How to Be a Better Business MentorInterviewing CEOs of small and mid-sized businesses for her radio show, Dana Theus, president and CEO of InPower Consulting, has found the topic of mentoring to be a popular one. According to Theus, few leaders make it to the top without the help of business mentors.

But the mentoring experience is hard to pin down and quantify. Some up-and-coming leaders don’t know they’re involved in a mentoring experience until many years pass, and they've become mentors themselves.

And, says Theus, “too many high-potentials—those who know the importance of mentorship” set about finding a mentor without a real grasp of “the organic, artistic aspect of mentorship.”

For those who want to know more, she offers some tips on how to succeed as a business mentor in this article on Smart Blog on Leadership.

You Don’t Get a Business Mentor, You Build a Mentoring Relationship

The kind of mentoring that helps an individual in their career grows out of a dynamic relationship between two people “with complementary experiences who help each other,” Theus says.

In many of these relationships, in fact, the words “mentor” and “mentee” rarely come up. Instead, she advises emerging leaders to seek out senior leaders “in a business context where you and they can develop natural chemistry.”

Good Mentoring is a Give-and-Take Experience

It’s a popular misconception that being a business mentor means you only share your own hard-earned wisdom and experience.

But in the best relationships, mentors gain insights from their mentees “to sharpen their own leadership and management skills.”

For example, a mentee can bring insights and intelligence gained from being at ground level in regards to business issues, corporate culture, the marketplace, etc.,

Both partners in the mentoring discussion enjoy opportunities for self-reflection and growth. “Part of developing the relationship is learning how you can help each other,” Theus notes.

Mentoring Works Best When Both Parties Close the Loop

Typically, a mentee solicits advice in an area where he or she needs the most support.

What often happens is  afterward, they fail to “close the loop and tell the mentor what happened when they used that advice.”

Without this information, your business mentor has no way to know if the advice they provided is valuable.

This information can help them tailor advice for future situations. Theus says,“Mentors can help the mentees close the loop by remembering the advice they gave and asking how it went when they used it.”

Mentors and Sponsors Aren't the Same Thing

According to Theus, a sponsor is “someone who will put their reputation on the line to help you advance.”

This is not what a business mentor is for, though they can also be good sponsors, on occasion.

It’s important for an emerging leader to understand the distinction, and “be clear what value you’re most likely to receive from the relationship.”

Many of the senior leaders Theus has interviewed love to talk about their mentors.

If you were fortunate enough to have a great business mentor in your earlier days, consider the value you might offer to someone in the next generation.

Did you have a great mentor in your career?