What does it take to be a good mentor?

Do you have a mentor? What does it take to be a good mentor? What do we think of when we think about mentoring?


These questions provided grounds for discussion yesterday afternoon during DiversifyIT’s Brown Bag Lunch hosted by Kirk Rouser. More than 50 attended, bringing ideas on what makes a mentoring relationship successful.


“It’s great to have informal relationships but we should also be striving for a more deliberate relationship,” Kirk said, guiding the discussion. The group talked through the characteristics of a good mentor as well as a good mentee. Everyone agreed that, for both having the foundation of a strong personal relationship is key.


Some takeaways:



  • Can help frame goals
  • Can expand your network
  • They should not be intimidating
  • They don’t just give advice, but go above and beyond. “What’s step 3, 4 and 5?”



  • They have goals, knows what they’re looking for in a mentor
  • They must have a willingness to accept feedback no matter how it comes.
  • They do not mind being challenged and held accountable.
  • “It feels like someone saw value in you and thought you were worth their time.”


The Relationship

  • Can be formal or informal – but must always be personal. “Many have poured into me, but not formally.”
  • A structured framework can be too formal.
  • Can happen spontaneously over time
  • Personalities must complement each other with humility on both sides.
  • Should be a mutually beneficial collaboration. “Then they don’t mind spending so much time with you.”


Someone suggested inviting a potential mentor to virtual coffee or lunch to begin establishing a relationship. While we were unsure if there is a mentoring program for staff at Duke, Kirk asked for those craving mentorship to step forward. More programming about mentorship may be in the works. Stay tuned…