Over the course of my professional career, I’ve discovered that not all managers are leaders, and not all bosses are mentors. Leadership is not a quality that is inherited. Instead, it is earned through others seeing the quality in you, much like respect. You cannot have respect without others viewing you as admirable, and you cannot be a great mentor if your mentee doesn’t believe you have their best interest at heart. (TRUST ME. I’ve had 8 different bosses over the past 5 years!)
The characteristics of a great mentor, which is certainly not only limited to a boss or manager, can vary depending on the field of work you are in, but the six basic principles I’ve outlined below overlap into all work categories.
Here are the things a great mentor does and doesn’t do.
1. Pushes You Out of Your Comfort Zone
You may be wondering why this is a definite do, but the fact is that you will not have personal growth if your mentor is not willing to give you new goals to accomplish, skills to learn, or a project to complete. Though a specific task may not be what you typically do, a mentor will assign it so you can learn from it, gain a better understanding, and eventually master it… also because they have faith in you. This faith is key in building any strong mentor/mentee relationship.
2. Provides Constructive Feedback
When I first started sales, one of my managers commented that people liked me because I didn’t come off as salesy, but that I needed to explain the WHY of the product better, and not just state the WHAT. Comments such as these are what will make you better at what you do because you know both your strengths and your weaknesses… not one over the other.
Great mentors will preemptively give you feedback, but if you are not getting it , ask for it! Getting an outsider’s perspective on things will allow you to learn new things and grow professionally. Remember these two questions – What am I doing well, and what can I work on? Knowing this alone will put you in charge of your career path and future.
3. HAS A SHARED MISSION AND GOAL with you or the team
A true mentor will want only one thing: your success! Whether you are part of a team or working individually, a mentor will go out of their way to ensure you have what it takes to complete the project on time, reach your quota, or ace the test. He or she will be staying late with you to prepare final documents and isn’t afraid to get their hands dirty doing “novice” or “lower-class” work. They are all hands on deck until they see you accomplish your goal, which in turn means their success, too.
1. Makes You Feel Uncomfortable
Yes, giving a big presentation or taking on a task you’ve never done before will make you uncomfortable. The type of uncomfortable I am talking about here is the one that sends your moral compass into a tizzy. If you are asked to do something that you know in your heart is wrong, you and your mentor may not be a good fit. You should NEVER have to compromise your personal morals or beliefs to get ahead.
2. Insults or Belittles You or Other Coworkers
I once had a manager who would talk terribly about other coworkers in front me… to the point of mentioning people he planned on firing in the near future and even calling some of our sales staff stupid. YIKES! Not only is this extremely unprofessional, it brought down the confidence I had in my manager, and lessened my morale for the company as a whole.
Every time I heard a negative comment, I wondered what was being said about me behind my back, or if the manager would have anyone looking up to him if people actually knew what was being said. There is a time, place and way to discuss internal personnel matters, and insulting or belittling is NEVER one of them.
3. DoES NOT SHARE KNOWLEDGE or give credit
Since a great mentor shares goals with you, the converse is a person who wants only their own success. In meetings they will take your idea and run with it as their own. They will hide the tips and tricks they use to close the deal because they want to stay on top themselves.
The truth is, if you are not learning in the position you are in, you are already behind. Industries change fast. If you aren’t gaining anything from your manager, try subscribing to industry-specific email lists to stay abreast of things. Or, look to some of your favorite stores or websites to see what they’re doing. Is there something you can emulate that could help? NEVER stop learning.