Mentor and Mentee Characteristics
1. Desired Characteristics of a Mentor: To successfully assume the different roles of a mentor, you need to display certain characteristics. As previously mentioned, a successful mentor is characterized as supportive, patient and respected. There are other characteristics a successful mentor should possess:
a. People-oriented: A mentor is one who is genuinely interested in people and has a desire to help others. A successful mentor is one who has "good" people skills, one who knows how to effectively communicate and actively listen. A mentor must also be able to resolve conflicts and give appropriate feedback.
b. Good motivator: A mentor is someone who inspires a mentee to do better. A mentor needs to be able to motivate a mentee through encouraging feedback and challenging work assignments. A mentor once described this characteristic by saying, "a mentor needs to stretch the mentee’s potential, setting new limits for what the mentee can do."
c. Effective teacher: A mentor must thoroughly understand skills required by the mentee’s position and goals and be able to effectively teach these skills to his or her mentee. A mentor must not only teach the "skills of the trade," but also manage the learning of the mentee. This means that a mentor must actively try to recognize and use teaching opportunities.
d. Secure in position: A mentor must be confident in his or her career so that pride for the mentee’s accomplishments can be genuinely expressed. A mentor should appreciate a mentee’s developing strengths and abilities, without viewing these accomplishments as a threat. A secure mentor delights in a mentee’s discoveries and welcomes a mentee’s achievements. In truth, a mentor enjoys being a part of the mentee’s growth and expansion.
e. An achiever: A mentor is usually a professional achiever - one who sets lofty career goals, continually evaluates these goals and strives to reach them. A successful mentor is usually one who takes on more responsibility than is required, volunteers for more activities and tends to climb the proverbial career ladder at a quick pace. A mentor attempts to inspire a mentee with the same drive for achievement. This "attempt at achievement" is the flint that sparks a mentee’s desire for career success. In this way, a mentor helps a mentee to set, evaluate and reach career goals.
f. Values the Army and work: A mentor takes pride in the Army and relishes the everyday challenges that typically arise. A mentor understands the mission, vision and values of the Army and supports the Army’s initiatives. A mentor should be well-versed in policies and procedures. Keep in mind that a mentee looks to his or her mentor for guidance on interpreting policies and procedures. In order to provide this guidance, you need to know and understand this information.
g. Respects others: A mentor is one who shows regard for another’s well being. Every person, including the mentor, has certain vulnerabilities and imperfections that must be accepted. A mentor should learn to accept a mentee’s weaknesses and minor flaws, just as the mentee must learn to accept the weaknesses and flaws of the mentor. Mentors can, in fact, help a mentee explore his or her vulnerabilities and imperfections. Without passing judgment, a mentor must also recognize that differences in opinions, values and interests will exist. By accepting such differences, a mentor projects an openness to others.
Not all of these characteristics are equally found in everyone. If you fall short in one or several of these characteristics, it doesn’t mean that you can’t be a successful mentor. It just means that you need to strengthen those characteristics that you think are a bit weak.
2. Desired Characteristics of a Mentee: A successful mentoring relationship not only depends on the characteristics of the mentor, but also on the characteristics of the mentee. The following list outlines the characteristics of the "ideal" mentee.
a. Eagerness to learn: A mentee has a strong desire to learn new skills and abilities or a desire to develop existing skills and abilities. A mentee seeks educational and/or training opportunities whenever possible to broaden his or her capabilities. A mentee strives to elevate his or her level of technical skills and professional expertise to gain a greater mastery of the job.
b. Ability to work as a team player: A mentee usually must interact with many others as a part of the requirement of his or her position. Therefore, it is important that the mentee cooperate and communicate with these individuals. A mentee must learn how to be a team player - to contribute as much as possible to the mentoring relationship. To do this, a mentee should implement the following actions:
(1) Initiate and participate in discussions.
c. Patient: A mentee must be willing to put time and effort into the mentoring relationship. A mentee must persevere through the difficulties that arise during the learning process. Many mentees, at one time or another, feel frustrated because they feel confined in their current job or "hemmed in" by everyday tasks. A mentee should be realistic enough to know that career advancement doesn’t happen overnight.
d. Risk taker: As a risk taker, a mentee must be willing to travel from "safe harbor" into the seas of uncertainty. This means that a mentee must move beyond tasks that he or she has mastered and accept new and more challenging experiences. This can be difficult for a mentee because this means giving up the known for the unknown. With each new assigned task, a mentee may ask, "Can I really do this?" Task changes are never easy for a mentee. A mentee must realize that, to grow professionally, it is necessary to assess oneself, to acquire needed skills, to develop new skills and to make contact with others. A mentee must be willing to take chances! In fact, a mentor should encourage risk taking.
e. Positive attitude: This is the most important trait for a mentee to possess because a bright and hopeful attitude can help a mentee succeed. A mentee with a poor or "defeatist" attitude will not move ahead - the first "bump in the road" will jar this person off course. An optimistic mentee is more likely to tackle difficulties and to stay on course. A mentee should not be afraid to fail.
Remember, these characteristics are desired characteristics of the "ideal" mentee. If a mentee has only two or three of these characteristics, this does not mean that the mentoring relationship will fail. However, it may take extra effort by the mentee to overcome possible obstacles that could arise from lacking one or several of these characteristics.