How to be a brilliant mentor

2 years ago   •   4 min read

By Various

To mark National Mentoring Month, experts Natasha Harvey, Manley Hopkinson & Matt Casey discuss how best to have a meaningful impact on a mentee’s development and the soft skills that are key to both the mentor and mentee’s career progression


Mentoring someone can be an incredibly rewarding and fulfilling experience. Sharing your knowledge and experiences and watching your mentee develop personally and professionally can give you a real sense of achievement and purpose. But it can also be difficult to build the relationship and trust required to have a successful outcome. So how do you get it right? We asked the experts – authors, entrepreneurs and coaches – for their top tips.


  1. Build a strong rapport by showing genuine interest and curiosity


Help your mentee feel comfortable in sharing their professional desires and concerns by building a strong basis of mutual trust and respect. Establishing a good rapport from the start will help you develop the foundations of a great mentoring relationship.


Here’s how you can build and maintain it.


  •   Set guidelines together to establish expectations and to ensure you both feel comfortable about speaking up if something is not working. Check-in regularly with your mentee to ensure you’re moving in the right direction.


  •   Acknowledge their strengths and accomplishments from the outset.


  •   Encourage questions of any type, and let your mentee know there are no bad or “silly” questions.


  •   Listen closely, show interest and empathy. Ask open questions such as, “what do you think about, what specifically is difficult, how do you know…?”


  •   Notice the pace and volume they’re speaking at, the energy they display, and try to match it. Similar body language or posture can help build rapport.


  •   Show you’ve understood by paraphrasing what you’ve heard, summarising main points, using verbal cues, maintaining eye contact and open body posture.


  •   Share relevant personal experiences and underline how you can help your mentee reach their goals but don’t impose your own way of thinking.


  •   Discuss the valuable lessons you’ve learnt when you’ve tried and failed and don’t hold yourself as the perfect, or only, model to follow.


Rapport is maintained when people know what to expect from you – be consistent in your approach and behaviours.


Natasha Harvey is a certified transformational coach and founder of Embrace Your Change, specialising in working with young women to build self-awareness, confidence and resilience.



  1. It’s not about you


Being a mentor is one of the most rewarding things you can do. What a joy to be able to pass on all your years of experience to guide and help someone who you respect to achieve far more than they thought they could. What a joy to help others grow and to know that you have added value to their journey. That’s the point. As much as you will learn and take pleasure, it is not about you, it is about them; it is their journey that we are on. A brilliant mentor is a selfless person who has a deep desire to help others grow, to pass the baton and leave a legacy. You will park your own ego and needs in service of your mentee.

A brilliant mentor also knows what it is like to be a mentee; to have worked closely with a person who has challenged you, asked you difficult questions and sometimes disagreed with you. Who knows what it feels like to have their ideas and thoughts picked apart and their ego bruised. A brilliant mentor will understand the emotional impact of their words and advice and not just focus on the business or goal impact.

Remember that, as a mentor, it is vital to begin with a coaching approach and help your mentee find the answer within. It is only when they struggle that you move to being an advisor too. A brilliant mentor needs to exhibit true compassion – understanding with positive action.

Manley Hopkinson is the founder of renowned leadership consultancy Manley Talks LTD, author of Compassionate Leadership and a sought-after keynote speaker



  1. Make sure you’re the right person for the job


I truly believe that the secret to being a great mentor lies simply in ensuring you are the right mentor for the mentee to begin with. If your mentee has different aspirations, different values, and a different approach to you, it’s unlikely that you will be able to offer them any value.


If however, you choose to mentor someone who could be described as you, but not as far along the road, I think just being honest and genuine with that person will be enough to bring them real value. I think if you’re at the point where you’re having to try to be an effective mentor for someone, you probably aren’t the right mentor for them.


In my experience of having mentors, the beneficial ones have always been people who thought largely the same way as me, but who had been thinking about it longer. When I’ve worked with mentors who have radically different approaches, I’ve found their guidance to clash with my natural behaviours. I think of the way we each behave as a current in a river. A mentor should flow in the same direction as the mentee. If they flow against each other, then everything becomes chaotic. There’s no right or wrong direction, it just has to be the same.


Matt Casey is a management expert, the co-founder of and author of The Management Delusion: What If We’re Doing it All Wrong


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