes. An effective mentor remains patient and encourages the protégé to correct problematic behaviors by setting goals and taking advantage of training and development programs. Good mentors are patient during the development process and see mistakes as opportunities for direction. They also listen well to the struggles and concerns of the protégé, and encourage him in pursuing the right steps and actions. Trustworthiness, dependability and reliability help a mentor maintain rapport with a mentee as well.
A Team-Oriented Mentality or Passion for Development
Regardless of what other characteristics a mentor has, he must have a willingness to invest the time and effort into mentoring someone. This willingness may come with a team-oriented or organization-first mentality. A team-oriented mentor understands how developing a protégé contributes to the growth and development of the company. In other cases, mentors take personal pride in developing a worker who takes his direction and achieves success. A mentor normally shares his successes and best practices to allow the protégé to benefit from what he has identified as optimum actions and behaviors.
Neil Kokemuller has been an active business, finance and education writer and content media website developer since 2007. He has been a college marketing professor since 2004. Kokemuller has additional professional experience in marketing, retail and small business. He holds a Master of Business Administration from Iowa State University.