Yesterday, I attended a short training session on being a Good Mentor. Although I have been doing mentoring, and training for quite a while, I still picked up quite a lot of knowledge that I hope to apply in my future mentoring session.

I thought of putting it down here as a note for myself and any one who is keen to mentor. Well in fact, as you progress into your data career, likely that you will have to mentor the fresh hires too. :)

Empathetic Listening

I felt that this is the first and most important skill to have as a mentor. With empathetic listening, it will be easier to apply the knowledge & skills mentioned later.

Empathetic Listening is not easy though. A lot of us listen, not to acknowledge the points of the others, but rather finding points that either confirm our own viewpoints or looking to nitpick at the semantics and rebut.

Empathetic listening requires focused listening, pick up the words used, read behind those words and acknowledge those words and feelings expressed.

Ending this section with this quote: "People do not care how much you know, until they know how much you care."

Trust Building

Here are the three things that builds trust.

  • Credibility - Experience with the topic
  • Consistency - Action and words are consistent
  • Transparency - Sharing own vulnerabilities, mistakes, and thoughts with no cover up

All three of them actually takes time to build though.

Asking Right Questions

This is a tough one but can be made easy with Empathetic Listening. Personally, I like to ask more Open and Generative Question. It helps with the mentee's thought process later on as that is the thing that will be working with the mentee through his/her career.

Solutions that is self-generated, as in the mentees thought of it themselves, they have more motivation to use it, to experiment with it. This is where Open and Generative Questioning helps!

Open and generative questions are those that is not answer by a simple "Yes" or "No". Rather it prompts the mentee to give it more thoughts and unlock it at the same time. I like to get my mentee's to think out loud, so that I can hear the thought process. With that it helps me to point out blind spots and assumptions he/she might have made.

For example,"Where do you think you have stumbled in this project and how can you do better going forward?"

Another thing, about asking questions is always ALWAYS give your mentee the benefit of the doubt and do not be judgemental with the questions.

"You must have done X before attempting Y, so what can be improved?" rather than, "Why didn't you do X before attempting Y?"


This is a skill all leaders and managers should have but it is tough in my opinion. A good reading on the character and also being able to touch and start the "internal engine" is not easy. This is where I feel Empathetic Listening helps as you try to understand the mentee's psychological buttons and either give it a gentle nudge or push it hard, depending on the situation.


Giving feedback is rather easy, but giving good feedback requires a lot of thought. In my opinion, what is a good feedback has two components.

1) Supported by observations/facts

2) Is actionable

Facts helps with building the credibility of the feedback and if the feedback is actionable, it does instill confidence in the mentee that there is a way to improve and get better results.

The more good feedback are provided, it helps in building trust between the mentor and the mentees as well.


Good mentor does the following:

  • Empathetic Listening
  • Building Trust
  • Asking the Right Questions
  • Motivate!
  • Provide Good Feedback!

What are your thoughts?

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