Susan is your best employee. She’s friendly, she’s fast, she’s knowledgeable. She wins almost every incentive and the loyalty of every guest she’s ever served. You want to clone her (and maybe you should), but don’t make her a mentor.

Why not? The best mentor is not always your “best” employee. Susan is probably so effective because she’s motivated by money (and there’s nothing wrong with that). But asking her to mentor – and even offering her a cash reward for doing so – would be like asking a runner to strap on ankle weights. She’d do it, but she wouldn’t be happy about it. And she wouldn’t do it well.

So if you don’t select mentors by performance, how do you select them? Use these types of questions when interviewing prospective mentors in your operation:

How do you view an inexperienced worker? Good mentors will look at them as valuable now because of the new employee’s ability to bring a fresh perspective.

Do you consider stories of your past experience helpful? Effective mentors realize that the mentees’ experiences are more valuable than their own (for successful mentoring) and skip the war stories and tales of past successes.

Is mentoring training? This is a tough one, but true mentors help the mentee learn from a situation… instead of continually lecturing and showing the only “right” way to do something. Mentors also allow mentees to make mistakes… and then lead them in learning from those mistakes.

Should you share the mentee’s experiences? If your prospective mentor has a reputation for talking about others, skip the offer. Confidentiality is perhaps the single most important aspect of a successful mentoring relationship.

Looking for ways to motivate employees? Check out the restaurant management book Playing Games at Work: 52 Best Incentives, Contests and Rewards for the Hospitality Industry.