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How You Can Become a Better Mentor

Mentoring is not always about moving up in your particular field -- it can be about learning key leadership skills that go beyond your career.
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"Whenever I am asked what is the missing link between a promising businessperson and a successful one, mentoring comes to mind." -- Richard Branson, Founder of Virgin Atlantic Group

Looking at my career, I am certain of one vital fact: What I have achieved, I owe to mentoring.

I've had three mentors who have shaped me into the person that I am today -- Tom Collinger, graduate marketing professor at Northwestern University; my father, who is also my best friend; and Glenn Newsom, my executive coach for the last 10 years. They have guided me through every step of my life, and having them as mentors has helped me tremendously.

They have also helped me see that it is not only important to be mentored, but also to become a mentor. Mentoring helps you grow as a leader while you cultivate young talent. As you guide and consult your mentees, you can also learn new things and develop relationships. Overall, you become better at what you do, which benefits everyone, from your company to your family.

I learned about being a mentor from David Novak, chairman and chief executive of YUM! Brands, who invested his time and coached me. He made me realize that if someone of his high-level and importance had the time -- and desire -- to be a mentor, then I could do it as well.

Since then, I've mentored at every organization I've been part of. I make sure to always find ways to connect with young talent, listen to their needs and dreams, and provide feedback and guidance.

At Maaco, we consider mentoring so valuable, we implemented the Tony Martino Mentoring Program. It was launched six months ago and we've already seen great results. Through the program, we pair every graduate from our training class with an existing franchise owner as their dedicated mentor. We even expanded the program to existing owners who are looking for support and coaching from the "best of the best."

Peer mentoring brings a lot of credibility to the development process, because it allows peers to connect in a very special and organic way. We feel passionate about the program, and hope to see it continue growing.

From my experiences as a mentor, I have learned several important lessons, including:

Opposites Attract

While it may be useful to pair mentors and mentees with similar interests, it is also valuable to have different perspectives, expertise and experiences. Mentoring is not always about moving up in your particular field -- it can be about learning key leadership skills that go beyond your career.

This also means a mentor isn't limited to a more senior person within an organization. He or she can also come from almost anywhere and be successful in helping a mentee transition between jobs or stages in life.

Mentoring is a Two-Way Street

For mentoring to work, both parties need to invest the time and effort. The relationship needs to be grounded in open communication, humility and include a lot of listening. The more you listen, the more the mentee and mentor will get out of the relationship.

Whenever I mentor someone, I let the mentee share and reach his or her conclusions and "aha" moments without forcing the learning process. It is important for a mentor to let their mentee form their own opinions. Plus, listening also allows me to learn from my mentees -- how they think, how they reach conclusions and how they become leaders.


As a mentor, you should prioritize who you can mentor, to make the relationship effective for both of you. Focus on those that will get the most from the relationship, those mentees that can participate in a long-lasting relationship. Then dedicate time to helping that relationship grow. Make an effort to be accessible and welcoming to your mentees, and continue the mentor-mentee relationship even when your mentee grows or transitions into a different position.

Everyone Wins

Dedicating time to nourishing a productive mentoring relationship is the ultimate "win-win." The mentee learns from the experience of others. The mentor becomes a better listener, learns from a different generation, gains a partner when their mentee grows into a leadership position of their own. Most importantly, mentoring helps the mentor develop the next generation of leaders, and everybody wins.