Tactics of Great Mentors

Unlike strategic plans, tactics are processes you can immediately put to use. The key is not just implementing these ideas, but doing it in such a way as to achieve positive results in the short term. Here are some tactics used by great mentors in some very successful companies.

The Truth About Motivation

Motivation is a word that has been kicked around in business for years. The trouble is that we keep coming up with superficial "incentives" that can make team members feel insulted or cheapened. Nothing that you can give a person (short of a yacht) will motivate them as much as recognition and support from their supervisors and peers.

Tactics like "Employee of the Month" don't work because you create one winner -- and dozens of losers. Making sure that everyone shares in "the win" creates a team out of a staff. That is the definition of esprit de corps.

As companies grow, team members can suffer, because attention can be diverted from individual efforts. A good mentor/manager believes in publicly recognizing the contributions of the entire team by celebrating large and small successes, and by making the effort to nudge team members into positions that require them to become leaders.

If the team members know that their mentors and managers support them, they'll have the gumption to take risks, try new ideas, and experiment. These are the behaviors that help companies grow.


People know how well they are doing, and what they are not doing well. Most of the time, mentors are more concerned with telling their charges how to do better rather than asking them what they think they are doing right. In an honest relationship, both parties should be able to express their feelings about their progress. If a team member truly wants to grow, he will be able to have objectivity about his performance.

There are several self-evaluation questions that can help mentors start a positive dialogue and make the self-evaluation process more effective than a typical performance review. These questions will be great fuel for helping both mentor and team member understand how progress is being made and what course corrections are necessary. It also opens the door for some serious career mentoring. Most importantly, it will help both people discover the skills that need to be developed in order to achieve mutual goals.

Don't Take Away Their Problems

When things get busy and hectic, as they often do, and a team member comes to you with a problem that you can clearly see the answer to, it is tempting to solve it for them. But this is not mentoring. By solving their problems you take away their opportunity to become educated and their ability to solve problems for themselves. People learn best when they face new challenges; in addition, they gain the skills to solve other, more difficult, problems.

Using the Tactics

Understanding and utilizing these tactics will help you mentor your team members to become more effective and to become leaders and mentors themselves. These are the tactics that will make your mentoring process an exciting part of your company culture. In addition, your team members will be inspired to reach new levels of performance; this is the essence of mentoring.