What’s in a Mentor? 12 Ideas for Succeeding in a Mentoring Relationship

The discussion around Mentorship is not new – according to Wikipedia, the word itself was
inspired by a character in Homer’s Odyssey – but the building importance that has been put on
the cultivation of mentors and mentees is a great opportunity for professionals of all levels in
today’s world. As I reflect on my career, pivotal decisions were guided by my most trusted
mentors. As I also reflect, some of my most rewarding career experiences have been
associated with individuals I have had the honor of assisting in a small part with their career
journey. Today, more than ever people need to have trusted sources for guidance and advice.
It’s an imperative in a complex, global business world that is under rapid transformation
because of the digital economy.

We have uncovered a set of 12 Mentoring Ideas for success. Whether you have formal
programs in your company, or you are personally seeking a mentor or mentee; perhaps these
can serve as a foundation for success.

1. Up front in the first or second interaction with a Mentor / Mentee – it’s important for
both individuals to clarify their roles. Sample conversation questions include:

  • What role would you like me to play?
  • What do you want to take away from this partnership?
  • How do we each define success?

2. A Mentor is an advisor and a trusted source for candid and open conversation.
It’s important to establish ground rules and shared expectations of confidence, honesty,
and the interactions to create a safe space for you both to interact. These efforts will
form the basis of trust, which allows for vulnerability and honesty, both of which are
required for real learning to take place.

3. If you are volunteering for an informal or formal program as a mentor: be generous with
your time. The greatest potential for failure to launch is lack of availability, or failure to get
started early.

Help the mentee understand how they can best avail of your time. Address simple
guardrails early and set clear expectations for scheduling mentor / mentee discussions
logistics. This will establish clarity and consistency for both mentor and mentee
throughout the lifecycle of the exchange.

4. As a mentee, it’s extremely important that you take advantage of the time offered to
you. Be proactive and ask how you can help make the process go more smoothly. The
level of energy and the enthusiasm you bring will demonstrate to a mentor your
commitment. Mentors are often more willing to invest and help a mentee when they
see a high level of commitment and energy getting put into the engagement.

5. Build rapport very early in the engagement. Good chemistry is an imperative – but
chemistry evolves as the relationship grows. Ways to build rapport include:

  • Mentor and Mentee each share their career journey – high points and
    challenges
  • Sharing your professional history, divulging ups and downs, helps humanize
    both parties, and build empathy and understanding.
  • Where there is discomfort, don’t run – stay curious and use it as an opportunity
    to learn more about the individual.
  • As a mentee, you can share a very difficult experience either that you went
    through and resolved or that you are in and could use assistance with.

6. Embrace deep collaboration and reciprocity. That means that it’s important for both
parties to understand how each person can assist the other person. Mentor and
mentee relationships are not one way – it’s important for both parties to explore how
they might assist the other person in his/her business.

  • Questions to ask include?
    • What are your goals?
    • How can I best support you professionally? Personally?
    • What are your personal interests?
    • What’s important to you?
    • Any big opportunities or needs you have?

7. Leverage Video Chat. If you can’t be together face to face, leverage collaboration tools like
video. Video elevates the collaboration factor exponentially over email and phone.

8. Embrace the development discussion and use strength and intelligence assessments.

Three tools I really like are Strength Finders, Emotional Intelligence and Meyers Briggs.
All of them get underneath an individual’s strengths, blind spots and areas for growth,
and they help the person increase self-awareness. They can then form a basis for
further conversation around the key areas of focus.

9 . Mentor and mentee relationships happen at different times and last for different
durations. Consider diversity in all its shapes and forms Explore having some mentor /
mentee relationships be from a different part of the world, gender, different
background and age mentors studies are clear – greater diversity in thinking can help
companies achieve over 30% more in terms of productivity (Deloitte 2017 Diversity
Study.
International companies and agencies can start by looking at existing structure and

10. Take mentoring as your personal responsibility; don’t wait for the formal or
informal program. Where you see talent, as either a mentors or mentee, cultivate spontaneous connections. Start small. Ask a question. Ask for an opinion. Ask for help.

Rapport can be built in many ways, and often those organic or informal connections can
yield as much success as formal programs.

11. Take breaks from the relationship when necessary.
Sometimes, workload, travel and life gets in the way and commitments need to shift
gears. Taking a break can help re-vitalize a mentor – mentee relationship in many ways.
In fact, it may be a welcome opportunity that offers the mentee time to apply anything
he/she has learned.

12. When a relationship is genuinely lacking in chemistry or is not the right fit, don’t be
afraid to discuss it openly. Look for the opportunity for redirection. Mentors could put
you in contact with a peer if a successful cadence or comfortable exchange of ideas
cannot be established. Taking this approach ensures a positive outcome for both
parties in what otherwise could be a difficult situation

Mentoring is a privilege for both individuals. In a world of hyper connectivity, building real and
genuine connections has never been more challenging. Whether you are selected to participate
in a formal program, inspired to invest time in young talent or learn from an expert in your
field, it’s important to be open to all approaches, and be single minded about making it a
priority. These important relationships just may be the catalyst for your career or your life long
legacy.



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