How to: Be a Great Mentor

You have made it out of one or two busy seasons alive and now have seniority over some poor first year.  Now comes the fun stuff…how to be a great mentor.

Below are eight tips to be a great mentor:

1. Make being a mentor a priority or turn down the offer

You make time for what you care about.  If you have trouble finding time to connect with your mentee, it likely means that you don’t value the relationship. Don’t waste their or your time by doing it halfway (note: this also works as dating advice).

Cheesy phrase: No one cares about how much you know, until they know how much you care

2. Be Team Maria or Team Jake, not Team KPMG or Team PWC

Don’t toe the party line.  Use (and embrace) the phrase “I am taking off my Deloitte hat, and putting on my mentor hat.”  By doing this, you are inviting your mentee to be more open and authentic. 

In a similar vein, be a trusted confidant. Don’t run back to the office’s management group and spill the beans.    

3. Give honest feedback

Mentees are notorious for opinion shopping. Swim against this current.  Give honest feedback.  Challenge their assumptions/biases.  Don’t just tell your mentee what they want to hear.  In the long-term, they will respect you for this.

4. Ask developmental questions

By asking you to be their mentor, they have given you the greenlight to prod.  Ask challenging questions. What is truly driving their excitement, frustration, posturing, etc? What is the question behind their question?

5. Check-in regularly

Tip: Set a recurring calendar meeting to remind you to check-in with your mentee.  This is particularly important during busy/stressful seasons.  It takes two minutes to write: “I know you are swamped, just wanted to check-in to see how you are doing.” But likely means the world to your mentee. 

6. Go to bat for them

Stick your neck out to help your mentee.  Below are situations you may help them navigate:

  • Are they having challenges working for one of your colleagues? 
  • Did an engagement review leave them confused?
  • Is your mentee getting a tough shake on assignments?
  • Do they want to pursue an opportunity in the firm, but are intimidated to take the next step?

Be their “shit umbrella”. Look for ways to protect your mentee from getting shit on.

7. Share your network

Connect your mentee to your connections.   

Tip #4 should bring to the surface some of your mentee’s interests, passions, curiosities, etc.  Do you have connections who have experience in these areas? Set up a coffee date for the two of them. You don’t need to be your mentee’s one-stop shop for advice. 

Another example is introducing your mentee to leaders in the firm. For example,“Office Audit Lead, this is Suzy Smith. She has been doing an excellent job on XYZ client.”

8. Be mentored

A great way to walk your talk is to find a mentor of your own.  Being in the hot seat yourself as a mentee, will allow you to better understand/empathize with your mentee. Are there things your mentor does well? Emulate them.  Are there things you wish your mentor would do? Implement these for your mentee.

In conclusion, striving to be a great mentor is an awesome goal. Following these steps will put you on that path!

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