How to spot a bad mentor

Mentorship programmes are an invaluable tool for talent development but bad mentors can be career limiting

Most executives will agree that mentorship is a very important development tool because, more often than not, they will have had a mentor that enabled them to make successes of their own careers. But there is a right way and a wrong way to mentor high-potential talent. A mentor can help an individual to connect with other networks and can expose them to different ideas and different people that they would otherwise not have that opportunity. They can provide advice to help the said individual to navigate the challenges that they face. 

But there is such a thing as a bad mentor. If they tend to be negative or they often speak negatively about your boss or other co-workers, that will have the opposite effect of what meeting with a mentor is supposed to do. Meetings with mentors should leave individuals feeling encouraged, rejuvenated, and motivated to excel and reach theirgoals. If a mentor dwells on the magnitude of the challenge ahead, they will only serve to discourage the mentee, leaving them with a negative outlook towards their careers.

There can also issue with people not getting the right kind of guidance in cases where, the mentor is too rigid in their approach. Because, what works for one person might not work for another. And, although companies have enabling mechanisms in the form of policies and processes in place, they still need to be nimble in how they apply them. Any good leader should be somewhat malleable in their approach and they shouldn't be so committed to their own way of doing things that the will never want to deviate.

Also, good mentors know how to give both constructive feedback and encouragement to help you grow professionally. Even though their job is to provide guidance, some don’t understand—or weren’t trained on—the impact of recognition.

Lastly, a good mentor has to be engaged. There is nothing worse than having a mentor who doesn’t seem interested in mentoring. Mentor should be checking in with their mentee at least quarterly if not once a month.  That is the best way to determine one’s progress and be able to answer burning questions while the mentee’s issues are still pressing. If a mentor often goes silent or has a tendency to reschedule, they might not have any real interest in being a mentor.