1. Spot the diamond in the rough
Being a good mentor calls for knowing the difference between a “diamond” — someone who could use some polishing but has the potential to be the next great talent — and wasting time with a “rough.”
Fine-tuning the ability to do that is key, and knowing when to walk away from someone who doesn’t want to live up to his or her potential and take advice is important.
2. Patience — lots and lots of it
Mentors need to balance patience with smarts, or else patience will run out. Realize that mentees aren’t going to get it right overnight — it takes time. But you can help shorten that learning period by reminding the mentees of the insights they’ve gained from their mistakes.
3. Allow them to make mistakes
Sometimes mentors put themselves in the position where they don’t allow their mentees to make a mistake. But sometimes the most effective way to learn is through an error. You can tell them over and over again not to touch the teakettle, but they won’t believe you until they feel the pain for themselves.
4. Allow them to shine, even beyond yourself
Sometimes mentors are angered when they see their mentee reach a level beyond where they’ve gotten themselves. Mentors should want their mentees to succeed and rise as far as they can — or else they’ve failed as mentors.
5. Never ask for anything in return
If mentors enter the relationship looking for a check, equity, payback — even a pat on the back — they’ll be disappointed. That’s not why you should be there. If a mentee has climbed to a certain level and then walks away without a “thank you,” there’s something wrong. It reflects a shortcoming on the part of the mentor.