I do a lot of thinking about mentoring. One reason is because mentors have changed my life and I am grateful for them. Another reason is that a lot of my consulting work is helping companies develop successful mentoring programs.
So for those who have asked over the years, and those who haven’t yet, here are my tips for making the most of your mentoring relationships.
Self-assess. Ask yourself, “What skills or knowledge do I need to get where I want to go?”
Put your mentoring goals in writing. From my experience and what the research says, the best predictor of success for a mentoring partnership is that the protégé put clear goals in writing.
Decide together how the mentoring relationship will work – like how often you will meet and where.
Commit the time. Don’t give up if the chemistry doesn’t feel right at the first meeting.
Get to know each other on a personal level. Discuss your backgrounds, interests, career histories, and organizations.
Keep confidences. Nothing kills trust in a mentoring relationship faster than a breach of confidence.
Be sensitive to cultural and gender differences.
Understand and plan for the phases of a mentoring relationship. Think now about evaluation and closure.
Whether you are a mentor or a protégé, mentoring is about learning. Keep a journal.
You don’t need a single mentor who you keep throughout your career. What you need is a mind-set that allows you to learn from those around you, no matter who they are. To get ahead, create your own multitalented “board of advisors.”
Which tip do you like best AND who was a person who inspired you or made a difference in your life? Post your comments below and I’ll do my best to respond to you personally.
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Excellent tips although I’m partial to #10. Amazingly, many of us mentor without even realizing that’s what we’re doing or have been mentored without realizing that’s how we learned. If I could travel back in time, there’s quite a few people I’d like to thank for mentoring me in so many different ways.
Thanks for your comment. Mentoring is reported to the the third most powerful relationship in people’s lives. It sounds like you’ve benefited from mentoring as I have.
I think that #5 is the most under-appreciated tip. Mentoring is a unique type of relationship. There are differences and similarities between seeing a mentor and seeing a therapist.
When you know the background of your mentor, you can give the relationship, and the input greater perspective. I’ve rarely seen a mentoring relationship which was all one-way. People actually mentor each other in these types of relationships, and because of this, there is rarely an individual who can provide oceans of advice, without getting some advantages as well.
If you know your mentor on a personal level, you can understand why he or she says some of the things that they do. Not everything may be applicable to your situation, but you won’t know without the relationship.
The other benefit is that familiarity breeds friendship, and when we are friends with others, we do more for them and we listen to them closer.
You say many wise things in your comment … you must understand mentoring well. The research bears out what you write about mentors receiving as much, if not more, from the relationship. And, as you also point out, familiarity breeds friendship. So does breaking bread together, according to research done by The Uncommon Individual Foundation (an organization that does research on mentoring). Thanks so much for writing.
My favorite is #9. Mentoring is the key to many successes. Thanks so much for sharing and posting.
Safety Solution Resources
I like #9 too because that is what mentoring is all about … learning.
Thanks for writing!
Thanks Judy for a great list. My favorite tip is #5. Trust and keeping confidences is absolutely critical for a successful mentoring relationship.
Business Performance Pty Ltd
Thanks for your comment. #5 is very important and can destroy a mentoring partnership.
Do you, or anyone else, have a personal experience or story to share about the importance of keeping confidences in a mentoring relationship? Or is my asking too confidential? 🙂
Here’s one: although it isn’t a mentoring relationship, the person is my supervisor. An incident occurred in which my opinion was that a fellow worker had shown bad judgment and caused a problem. In the midst of the crisis I told the supervisor that I thought that my fellow worker created the crisis. It was not the time to discuss it then, but I was shocked when my fellow worker told me that the supervisor had told her what I said. I expected that she would talk to all three of us together and try to sort things out so we could all learn from it! Maybe I was wrong to tell the supervisor my thoughts. What do you think? These kinds of crises keep being repeated because of the same bad judgment. When does something become gossip and pettiness and when should it be pursued? What to do about hard feelings being created? So far, I have only told my co-worker about my disagreement. The one time I went over her head (a described) it did not produce the expected response.
Hi Mary Ellen,
You might do what you had hoped your manager would do and suggest a meeting with the three of you to talk about what has happened and, without casting blame, problem solve how the situation might be better handled in the future.
What does anyone else think?
#10 hit home with me. When I first became an art student I thought that one teacher/mentor would teach me all I needed to know. Over the years I learned that no one person could ever teach me all I needed. Each teacher had their strengths and some of their strengths dovetailed with my interests and some did not. I was broadened and challenged by those who were different than me and strengthened by those who were similar. The idea was NEVER to become like anyone else, but to learn from everyone so that I could become the best ME I could be. Mentors need to encourage their proteges to know their strengths and weaknesses, identify what they can offer to the protege, and then let go and see what happens! No matter what the field, we can never get everything we need from one mentor. Thanks Lindenberger Group for the great articles!
I have had the same experience … that I find that many people have helped me out in so many different ways. Thanks for your kind words.