7 Important Qualities Only the Best Business Mentors Possess

Keith Krach
October 6, 2016

From SMB owners in the Midwest to the executives of Silicon Valley technology firms, business mentorship has historically had an impact on the success of leaders across all industries. Some of the most famous business men and women in recent memory attribute part of their success to the presence of a mentor early on in their leadership career.

Before he became one of the most prolific investors in history, Warren Buffet was mentored by economist Benjamin Graham. International financier Robert Friedland served as mentor to a young Steve Jobs prior to the latter’s foundation of Apple, Inc. Jobs, in turn, mentored Salesforce founder and CEO Marc Benioff.

Serving as a mentor to a promising business leader can yield a positive impact not only on the prosperity of the mentee, but it can also help the mentor establish him or herself as an authority within his or her industry. In addition, mentoring offers established business leaders a way to gain exposure to new perspectives, assess their own professional goals, and streamline their individual brands of leadership.

The more talented the mentor, the more he or she benefits from the experience of leadership coaching. Listed below are seven qualities that only the best mentors possess.

1. Available

You can’t be a high-quality mentor unless you manage to find a way to invest some time into the process. Despite busy schedules, the best mentors make sure that they have set aside time in order to develop a relationship with their mentees. Additionally, they are communicative about availability and adhere to any commitments that are made.

While some mentors will be able to offer regularly scheduled blocks of time to meet in person, others will only be able to offer a commitment to responding to emails or phone calls when the workday is done. Whatever the arrangement, a great mentor always fulfills the promises that he or she makes to a mentee.

2. Dedicated

The best mentors find enjoyment in the act of helping other people learn new skill sets. Rather than simply dictating information or pointedly supplying mentees with direction, these individuals are devoted to making a real impact on a mentee’s leadership abilities.

This involves guiding mentees on the path to solve problems and find answers, taking the opportunity to pose difficult questions that encourage new ways of thinking. High-quality business mentors understand that assisting mentees in finding answers themselves will help them grow in leadership ability, though it would be easier for the mentor to simply supply the answers outright.

3. Honest

In keeping with the concept of dedication, excellent mentors are always honest. Great mentors know when their mentees need support and when they need to deliver hard facts that may be difficult to hear. Constructive feedback plays an important role in the development of a mentee’s skills, and mentors who do not give straightforward guidance cannot help mentees to the fullest capacity.

4. Motivational

Leading a newer company to success can be a highly stressful process, one that may cause new leaders to doubt their capacity to achieve their business goals. In turn, this may cause mentees to lose their motivation and find themselves creatively stymied. A great mentor is able to teach his or her mentee how to cope with this lack of motivation, inspire new ideas, and increase productivity during difficult periods of professional development.

5. Enthusiastic

Though mentoring doesn’t necessarily have to happen between two professionals in the same industry, it can be highly beneficial to act as a mentor for someone whose career is focused within the same sector. The more professional interests that a mentor and a mentee have in common, the more likely it is that a mentor’s enthusiasm for and knowledge of his or her industry will have a significant impact. An excellent mentor is highly passionate about the work that he or she does, and leverages that enthusiasm to help mentees look at leadership in a new way.

6. Generous

Quality mentors are committed to being generous with mentees in many ways. First, great mentors are generous with the pride they feel when mentees find success. A great mentor celebrates a mentee’s accomplishments rather than feeling threatened or begrudging.

The best mentors are also generous with their professional connections, and may make it a point to introduce mentees to other leaders within their professional circles to provide mentees with networking opportunities. Above all, a mentor is generous with his or her knowledge and is willing to answer questions comprehensively, even if a busy schedule delays his or her ability to do so right away.

7. Lifelong Learner

Those professionals that make the finest mentors are notable for their commitment to lifelong learning. Forward-thinking leaders who understand the importance of learning about and adapting to new technology and business trends set a much better example for mentees than those who adhere to traditional business models that grow increasingly outdated.

Especially in an age of digital disruption, being a great mentor means being the kind of leader who sees the value in continuously seeking out knowledge about your industry or line of work, no matter how intimately you have come to know it.

Keith Krach

Keith Krach is Chairman of DocuSign, The Global Standard for Digital Transaction Management.