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Mentor: Roles and Responsibilities

written by: Andrea Campbell • edited by: Linda Richter • updated: 4/12/2011

The roles of a mentor are serious, in that the mentee looks to his mentor for guidance, insight and even career planning, and this is a great deal of influence. The goal is a positive counseling relationship and an open climate for communication, all the while using discretion and confidentiality.

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    Various Mentor Roles

    Notebook&Coffee Sura Nualpradid The mentor will wear a variety of hats throughout the mentoring process. The roles of a mentor should be thought about and planned well ahead of time before entering into the mentorship.

    The Scout: The mentor must look for and find a candidate in which he can foster cognitive and emotional maturity. By this we mean the ability to develop two critical capacities: the ability to live with uncertainty and the ability to delay immediate gratification in favor of long-term goals.

    Teacher: As inspirational speaker and author Denis Waitley once said: “…our rewards in life will depend on the quality and amount of contribution we make." Mentors need to teach a Japanese concept of industriousness called, nemawashi (wrapping roots of a bush together before moving it). Another translation is “circular agreement"; agreement is necessary at all levels of communication and organization.

    Young Bus. Colleagues photostock Guidance Counselor: How many people do you know who won’t listen to reason? Something holds these people back from becoming successful. They deliberately seek negative input. The mentor needs to help his charge to tune out fears and move in the direction of positive mental thoughts.

    Task Master and Time Judge: Goals are not just mental exercises, but are building blocks to long-range purpose. Establish a reward for your mentee when he achieves one of his goals. At the same time, set up a time to go over daily priorities and set new goals.

    Troubleshooter: A mentor should teach the “80/20" rule named after Vilfredo Pareto, a 19th century Italian economist. His idea is that 80 percent of production comes from 20 percent of the producers. When we’re not talking product that means: focus your sphere of influence on the most productive people and ideas.

    Devil's Advocate: Playing devil's advocate helps the mentee to think through important decisions and strategies.

    Desktop Meeting luigi diamanti Negotiator: The best time to approach someone for a reprimand or to express unhappiness is after the urge to become upset has past. There is no such thing as winning an argument; there is only winning an agreement. The mentor should constantly reinforce this principle.

    Research partner: One of the best things a mentor can do is to teach someone how to find answers.

    Critic: Let employees make mistakes without fear of punishment or rejection. The mentor needs to show his mentee that mistakes are learning devices that can become the stepping-stones of success.

    Resource Person: Expand the mentee’s network of contacts to help them toward career growth and personal development.

    These characteristics in a project manager or leader/mentor help to establish the roles of a mentor that work to facilitate the best mentoring program possible.

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    Reference & Resource

    Waitley, Denis. Seeds of Greatness: The Ten Best-Kept Secrets of Total Success. Pocket Books, 1983.

    Being a Mentor.

    Image Credits:

    • Notebook & Coffee: FreeDigitalPhotos/Sura Nualpradid

    • Desktop Meeting: FreeDigitalPhotos/Luigi Diamanti

    • Young Business Colleagues Looking at You: Freedigitalphotos/Photostock