• James Walton

How to Be an Effective Mentor

It's an honor to be a mentor in the life of another. You have something powerful to contribute to another's success, and your investment could pay dividends in their life for years to come. (Just make sure they didn't ask you, "Will you be my mentor?")

Here are three things to keep in mind as you start a mentoring relationship.

Look for people who mix ambition and humility

You cannot steer a parked car. In the same way, the guidance you offer to someone who lacks ambition is wasted. A prerequisite for anyone I work with is the initiative to have already begun.

At the same time, someone without the humility to recognize they could benefit from your wisdom will never be fruitful. Pearls before swine, as they say. Learn to recognize the signs of arrogance early and avoid them.

Be rigorous and clear about the value you have the other person needs

There is only one Messiah, and you are not it. You're not well-equipped to solve every problem or speak to every circumstance.

Spend some time early in the relationship defining what specific skill, connection or experience your mentee needs. If you're not an expert in that area, feel free to refer them onward without guilt. They'll get a lot farther a lot faster in the hands of someone who is, and you'll avoid the friction of being out of your power alley.

Be as specific, granular, and tactical as possible

Vague generalities rarely help others. Don't be afraid of prescribing a specific course of action, steps to take, or words to say. Most people have a sense of direction they'd like to head, but they lack a guide and a map. Your job as a mentor is to be that trustworthy guide, and give them a map for how to achieve their desired future.

Mentoring is holy work, imbued with the chance for deep personal connection and meaningful engagement that can last a lifetime. Cherish the opportunity and commit to working for the mutual good of the other.