WASBO Mentor Resources

Characteristics of Quality Mentors

Successful mentors share many common characteristics or traits.  They are experienced in the field of school business management and possess a willingness to share skills, knowledge and expertise.  These mentors demonstrate a positive attitude and act as a positive role model exhibiting enthusiasm for the profession.  Effective written and verbal communication, as well as ongoing personal and professional goals, are present.  In addition, they value ongoing learning and professional development. Most importantly, they foster, convey and uphold the standards, norms, and values of the school business profession including the WASBO Code of Ethics.  Most importantly, successful mentors have the ability to:

Relate – The development of a positive, trusting relationship is the hallmark of a successful mentorship.  The mentor must utilize a variety of interpersonal skills to nurture the relationship, establish trust, and reflect a positive and caring attitude. Only after the establishment of a positive relationship will a mentor and protégé progress to the level of confidentiality and risk taking necessary for an effective mentorship.

Communicate – The ability to listen and communicate effectively with others is paramount.  This is one of the most difficult traits to execute successfully on a consistent basis.  Constant effort must be made to keep the lines of communication open and vibrant.

Educate – Mentors are the professionals who are committed to sharing their knowledge and expertise.  They need to recognize the needs of others and know when to offer support, direct assistance or promote independence.  Mentors are dedicated to the profession and reflect a high level of integrity, competence and responsibility.

Collaborate – Collaboration includes the sharing of ideas and expertise.  It engenders the creation and participation in a learning team.  Collaborators are approachable, flexible and supportive.  A mentor approaches the mentorship as an interactive enterprise where they will gain as much as the protégé from the partnership.

Evaluate – The mentor must be able to provide insightful observations and constructive feedback.  Appropriate evaluation techniques can help protégés attain insight into unproductive behaviors, and evaluate their capacity to change. The mentor’s over-all role is to meaningfully assist in the development of protégés rather than allowing them to avoid difficult, but relevant issues.

Model – Mentors need to share life experiences with protégés in order to personalize and enrich the relationship.  The mentor as “role model” can help motivate protégés to take necessary risks, to make decisions and take actions without the certainty of successful results, and to overcome difficulties in the journey toward professional and personal growth.

Benefits to the Mentor and the Mentor's School District

Successful mentorship relationships usually benefit everyone involved – the protégé, the mentor, the organizations with which each are affiliated, and the profession.

Benefits to the Mentor
Mentors can obtain a great deal of satisfaction from helping a less experienced protégé.  Benefits include the following:

  • Gained knowledge from more recent training of protégé
  • Opportunity to determine their leadership capabilities
  • Renewed enthusiasm for the role of the experienced professional
  • Enhanced skills in coaching, counseling, listening, leadership, and modeling

Benefits to Both School Districts
The employers of both the mentor and protégé benefit from the growth of each individual.  The school district that employs the protégé benefits from the more rapid development of the individual.  They benefit from:

  • Increased morale, productivity, and effectiveness
  • Shortened time required for new administrator to develop the necessary competencies
  • Reduced risk of errors or missed opportunities for the district
  • The mentor’s district gains from the newer information or theories shared by the protégé and from the increased leadership abilities of the mentor
  • Greater retention of qualified candidates

Ten Practical Tips for Mentors

Over the last ten years or so, mentor programs have blossomed across the country. We often think commitment and action are all it takes to make good things happen. Research shows, however, that effective mentoring takes much more.  To help these efforts be successful, author Nancy Henry of the Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory, offers the following ten tips for effective mentoring.

  1. Maintain regular contact. Mentors should assume that they are the givers in the relationship. Consistent contact models dependability and builds trust.  At least monthly contact is recommended.
  2. Always be honest. Trust and respect are the foundation on which mentorships are built.
  3. Avoid being judgmental of a colleague’s situation. Acceptance without conditions communicates that your concern comes without strings attached.
  4. Avoid excess gift giving.  Don’t do for a colleague what she/he can do for him/herself. Your greatest gift is to help a person discover his/her own solutions to problems.
  5. Don’t expect to have all the answers. Sometimes just listening attentively is all people need.
  6. Help your colleague access resources and expand support networks. Discuss the importance of maintaining positive relationships.
  7. Be clear about your expectations and your boundaries. Set up ground rules and communicate them.
  8. Avoid being overwhelmed by your colleague’s problems. Remain calm and dispassionate to help colleagues solve problems.
  9. Respect confidentiality. Good friends do.
  10. If the relationship seems to stall, hang in there.

