What YOU Need to Know Before You Become a Mentor or Coach

By Valerie Martinelli, Leadership, Life, & Career Coach/ HR & Management Consultant

Over the past few weeks I have had the privilege of sharing my insights about mentorship for women on a podcast and in a magazine interview. One of my biggest professional beliefs is that mentorship can be life-changing if it is done properly. Mentors offer us a path to personal and professional growth and development. Mentors can be someone to talk to; someone who we know will never share our secrets or betray our trust. Mentors may sometimes say things that can be difficult to hear but in the end, they always have your best interests at heart. I oftentimes tell my clients that I wouldn’t be doing them any favors if we didn’t work on the difficult things together. Why is the topic of mentorship and coaching so important?

The Role of Mentors and Coaches

Mentors can play an important role in a young woman’s career. If starting a new job, a mentor can guide you within the workplace and ease the process of adjustment. Mentors have greater knowledge and experience and can be our greatest influence. So, why is this topic so important to me? As a coach and mentor to mainly women, I have seen a very dark side of what can happen inside in the workplace as well.

Some women that come to me have not had the privilege of experiencing the benefits of mentorship and coaching inside the workplace. Rather, they have been abused one way or another. Workplace harassment and bullying are not something we discuss very often. It takes a lot for a woman to entrust another with her career and a lot of time and energy goes into mentoring and coaching relationships because as I often state- they are based on give and take like any other relationship. Mentees and coachees do not come in and sit down, take notes, and leave. They are trusting us when we tell them that they have the skills or the ability to try something new. Encouraging things should not be said or taken lightly because of the effect they have on the mind.

The Necessary Skills

Mentors and coaches require proper skillsets. One question I receive a lot is what should be looked for in a mentor or a coach? What skills and abilities should him or her possess? Both require sharp communication and leadership skills. One must also have the knowledge how to develop leadership skills in those who may be unsatisfactory. It is important to possess the ability to coach underachievers towards their success. One must remember that not everyone thinks like you do, has had our life experiences, or opportunities. Some may not feel that they are capable of great things or success. This belief system tends to be compounded if someone has been in some type of abusive situation or environment. It is important to remember to approach carefully.

Let’s break down these necessary skills a bit more in-depth:

 Essential Skills:

  • Your unique leadership style; recognize your strengths and limitations
  • Understanding the crucial differences between managing and leading
  • The secret to making your employees feel valued by you and your organization

 Coaching to Peak Performance:

  • How-to’s for establishing a more positive, energized work environment
  • Different coaching methods for different employees
  • Better-than-money motivation techniques every leader should know
  • Using a plan of action to keep individuals focused on the task at hand

How to Coach Underachievers towards Success:

  • Recognizing the reasons for errors and frustration
  • How-to’s for handling the most common employee dilemmas
  • Steps for discussing performance issues effectively
  • Understanding your role when personal issues make their way to the forefront
  • Holding employees accountable- the bottom line in dealing with underachievers

Mentoring Others to Take Their Skills to the Next Level:

  • The best leaders are also strong mentors
  • Knowledge of essential how-to’s for successful mentoring partnerships
  • Knowledge of the common mentoring mistakes and how to avoid them
  • Empowering others to tap into their personal strengths to exceed your expectations
  • How to plan for continuous development


  • How to give clear, concise instructions that cannot be misunderstood
  • Steps to offering feedback that results in positive change rather than defensiveness and anger
  • Improving your listening skills and your effectiveness
  • Strategies for maintaining open lines of communication
  • What to say when tips when for planning or lessening a verbal attack
  • Also: Tact, diplomacy, strong listening skills, empathy, and strong emotional intelligence

Using Coaching and Mentoring to Create a More Effective Team:

  • Techniques for building trust and mutual respect
  • Power tips for boosting cooperation and teamwork
  • How to keep your team motivated and energized under pressure, during a crisis, and/or change
  • Spotting burnout before it’s too late as well as how to help

These qualities are critical. When someone we trust ends up becoming a bully or acts in an abusive manner, then not only is it a betrayal but it can lead to other issues, such as emotional and psychological ones. It also can cause an inability to concentrate and a decrease in performance. In tomorrow’s post, I will explore workplace harassment and abuse a bit more to understand exactly why it needs to be prevented.


Valerie Martinelli, MPA is the CEO & Owner of Valerie Martinelli Consulting, LLC and Founder of Innovate 50/50. Connect with Val on Twitter @AskVMC or via website askVMC.com.