The Do's and Don'ts of Mentoring


Anyone can become a mentor and we all recognise people in our past, who had excellent mentoring skills - these accidental mentors can show us the way to develop the skill in ourselves. A mentors competencies first and foremost consist of an ability and willingness to listen and to use own experiences and common sense, together with the staff member, in a way that meets the their needs. 

To use a popular phrasing, a mentor can set up a mirror for another person. Mentoring conversations can be the "container" where people place all the big questions until he or she finds the answer within him or herself. One of the advantages that a mentor has is that he or she, through an external view on the staff members situation, is able to see things in a context and provide new perspectives. Being a Mentor is difficult and challenging but it's also very rewarding. Mentoring can help you:

· To become a better communicator

· To experience the joy of helping others

· To gain more insight regarding your own behaviour

· To gain broader knowledge and information about the Organisation

· To gain new perspectives on the Organisation

· To be stimulated with new ideas from the staff member

· To develop better management competencies

· To gain more insight on other people

Everyone has their own style of course; some educate, challenge or advise - but there are some personal qualities that characterise all good mentors. A good mentor radiates trust, presence, respect and empathy. If these aren't in place the the mentoring relationship will be forced and unnatural. Mentoring should be organic and grow with time; it is an investment and can't be flicked on and off like a light switch. There are a few useful Do's & Don'ts that all mentors should follow:


· Be a sounding-board

· Listen and be patient

· Show empathy

· Demonstrate confidentiality and respect

· Be open and honest

· Be constructively confrontational

· Help the staff member with access to resources and support

· Be aware of expectations and limitations


· Do not provide answers

· Avoid being judgemental

· Avoid dominating - keep yourself at the background

· Do not expect to know everything or to have a solution to everything

· Don't be afraid to acknowledge your own need for help

· Do not give up - hang in there, even if the relationship is shaky for a period

· Do not take over the relationship - it's a two way thing

Stephen Naughton