December 02, 2020 Practice Points

Five Things that Make a Great Mentor

A few ways to help you be the best possible resource for your mentee.

By Lindsey Buonomo, Emily Federico, Colleen Lenz, Marshall Harris, Benjamin Woolley, Melissa Morea Evola, and Rachel Woloszynski

1.  Be Willingly and Enthusiastically Proactive

Being a mentor requires an active investment of time and energy. Oftentimes the mentor-mentee relationship can become one-sided wherein the mentor assumes a passive role, relying on the mentee to engage when assistance or guidance is needed. Great mentors seek to balance this equation by engaging in proactive measures to address the mentees needs, even when the mentee may not think he or she has any. This can mean the mentor initiates meetings with the mentee to simply “check in,” sends out industry news or guidance without being asked, or simply asks a few engaging questions of the mentee in passing. Active engagement by the mentor shows the mentee the importance of the relationship and the importance of the mentee’s role in the greater team and organization.

2.  Be Approachable and Relatable

Maintain an open-door policy and be available to the mentee: a mentor should not be too busy to help! Relate to your mentee by sharing the obstacles you are facing in your own career. It’s not always smooth sailing at the top, and it makes conversations more real when mentors share some of the challenges they are currently working through.

3.  Give Thoughtful and Constructive Feedback

Consider and discuss what is best for your mentee’s career goals, remember these should not just be what is best for you as the mentor or the business bottom-line. Mentorship should be about sharing in the successes but also sharing and working through challenges and growth opportunities. Be honest with your mentee and tell it like it is. If your mentee makes mistakes, help them identify the problem and learn from the experience.

4.  Listen, Listen, Listen

Be a good listener! A lot of mentors approach the role as one of instructor or teacher and will dominate the relationship with their mentee by providing advice and preaching best practices to the mentee at every opportunity. This can be very counterproductive. As in any good relationship, listening is key. Listen to the questions and concerns of the mentee and elicit responses from the mentee on key questions to engage them in a proactive discussion of their career and goals. 

5.  Learn!

The simple act of helping someone will help you grow as a mentor. You will undoubtedly learn something from your mentee by gaining their perspective, and through the process you will learn how to mentor. Sometimes the problem you help your mentee solve will apply to your own career or life. There is always something to learn.

Lindsey Buonomo and Colleen Lenz are senior directors at Ankura in their Boston, Massachusetts, office. Emily Federico is a managing director at Ankura in their Fairfield, Connecticut, office. Marshall Harris and  Benjamin Woolley are managing directors , Melissa Morea Evola is a senior director, and Rachel Woloszynski is a director at Ankura in their New York, New York, office. 


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