Today a team member proudly told me that they are mentoring another team member. I suppose they are proud of the role because they feel it is a recognition of their worth. It validates them.

When someone tells me they are a mentor, I’m keen to find out what it means to them. The best I can tell is that a mentor is either a work buddy or a coach (an advanced type of trainer). But a buddy and a coach aren’t my definitions of a mentor.

A mentor is someone who challenges, questions, prompts reflection, seeks a different perspective. A mentor doesn’t have answers; they have questions. A mentor’s focus is not to support; it is to challenge. A mentor’s intent isn’t to change the mentee to be the same as them.

It’s pretty challenging to walk a mentee through a thought process that empowers them to find their own better persona – to be more of themselves. Mostly it is done through asking the right questions. A team member is mentored with skilled questioning. Prompts may accompany questions to help find a solution. But rarely does a mentor provide advice or direction. Rarely does a mentor show or tell. Instead, a mentor helps someone become more of what they already are, not to make them more like themselves.