by Helen Moulsley

The good mentor

The primary requirement of a mentor is a desire to grow individuals to benefit the organisation. Be honest with yourself: if this is not something which sparks you, then do not take on a mentee – it will not be fair on the individual, nor on yourself.

What makes a good mentor?

As a good mentor, you will have certain characteristics.

  • You will have a strong desire to help others to grow and develop. You may in the past have been referred to as a ‘gardener manager’. Ideally, you will have a track record in developing others.
  • You will have a strong understanding of the organisation and how it works (formally and informally), knowing and understanding the key players. You will combine this with a deep understanding both of the strategic direction of the organisation and of the drivers on it and the wider industry.


As the mentor, you are the experienced one in the mentoring relationship, and there are some practical things which you will need in order to optimise the return on your and the mentee’s time.

  • Make yourself available and accessible to your mentee. Where you have contracted to meet every so often, you should be sure to honour that commitment.
  • You may need to provide some initial structure to the mentoring relationship, particularly where the mentee is relatively inexperienced. For example, you may ask them to identify some objectives which they wish to achieve, and ask them to suggest a review and evaluation process to monitor ongoing progress.
  • Follow through on any actions you pick up in your meetings, thereby demonstrating to the mentee your commitment and your professionalism: ‘do as I do’ is a good motto for the mentor.

Being a mentor requires you to be highly skilled in listening, coaching and giving feedback. Furthermore, you will need to adjust your style as the relationship develops and according to the issue you are addressing at any one time

Your skill set

In addition to Political Intelligence, you will have and exercise the following skills: