This article in Inc. magazine by Candice Galek, while aimed at mentors within corporations, is still relevant to mentors like me who mentor would-be entrepreneurs in an academic setting like MIT or in an incubator or accelerator, like TechStars.
A mentor is a good listener who offers support, advice, wisdom, encouragement and listening. This person — who shares your profession — shares their time and their talent. They offer advice on issues both relating to the job and on other matters.
So what makes a good mentor? Many people feel that being a mentor requires special skills, but mentors are simply people who have the qualities of good role models.
Whether you are a mentee looking for a new mentor and need a list of qualities, or are looking to step up your game as a mentor, here are five things that make someone a good mentor:
A STRONG AND GENUINE PROFESSIONAL INTEREST IN THEIR MENTEE
A WILLINGNESS TO SHARE THEIR PAST EXPERIENCES
ENTHUSIASM ABOUT THEIR CHOSEN CAREER
THE DRIVE TO NEVER STOP LEARNING
THE ABILITY TO GIVE CONSTRUCTIVE CRITICISM
Please see the original article for details on each quality.
For mentors outside of corporations, who work with startups, I’d change item number 3, Enthusiasm About Their Chosen Career to Enthusiasm about Founders and Entrepreneurship.
For a very detailed and helpful list of mentorship qualities see The Mentor Manifesto by David Cohen, one of the founders of TechStars.
David starts his list with “Be socratic” which I heartily endorse. I learned the power of the Socratic method decades ago from Wayne Oler, President of Addison Wesley Publishing, who was a master of it. Wayne always asked the best, most thought-provoking questions, and rarely made statements, always leaving the door open to discussion. I think this is rightfully the number one quality for mentors.