Are you living up to your potential as a mentor?

Share this page

Written by Laura Francis on 5 November 2019

Reading time: 4 minutes

It’s clear that people want and value mentoring in the workplace, no matter their age or job title. It’s also true that mentoring can be as rewarding for mentors as it is for mentees.

If someone asked you to be their mentor today, how would you fare? Here are four ways you can live up to your potential as a mentor.

1. Embrace your role as a mentor

Mentors are as diverse as the global population. A mentor might be older than a mentee, or they could be younger. They could be from the same socioeconomic background, or from a different background completely.

They could be the same gender, race, ethnicity … or not. They could hold a similar job to the mentee, or be on a completely different career path. In short: anyone can be a mentor.

Your role as a mentor is simply to be the person in the relationship who has more experience of, and knowledge about, a certain subject that someone else wants to learn about.

Don’t be afraid to view yourself as the expert. You may not know everything about the subject area that the mentee is interested in discussing and developing, but you have insights that the mentee can use. They wouldn’t have sought you out otherwise!

You are a guide who can share examples of what worked in the past, what didn’t work (which is as equally important to discuss), why various things matter in different situations, and so on.

Be open and generous with sharing your knowledge with your mentee, and believe in yourself as a mentor.

2. Engage your mentee in conversation

Dialogue between you and your mentee forms the core of your relationship. Mentoring conversations are how information is shared, how questions are asked, and how development occurs.

Don’t get sucked into the trap of telling too much and not asking enough

As the mentor, it is imperative that you engage your mentee in conversations that dig into their issues and provide opportunities for open, honest and unbiased dialogue.

Good conversations are a balancing act of asking and telling. Sharing a story or explaining a theory can be helpful, but remember that conversations should involve both of you talking and both of you listening.

Don’t get sucked into the trap of telling too much and not asking enough. Getting your mentee to talk will allow you to hear their point of view and let you hear them express their situation in their own words.

This can provide a wealth of information if you listen carefully enough. Use what the mentee tells you as a way to expose areas for growth and development.

3. Encourage your mentee

Mentors are often viewed as a sounding board for the mentee for good reason. As the mentor, you should encourage your mentee to speak honestly about their ideas, dreams, goals, difficulties, shortcomings and achievements.

Help them see the value in their triumphs and their struggles (learning from failure is a powerful way to grow).

Be there to engage your mentee in meaningful conversation that digs into the heart of the issue at hand. Be the person they can turn to when they need a quick confidence boost or a frank assessment of a situation.

A good mentor is a good cheerleader and coach. This doesn’t mean that you should give false or overly effusive praise to your mentee (unless the latter is warranted), but it means that you should support them and encourage them as they pursue their goals.

Real and honest feedback can be one of the best ways to encourage your mentee – even if the feedback might be hard for the mentee to hear.

Give them a sense of where they might be falling short in achieving their goals, but be sure to couple that with conversations and ideas on how they can address these shortcomings.

4. Evolve and grow

This last tip is as much for mentors as it is for mentees. We should all strive to evolve and grow as individuals, mentoring partners, coworkers and so on.

Mentors can encourage their mentees to evolve and grow by using effective dialogue methods and pushing them to look deeper into their actions and motivations.

Use probing questions to dig into what the mentee is telling you, and then use this information to help guide the mentee on a path of self-discovery.



When you focus on the growth and development of your mentee, you give yourself opportunities to grow and evolve as a mentor as well. Your dialogue style, listening skills, creativity, empathy, and much more can be impacted.

Mentors often say they get as much from the mentoring relationship as their mentee does, and this is a big reason why.

We never stop learning. Be cognisant of how you are performing as a mentor and make a conscious decision to improve in areas that need attention.

If you are so inclined, you could even search for a mentor to help you on these areas—and let the cycle of learning continue.


About the author

Laura Francis is chief knowledge officer at River

Related Articles

27 January 2023

Many managers lack the competence to function effectively, Amrit Sandhar shows how to identify and support those struggling

24 January 2023

In another article on supporting wellbeing at work Cass Coulston and Ricardo Twumasi examine neurodiversity

16 January 2023

As lack of motivation and engagement grips organisations, Giora Morein suggests that agile methodology could be the way to re-energise flagging employees