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Mentoring for Success

January is National Mentoring Month! 

This is a perfect time to discuss mentoring.  As a mentor, ​​you can make a positive impact on someone else's life. Sharing your knowledge, skills, and experiences can help someone else navigate challenges, set and achieve goals, and develop their potential. Having a mentor provides valuable guidance and support, helping you navigate challenges, gain insights from their experiences, and accelerate your personal and professional growth. A mentor can offer a unique perspective, share knowledge, and serve as a trusted advisor, ultimately contributing to your success and development.

So, what is a mentor and how can I find a mentor to help with my career success?   Here are some definitions of a mentor:

  • A trusted counselor or guide.  

  • An experienced and trusted advisor.  

  • Someone who gives advice and guidance over time. 

Yes, all of those are characteristics of a mentor.  When I was looking for my first mentor, I used the letters of the word MENTOR to help define it:

  • M — Motivation: Mentors are motivators. They should be readily available and provide positive encouragement to help mentees pursue their passions and goals.

  • E — Excellence: Mentors should exhibit excellence and should urge their mentees to do their absolute best in everything they do.

  • N — Networking: Mentors should help mentees establish a strong network and, if possible, introduce them to influential people and to new networking opportunities.

  • T — Time: Time together is important, and mentors should be willing to invest their time and establish a nurturing relationship. They should be willing to have regular meetings to establish a strong support system.

  • O — Openness: Openness and trust between the mentor and mentee are critical, and if they are established early, the mentor/mentee relationship will thrive.

  • R — Respect: Mutual respect ties into trust, and once a mentor relationship has been established, mutual respect will hold that relationship together.

How Can I Find the Right Mentor?

In order to find the right mentor, you need to go through a process – a process to determine what it is that you are looking for and a process to find the right person. 

Understanding what you seek from a mentor is crucial before commencing the search. Start by evaluating your strengths, weaknesses, and areas where guidance or expertise could be beneficial. Reflect on your objectives, both short-term and long-term, in order to identify the specific skills, knowledge, or experiences you hope to gain from a mentorship relationship. Consider the industry, field, or domain in which you desire guidance and growth.

Here are the main steps that you should take to find the right mentor:

1. Find someone that you want to be like

The person that is going to be the most effective mentor, is one that you really admire and want to be more like.   Identify the specific skills, strengths and behaviors that the person has that makes you appreciate and respect them.  This is the first step to finding the right mentor – someone you want to emulate.  

Three “don’ts”

  • Don’t forget that a mentor does not have to be someone at a higher level than you; peers can make excellent mentors too.  

  • Don’t select a mentor because of the job, select them because of the person and the characteristics that you admire.

  • Don’t select a mentor that is “just like you”.  You may not learn from someone who has too much in common with you.

2. Ask

You should ask for what you want but do it in a way that you are not sounding desperate.  In fact, the one question that I would stay away from is, “Will you be my mentor?”.   You do need to be willing to ask a prospective mentor questions about how they became good at what they do?; how they gained respect?; how they became an effective leader?; the questions that make you want to be like them. 

3. Follow-up:

Follow-up and tell them why you are interested in establishing an ongoing relationship.  Tell them what it is that you admire about them and that you would like to gain some of those same characteristics.

4. Evaluate whether this is a good fit:

Let your “gut” guide you.  If you feel good about the connection, your gut is usually right.  Here are a few things to consider as you move forward:

  • Confirm that you are willing to do the work.

  • Accept feedback and even criticism and be willing to make the changes needed for improvement.

  •  Don’t “expect” that the mentor will open doors for you.  Open your own doors by doing the work that needs to be done.

  • Acknowledge that you value and respect their time.

  • Make the relationship mutual – you should also provide value to the mentor.

How Can I Become an Effective Mentor?

1. Role Model Status:

It is important that mentors exhibit characteristics that identify them as a role model.  In order to make a difference in someone else’s life, they need to be someone that the mentee admires and can look up to.

2. Respected and Trusted:

The most important characteristic that a mentor can exhibit is to be respected and trusted.  When respect and trust are lost, the relationship cannot flourish. Trust and respect go hand in hand and once earned, will need to be maintained.  This is done by always doing the right things and by living the example that you are.  If you say one thing and do another, it could damage relationships.

3. Willingness to commit and availability:

One of the most important aspects of developing a mentoring relationship is willingness to commit and availability.  Mentoring takes time and effort.  It is important to establish, up-front, the expectations regarding commitment and availability.  If this is not established up-front, the relationship could fizzle.

4. Strong Communication and Coaching Skills:

Those involved in mentoring relationships will need to be strong communicators and have the ability to be an effective coach.  If you learn the GROW method, you will also be able to use these tools to be an effective coach.

Mentoring through G.R.O.W.

Now, let’s discuss the role of a Mentor and tools to use to be an effective mentor.  We support any defined mentoring process; however, we will focus on the GROW Model since it is a simple methodology that can be replicated in any organization or environment that is willing to put some effort and energy in each step.  This model was originally created for Coaching, but is easily interchangeable for mentoring.

GROW Model of Mentoring*

G – Goal

What are you trying to achieve?  Define the goals and objectives.

R – Reality

What is happening now?  Identify the current situation.

O – Obstacles/Options

What are the barriers? Identify what is keeping the employee from completing the goal.                                                                   What options do you have?  Brainstorm potential things that can be done.

W – Way Forward

What directions or actions can or will be taken?  Identify steps and milestones to solve the problem.

*This model was based off the GROW Model of Coaching.  There have been many claims to authorship of the GROW model as a way of achieving goals and solving problems. While no one person can be clearly identified as the originator, Graham Alexander, Alan Fine, and Sir John Whitmore all made significant contributions.

Developing an Effective Mentoring Relationship

In order to GROW a positive mentoring relationship, the mentor and the mentee will need a few more skills.  The communication skills will be beneficial in all of your mentoring conversations.

1. Listening

Effective leaders recognize the value of listening in their conversations and especially with Mentoring.  They characterize their commitment to the organization and to the people in the organization.  Effective leaders don't just passively listen; they actively listen and seek information others may miss. 

2. Connecting

There is more to communication that just talking.  It is important that communicators actually “connect” with those in the organization in order to influence others to succeed.  What does this mean?  It means that effectors communicators go beyond communication to making a connection with others.

3. The Trust Factor

Trust is all about being trustworthy, assured reliance on the character, ability and strength of confidence placed in someone.  An effective communicator must demonstrate trust and be trustworthy in all situations.  They must exhibit all of the following in order to earn and maintain trust.

4. Keep Mentoring Consistent and Simple

The GROW model of Mentoring is a simple method to use and can easily be remembered in any setting.  Use this model consistently and it will become second nature.

Ready to begin your mentoring journey?  Contact us for more information regarding additional training for your team or to receive personalized coaching to become a better mentor or mentee.  


Denola M. Burton is the Founder and CEO of Enhanced DNA:  Develop Nurture Achieve, LLC and Enhanced DNA Publishing.  Through Enhanced DNA, Denola develops and nurtures individuals and organizations to achieve their Leadership, Communication and Performance goals and objectives.  Denola is also an author and publisher and through Enhanced DNA Publishing, assists new and newer authors in publishing their books according to the Independent Book Publishing Association (IBPA) standards.  Denola retired from Eli Lilly and Company after 27 years where the majority of her career was focused on Employee Relations/Human Resources. 

You can connect with Denola on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIN and Twitter at Enhanced DNA or send a message to Denola is married to her husband, Phil and they just celebrated 30 years together. They have two daughters, Danielle and Ciara (oh, and we can't forget the grandpuppy, Mocha)!


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