We often hear we should find mentors to act as role models and guide us in the right direction. Mentorship is a relationship with someone who has knowledge or experience. A mentor is someone who helps a mentee—a less experienced person—navigate through different challenges. 

I have had several mentors, and I am a mentor for multiple entrepreneurs. I have had good mentors and bad mentors, which has helped me shape what I believe makes a good mentor. I also think one should have more than one mentor or change mentors when they feel the relationship is no longer mutually beneficial. Being a mentor can be fulfilling and rewarding. 

The five traits to look for in a mentor are:

1. Good listener

A mentor should listen more and speak less. Active listening is a practiced skill that helps provide a safe space for entrepreneurs to express how they feel. If a mentor is always looking to talk or tell you what to do, this is a red flag. 

2. Doesn’t tell you what to do

A mentor should not tell you what to do, even if you ask them. This can greatly mislead you or deviate you from your path. Your mentor may have years of experience, and maybe he or she is a millionaire or billionaire! But this doesn’t mean they know what is right for you. Experience can be quite helpful, but no one has the same path. If they tell you what to do, then they are projecting their fears, insecurities, previous experiences, beliefs, and so on onto you. They can give you options or things you can do but not make that ultimate decision for you. 

3. Helps you find your inner voice

A mentor is an outsider who can help you get out of your head as an entrepreneur (which we all know can happen). A good mentor will hear subtleties in the things you say and can bring them to your attention. He or she can also have a non-judgmental and subjective perspective of your struggles. They can share knowledge and previous experiences to help you relate or provide insights without comparing your situation to theirs. A mentor can help guide or motivate you to listen to your inner voice. 

4. Motivates you and helps you see your small wins

Mentors can be of guidance in more difficult times, but they also help you acknowledge and appreciate your small wins. Sometimes you may feel nothing is working out, but your mentor can notice progress and bring that back to your attention. One of the benefits of having regular meetings with a mentor is to allow them to see your progress while building a trusting relationship. 

5. Gives perspective without influence

A mentor can help you find perspective. When we go through challenges, we sometimes focus on the challenges and forget to have a broader vision. A mentor can help you step out of your focus and reassess things with more perspective. 

We often look for answers from outside sources and trust that they know better than we do. The fact is, everyone is different, every business is different, and no one truly knows more than you do. They may have certain skills, knowledge, or experience regarding specific business challenges, but they don’t know what’s best for you—only you do. A mentors’ role is not to do the work for you but to listen to you and help you find your way.