Role of the Mentor

A mentorship is a supportive relationship established between two individuals where knowledge, skills, and experience are shared.  The protégé is someone seeking guidance in developing specific competencies, self-awareness, and skills early in their career.  The mentor is a person who has the experience and expertise in the areas of need identified by the protégé and is able to share wisdom in a nurturing way.

In this relationship, the protégé has the opportunity to ask questions, share concerns, and observe a more experienced professional within a safe, protected environment.  Through reflection and collaboration between the pair, the protégé can become more self-confident and competent in their application of knowledge and skills gained in their training.

No two mentorship relationships are the same; the relationship established is unique based on their needs, personality, learning styles, expectations, and experiences.  Mentorship can provide one or all of the following:   regular opportunities for individuals to reflect together about their hands-on work; an opportunity for skill development measured in competencies gained; and a significant, long-term effect on the life or work style of another person.

Qualities and Characteristics of Effective Mentors

  • Experienced in the field of school business management
  • Willingness to share skills, knowledge, and expertise
  • Demonstrates a positive attitude and acts as a positive role model
  • Exhibits enthusiasm in the field
  • Values ongoing learning and professional development
  • Demonstrates effective written and verbal communication
  • Sets and meets ongoing personal and professional goals
  • Fosters, conveys, and upholds the standards, norms, and values of the school business management profession including the WASBO Code of Ethics

Mentor Roles and Responsibilities

  • Enhance the professional development and success of protégés who are new, need to develop new levels of expertise, are making a career change, or wish to advance in the profession
  • Support the relationships between the protégé and others in his/her district
  • Provide constructive feedback for the protégé
  • Commit to being available and accessible in both a structured or informal manner to the protégé
  • Serve as a resource and coach to the protégé during the development of the protégé’s state required Professional Development Plan (PDP)
  • Provide specific, practical information about the school business management profession sharing knowledge, insights, materials, skills, and experience with protégé
  • Maintain confidentiality of information shared by the protégé
  • Encourage the development of leadership competencies
  • Help protégé bridge the gap between theory and practice
  • Assist protégé in setting priorities and in juggling the demands of the position
  • Participate in assessing the WASBO Mentorship Program

Duration of the School Business Management Mentorship

While it is recognized that relationships built during a mentorship experience may continue indefinitely, the School Business Management Mentorship Program is designed to extend for one year.
The level of involvement is under the joint control of the new business official and his/her mentor.  Activities range from infrequent telephone communications to periodic meetings where important experiences are shared and advice rendered.  This unstructured approach enhances program flexibility, which is necessary so that individual needs can be addressed.  However, the expectation of the mentor is that he or she make a commitment to be attentive and available to the needs of the protégé to insure his or her success.  Therefore, availability to respond to frequent questions and contact is important. 

Expectations for the Mentor

Establish and maintain frequent and ongoing contact with your protégé.

Develop a positive, professional, supportive relationship with your protégé.

Develop and sustain a plan on how you will work with your protégé over the course of the year.

  • Your plans should include methods on how you will hold each other accountable.
  • Identify specific goals that your protégé is working to achieve.

Support your protégé as they work on the Professional Development Plan (PDP). 

Be knowledgeable about Wisconsin administrator standards and how to implement them.

Suggestions for working with your protégé:

  • Weekly e-mails and/or phone calls
  • A minimum of two visits to the protégé’s school district (we encourage more if possible or desired)
  • Invitations for your protégé to join you at your school
  • Face-to-face meetings with your protégé at a WASBO professional development activity
  • Introduction to other professionals and experts in the field (networking)
  • Discussions and activities that support the protégé’s growth toward goal achievement on the professional development plan (PDP)
  • Use the online support for administrators through WASBO and other organizations and encourage your protégé to do the same
  • Discussions focused on the suggested activities included in the various handouts
  • Responses to specific requests that are unique to the protégé, their school situation, or their district
  • Maintain data on your form of accountability to each other
  • Feedback to the WASBO Mentorship Program Co-Coordinators on your experience as a mentor
  • Suggestions to the WASBO Mentorship Program Co-Coordinators on methods to improve the process and information

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