Five Key Attributes of Great Mentors

If you’re lucky, you’ve been blessed with one or two people who came into your life and made a lifelong impact on your professional and personal life. These people—your mentors—offered the insight, guidance, and support you wanted or needed just at the time you needed it. They may have set you on the road towards healthcare; helped forge your career; or encouraged you to focus on a particular job responsibility, therapeutic specialty, or institution.

With a unique blend of emotional and intellectual gifts, the best mentors lead and inspire their staff with skill and insight, resulting in happier, more productive employees. Here are five key attributes they share—and five skills that you, as a great mentor, may want to focus on:

1. Be approachable, available…and listen. As a good mentor, you need to make your staff feel they can come to you with questions or concerns. This means keeping an open door, asking them the right questions—and listening to them carefully, with an open mind, when they voice their thoughts. Offer them insight and support, and suggest ways they can improve rather than chastising them for what they did wrong or failing to understand a particular idea or action.

2. Be honest, but diplomatic. Tell your employees what they need to hear, not what you think they want to hear. Failing to address problems early on can result in even more difficulties down the road, so you owe it to your staff to “tell it like it is.” Have an open, honest dialogue with real give-and-take. Don’t beat around the bush; rather, offer constructive feedback, both good and bad, in a thoughtful and tactful way.

3. Encourage your staff to experiment—to try something different—even if they fail. And if they fail, they’ll learn from the experience. This also requires, of course, advising and guiding them as they consider their alternatives so they won’t make any major errors that jeopardize the account. Then make sure they take the reins and decide their next steps or best course of action.

4. Support their decisions and allow them to do what they think is best, even if you would do it differently. This improves their problem-solving skills and abilities. Don’t insist they do it your way. In fact—surprise!—you may even discover that your staff has an idea that works even better than yours!

5. Be compassionate, empathetic, and optimistic. When good employees act inappropriately, find out why. Help them see how their decisions impact other people. Encourage your employees to feel upbeat and optimistic. Let them feel there’s no limit to what they can accomplish. With your help, they might well fulfill their dreams. And the results? Happier, more efficient employees who produce better work and more satisfied clients.

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