Mentoring Competencies

Creating a mentoring culture is a journey of organizational learning in which mentoring competency and mastery are enhanced at all levels: participant, leadership, administrative and institutional.

L. J. Zachary

The following list of competencies describes an effective mentor in a formal mentoring relationship. The list is divided into three categories: knowledge, skills and attitudes.

If you would like to know more about how to develop further in these competencies, check out our list of suggested professional development activities for mentors.

Knowledge: Is able to describe the formal mentoring approach (purpose, roles, expectations)

  • Describes how formal mentoring is different from informal mentoring and from coaching/facilitation.
  • Understands the purpose and expectations of formal mentoring, and the roles of the mentor, mentee and supervisors in the mentorship.
  • Knows the expectations for administrative tasks placed on the relationship by the mentee’s organization.

Skills: Is able to mentor others successfully

  • Sets and follows protocols and expectations for the relationship (how goals are going to be achieved, how to handle disagreements, how to track progress, etc.).
  • Develops a relationship of mutual learning between mentor and mentee.
  • Helps the mentee acquire and apply new knowledge, skills and attitudes by explaining, modeling and giving effective examples.
  • Draws out the mentee’s thoughts in culturally appropriate ways.
  • Listens actively and use encouragement to facilitate growth.
  • Maintains confidentiality when sharing experiences and discussing issues.
  • Together with the mentee reflects upon the mentee’s performance, helps them set clear goals to achieve and articulates when goals are met.
  • Gives and receives sincere feedback about the mentee’s performance, behavior and development with care and compassion in a culturally appropriate way, identifying both positive changes based upon strengths as well as areas still needing improvement.
  • Advocates on behalf of their mentees so they have opportunities to get experiences necessary for their growth.

Attitudes: Is able to support their mentees in sensitive ways

  • Creates a safe space for the mentee to excel, shine and build confidence. Delights in their success.
  • Is willing to be open about one’s own successes and failures (wise and appropriate self-disclosure).
  • Expects that the mentee develops to mentor others.
  • Understands the limitations of one’s own experiences and perspective, and minimize any negative impact on the mentee.

Reflection question: What would you do differently in your mentoring practice, if time and money were not an issue? If you were to describe in one word the mentor you would like to be, what word would you choose and why?

Feedback: What would you like to add to the list above? In your experience, what are the most important competencies of an effective, cross-cultural mentor? Please comment below.

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