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Top Tips for Mentors

GSK’s LGBT+ employee network, Spectrum, has a mentoring program called the Spectrum Neighbourhood. The Spectrum Neighbourhood Mentoring Program was set up specifically for LGBT+ colleagues, understanding that their experience and needs might vary from our straight and cis colleagues when it comes to professional development through the support of a mentor. Sometimes it’s helpful and necessary to connect with someone else who is part of the LGBT+ community where identity and experience is better understood and where a mentor’s experience as an LGBT+ person will also contribute to the overall mentoring experience. Jason Sloan has been a mentor for a few years and shares some top tips for being a good mentor. 

Jason Sloan, Organisational Development Consultant & Leader in GSK's LGBT+ employee resource group, Spectrum


1.     Chemistry. Make sure you have some informal time up front to get to know one another a bit and test your ‘chemistry’ together. Is your experience and approach aligned with what the mentee expects? Is what they need something you feel you can support as a mentor? Testing this up front can save some time and frustration if it’s not a good fit. It’s also a great, low pressure way to check in before any commitments are made. 

2.     Contract. If the match is a good one, make sure you have an open conversation that includes your expectations and boundaries. Make sure the mentee states theirs as well. Agree how you will interact, for how long, etc.—talk through all the necessary boundaries of your relationship. Doing this up front means you can focus on the mentoring instead of the logistics. 

3.     Listen. Be open to share your experience, knowledge and wisdom, but also be prepared to listen. Listening is fundamental to being a good mentor. A pro tip is to play back what you hear and test understanding so you can be even more effective in how you respond to questions or request for advice and insight. Simply reflecting back what you hear can be a powerful tool to generate insights and understanding in your mentee. 

4.     Let them lead. Make sure your mentee takes the lead in deciding what they want to talk about and what they need every time you meet. A pro tip is to start each session by asking them what they need from the session that day. You are there to offer your insights, wisdom and knowledge—not to do their work for them. 

5.     Be vulnerable. If you have good trust with your mentee, don’t be afraid to be vulnerable. Tell your stories of how you won or succeeded but also the ones where you lost or failed. Bring into the mentoring session all the stories that can help bring to life a particular issue or struggle you are discussing. This creates trust and helps your mentee be even more open about their hopes, dreams, fears and anxieties. 

6.     Check in. Checking in at any time is super helpful just to see how things are going. Maybe you feel you’ve lost your way in the conversation. You can simply ask where your mentee is and use that to ask where they need to go next to get back on track. Check in at the end of sessions by simply asking if they got what they needed. Check in at the beginning of the session if you sense their energy is low or different than normal. It’s always okay to check in whenever you think it’s needed. 

7.     Share insights. As you get to know your mentee and hear their stories, you’ll start to notice patterns or themes. Maybe they are demonstrating courage in how they are approaching various obstacles they are facing. Maybe they remain optimistic even when things don’t always go as planned. Maybe you observe they are an incredible strategic thinker. Whatever you notice – share it. Often, we can’t see these things ourselves so it’s really helpful when others point them out. 

8.     Support yourself. If you need it, reach out to your support network at any point if you want to talk about your mentoring relationship. Of course, keep confidentiality at all times and keep the focus on you and how things are going for you. Even if things are going great with your mentee it can help to share that with someone. Checking in with other mentors is a good way to get any support you might need. 

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