One of the key supports for mentoring programmes is having a cadre of highly experienced mentors, who new mentors can lean on and learn from. In some programmes, these mentors take on much of the burden of new mentor development, shifting the balance from classroom learning towards ad hoc, situationally based learning.

So what makes an effective mentor to mentors? It’s not the length of time someone has been a mentor – even if they are a “natural” in the role, they may not have sufficient insight into what they do to provide the necessary depth of support to a new mentor. Some of the qualities, which I have observed, are:

  • A continuing interest in developing their skills in mentoring and other complementary areas, such as coaching, or career counselling  – through reading, attending development events such as webinars, and/or through undertaking further training
  • A deep-seated enjoyment of being challenged, emotionally and intellectually
  • An ability to reflect upon their mentoring practice – what works well and less well and why
  • Effective use of mentor supervision, if available, to build on those reflections
  • A sense that mentoring is never far away from their personal agenda – it has become part of their mindset, rather than an occasional activity

Mentor to mentors is a role that increasingly appeals to programme managers, because it both strengthens the programme and offers cost savings, in terms of continued training and support for mentors. Yet there is, to my knowledge, no significant literature, and no research at all into the role. I’d be very interested to hear other people’s experiences and opinions!

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