What Are Mentoring Skills? (With Definition And Examples)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 4 May 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Mentoring someone is the process of supporting, guiding and encouraging them to grow and improve their skills. Mentors can help with skill enhancement, career development and personality improvement in the professional world. Knowing the importance of different skills of mentors can help you become an effective mentor to your colleagues and team members. In this article, we define mentoring skills, share seven essential skills required to become a mentor and discuss different types of mentors in the workplace.

What are mentoring skills?

Mentoring skills are essential for the process of guiding and supporting the growth of another individual, whether in a professional capacity or otherwise. Mentors usually rely on their own knowledge and experience to train others. The mentor-mentee relationship, unlike professional coaching, is typically a long-term and voluntary association. The mentoring process may not have a strict structure as the mentee usually seeks specific knowledge, feedback or training from their mentor. It is a personalised method of training or coaching.

The lack of a formal structure or process does not mean that anyone with adequate knowledge and expertise can become a mentor. Being a mentor requires very specific and critical soft skills that may not be present in every leader or expert. This is applicable regardless of the industry in which the mentor is an expert and refers to the mentor's unique behavioural skill set. These skills equip the mentor to aid the growth and development of the mentee in an effective and positive manner.

Related: Leadership Skills: Definitions And Examples

7 essential mentorship skills

Here are seven essential skills that mentors may require to guide and coach learners:

1. Active listening

Active listening skills are essential for mentors to identify the learning requirements of their mentees. By listening to and addressing the concerns of their mentees, mentors showcase that they accord their mentees respect and take all issues seriously. It also helps them provide specific and relevant advice and suggestions to the learner instead of offering generic knowledge. Actively listening to the challenges of the learner can also help mentors identify the problem they face more accurately.

There is another reason why active listening is critical for the relationship between a mentor and a learner. When mentors listen to what their mentees have to say, they help reduce the power imbalance between them and establish that the learning process is an exchange of information rather than a unidirectional transfer. It is essential for senior leaders and experts to stay humble and listen to what others are saying to avoid being overconfident.

Related: Active Listening Skills: Definition And Examples

2. Trust and respect

Trust-building is one of the most crucial components of any successful mentoring relationship. To support the progress of the mentee in the most efficient manner, it is important for mentors to invest time in building trust so that there is open and transparent communication. This might often entail mentors sharing their challenges, learning and perspectives in a frank and honest manner.

Building trust can also take the form of respecting each other's time, consistently meeting commitments as a mentor and respecting the mentee's boundaries. When the relationship between a mentor and mentee is trustworthy and respectful, a genuine exchange of knowledge, feedback and criticism can take place.

3. Acknowledgement and positive reinforcement

Effective mentors and leaders understand the significance of encouragement and appreciation. Mentors recognise that when they encourage the mentee or acknowledge their effort, it helps build their confidence. Recognising the mentee for their accomplishments and progress is critical for mentors to motivate them and help them improve. It can also help make the mentee committed to the learning process.

Identifying the right approach and opportunity to acknowledge someone requires strong communication and interpersonal skills. It also requires sincerity and integrity to ensure that the acknowledgement is well-intentioned. Mentors can improve their ability to recognise others by sharing positive feedback in a timely, public and personalised manner.

Related: Interpersonal Skills: Definitions And Examples

4. Goal setting

Knowing the different stages of skills development is critical for a mentor. Understanding how to assess the level of expertise, identify the strengths and weaknesses and develop a personalised learning programme that can help the mentee improve their skills. For this, mentors require strong goal-setting, assessment, analytical, planning, collaboration, decision-making and communication skills. They also use the insights from this process to help the learner become more self-aware and set realistic goals for themselves. This process includes supporting mentees in choosing a learning path that is most suitable for them.

Related: On-The-Job Training For Efficient Staff Development

5. Accountability and commitment

Being a mentor to someone also means being accountable for their success and failure. More importantly, it also means committing to the success and growth of someone else without any expectation of returns. This requires having perseverance and determination to help others grow and improve. Feelings of empathy, compassion, positivity and passion also contribute to these abilities.

The relationship between the mentor and the mentee goes beyond a traditional teacher-student dynamic as the two interact with more transparency. When mentors commit to their mentee's success, it becomes essential for them to help the mentee sustain motivation. Being accountable for someone else's growth and learning also requires a certain degree of selflessness.

6. Feedback and criticism

Providing constructive feedback is one of the key responsibilities of a mentor. Knowing how to offer accurate and reliable feedback to help learners improve their skills is essential to becoming a mentor. This requires strength in skills like communication, interpersonal and respect. It is vital for the mentee to trust the opinion and advice that the mentor offers.

Besides giving critical feedback, an effective mentor personalises it as per the mentee's experience, expectations and perspective. This helps them offer helpful recommendations and advice on career development, skill enhancement and leveraging employment opportunities. It is also important for the mentor to balance the positive and negative aspects of feedback.

Related: 20 Examples Of Feedback In The Workplace (With Examples)

7. Network building skills

As the more established and experienced professional, it is the responsibility of the mentor to help connect with other professionals in the industry. This requires looking for relevant opportunities for the mentee and working with them to utilise different growth opportunities. Mentors may have to actively advocate for their mentees, promote them and even offer them official recommendations. All of this requires strong networking, interpersonal, negotiation, persuasion, public speaking and communication skills.

Different types of mentors in the workplace

Here are some common types of mentors that you can find in the workplace:

Peer mentor

A peer mentor is a trusted colleague or team member usually working in the same job role as the mentee. They provide valuable feedback regarding the mentee's performance, skills and abilities as they work with them closely. This relationship can be more informal and cordial in nature, as these interactions may not require a formal meeting or appointment.

Many organisations assign peer mentors or 'buddies' for new employees to help them learn about the work processes, company culture and important workplace values. These peer mentors usually support new employees by interacting with them, answering queries and helping them become productive in their new roles.

Career mentor

Career mentors are usually industry leaders who may or may not work in the same company as the mentee. They typically have several years of experience in their role and are in a leadership position. Owing to their valuable professional knowledge and expertise, they can help younger professionals learn how to progress in the field and leverage career development opportunities. This type of association may not be as frequent and is concerned with the long-term career goals of the mentee as opposed to their day-to-day accomplishments.

A common example of a career mentor could be a professor that the mentee stays in touch with after graduating from college. The professional and industry expertise of the professor can help the mentee make crucial career decisions and enrol for relevant skill development certifications.

Life mentor

Life mentors usually offer advice and support on specific goals and decisions, such as changing careers or starting an enterprise. They are generally not in the same organisation as the mentee and may not even be in the same industry. They may also offer feedback on how to improve your life outside of work and utilise your potential.

Professional coaches, corporate trainers or career development coaches can be life mentors. Most of these professionals offer chargeable mentoring services to young professionals and employees. A life mentor can also be an industry leader that the mentee meets at a networking event or conference and manages to impress.

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