Any working professional, whether a business owner or an employee, can benefit from the support and advice of a good mentor, both to advance their career and achieve long-lasting success. Especially for those who just set out on their career path, a solid mentorship can help provide answers to important questions and offer valuable guidance when it comes to major business decisions.
However, finding the right mentor is not always easy, as you have to make sure they have enough relevant experience in your field and that they're someone you could easily mesh with. To help you choose, these six entrepreneurs discuss some of the best qualities a mentor should have and why they are so important for a mentee's growth.
They can be truly honest.
Arguably the most important quality to look for in a mentor is honesty, even when what they say is not what you want to hear, insists Bouquet.ai co-founder and CEO Adrien Schmidt: "A great mentor will be honest with you. Sometimes their critiques may be tough to hear, but better to hear the truth than to be let down by reality later down the road."
Schmidt speaks from personal experience, as his own mentor pulls no punches when it comes to offering critiques or advice. "My mentor can be incredibly tough. Early on, I wondered if she disliked me or if I had any skills at all," he explains. "I later realized she was being honest. She was grooming me to be the best individual I was capable of being."
They have all the relevant experience.
Another crucial quality to look for is the right experience and the willingness to share that experience with those who are at the beginning of their entrepreneurial journey, says Solomon Thimothy, co-founder and president of OneIMS.
"The best business mentors I've ever worked with had a strong business background themselves. They either built several businesses before or were building one at the moment," Thimothy explains. "I think it's extremely important for the mentor to have enough experience so that they would have something to share and something to teach other people who have not been through the same challenges yet."
They know how to ask the right questions.
"A fantastic mentor doesn't just have or give all the answers, but they know how to guide and lead you by asking the right questions," adds Rachel Beider, CEO of PRESS Modern Massage.
According to Beider, it's important for a mentor to let their mentee find the answers themselves instead of spoon feeding them the solutions, as this approach is more likely to help the mentee develop healthy problem-solving habits for the future: "I've worked with some incredible mentors and all have asked phenomenal questions that helped me grow and look within."
They don't just talk -- they listen.
But a good mentor should also know how to listen, not only how to give advice, argues Andrew Schrage, co-owner of Money Crashers Personal Finance: "Lots of times mentors, through no fault of their own, are too concerned with imparting knowledge and wisdom without really listening to what the mentee really needs."
Good listening skills can help strengthen the relationship, making it easier for the mentee to trust their mentor and communicate more openly. "My mentor was great at this, and it was always very easy for me to communicate my specific issue or challenges, and then we worked toward a solution," Schrage explains.
They offer plenty of encouragement.
"In my experience, a good mentor is always there to celebrate your victories and help pull you through your failures," underlines WPBeginner co-founder Syed Balkhi, speaking about how important it is that a mentor be constantly supportive.
According to Balkhi, one of the key goals of a mentor should be to encourage the mentee to be a better business owner and person. "I believe that you need someone there to give you praise when you do well and share words of encouragement when things don't go according to plan," he adds.
They're passionate about what they do.
A quality trait of a great mentor that perhaps encompasses all of the others, according to LTVPlus CEO David Henzel, is true passion for mentoring and guiding others.
"When someone is teaching you what they know, it's much more effective and memorable when they have a burning passion for what they do," Henzel explains. "My mentor lit a fire inside me by talking with such passion and hope for the future. This really inspired me and is reflected in every professional decision I've made."