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Internet Survey Results:

Characteristics of the Most Effective Mentors
Matt M. Starcevich, Ph.D.

During the first quarter of 2003 an on-line survey was conducted by the Center for Coaching & Mentoring, Inc. The objective of the survey was to better understand what the purpose of the most effective mentoring relationship was and the behaviors of the respondents most effective mentor. Seventy individuals responded; twenty males and fifty females, with seventy-four percent being under forty-five years of age. When asked about the main purpose of their most effective mentoring relationship the group results were:

Skill Development 36%
Career Advancement 24%
Job Performance 20%
Life Skills 13%
Studies/school work 8%

One open-ended question was asked:

Think about your most effective mentorthe person who was most helpful for you. Keep this person in mind, and describe, in as much detail as you can, what they did that made them your number one mentor. What set them apart?

For some fascinating reading the full text of the responses, with personal names and companies edited out, can be viewed by clicking here. The overall reaction to these comments is not of some super human event, but of a caring, deeply committed relationship. Those who have never experienced this type of a mentoring relationship can be heartened that it is possible if both parties are committed to making it work. The following summary, in decreasing times mentioned, of the major themes with illustrative comments provides insight into the richness and lasting impact these relationships have had on the respondents.

A role model: My most effective mentor lived by example; This is the person I modeled myself after; My mentor walked her talk; I admired and thereby learned a lot from them; She is a role model, setting an example.

Achieving role model status may result from past accomplishments, ones values or organizational position. We believe a stronger case can be made that role model status was earned by how the mentor behaved during their interactions with those who responded to this survey. Role model status is an output of the interaction, the respondents wanted to emulate their mentor and replicate the following ten behaviors in their interactions when they became mentors.

  1. Empathetic, non judgmental listening: My mentor was willing to hear me out; She was an outstanding listener; He listened when I was uncomfortable; His listening skills were excellent; He listened with caring and concern.
  2. An unselfish commitment of time: He invested time with me; He spent time talking to me and getting to know me; He was always available; He is always willing to help; She has always been there for me; She always seemed to be there when I needed her the most.
  3. Provided insightful feedback: Straight forward, clear and concise; She accepted feedback as well as gave feedback on a consistent basis; Provided consistent, honest feedback.
  4. Concerned and cared about me on a personal level: He took a personal interest in me; She cared about me as an individual; Took a personal interest in me when I most needed a mentor and friend; She really cared about you as a person.
  5. Provided encouragement, and helped set stretch goals: He was constantly raising my standard; Collectively we came up with ideas and actions plans; He challenged me to think outside of the box; He has encouraged me to strive for success.
  6. Was very supportive: I never felt she had left me out to hang alone; He provided me with the support to focus my personal strengths; She was supportive and understanding; She believed in me and supported me.
  7. Sincere, open and honest: He was very honest; She was honest and open in her communications; Her information came from the heart; It could not have happened without his open and honest communication.
  8. A partner: She knows the whole philosophy of coming along side of me instead of walking ahead of me; A partnership was developed with my mentor; He neither led me nor followed me, but stayed close so that I could find my own path; It was a collaboration; She cared about me and treated me not as a kid, but as an equal who she was honored to has as a friend.
  9. Saw potential, believed in and had confidence in me: He demonstrated total confidence in me; What set her apart, her ability to care about each person in their own special way; I know now that she saw potential in me I did not know I had; She challenged me to be a better leader because she saw my potential.
  10. Was patient: She was very patient, concerned and involved with my learning; Their patience is what counted; He was a very patient man who allowed me to have the time that I needed to think out a problem myself.

Other behaviors were mentioned but not consistently enough to be considered a predominant theme for the seventy respondents. These ten behaviors can be achieved in a mentoring-partner relationship. For those engaged in a mentoring relationship, these ten behaviors could be a useful check list for both the mentor and partner to evaluate the health of their relationship and where improvements could be made.

Contact Matt Starcevich, matt@coachingandmentoring
2009, Center for Coaching and Mentoring