For accomplished professionals, taking on a mentee can be incredibly rewarding and an opportunity to pay back some of the “karmic debt” they themselves have most likely incurred. After all, I don’t know many people who have reached the top of their game without helping a lot of people along the way!
However, becoming a successful mentor is not as straightforward as it may seem and it’s important to take stock of what you need to bring to the table to make this new partnership a success.
As a mentor myself, to several people at varying levels, here are my five “top tips” for establishing a mutually beneficial and productive professional relationship.
1) Nurture the relationship
Mentoring is all about creating and having a positive rapport with your mentee. Like any rewarding relationship, there has to be a personal connection, so I believe that you have to not only respect one another – you need to actually like each other as well.
Additionally, your ability to mentor properly will be improved if you know the whole person, not just what they do during business hours.
One note: Don’t panic if you find that the relationship isn’t working. It is better for both you and your mentee to end the relationship sooner, rather than later, and for you to point them towards someone else, whose style and personality may be a better fit. I have this “fit conversation” in the first meeting to make sure everyone is clear that if either mentor or mentee decide to opt out it is not personal but instead to ensure a quality mentoring experience.
2) Be strict with your diary
The relationship between mentor and mentee is very much a two-way street and I have to emphasise that you will only get out what you put in. Therefore, it’s important to be strict with your diary and that of your mentee.
We’re all increasingly busy and forever trying to manage our packed schedules, but if you don’t prioritise these meetings they just won’t happen. Agree how often the meetings will happen and then prioritise them. If not, the relationship can be jeopardised, especially in the beginning stages.
3) Keep the work light and manageable
From personal experience, I’ve found that sometimes you just need 15 minutes to discuss a problem your mentee might have or to agree next steps on their personal development plan.
Addressing small, actionable steps is sometimes far more productive than trying to tackle a big issue every time you sit down together. Spend the rest of your time together having some friendly banter over a coffee or pint, and see tip number one for more!
Read more tips to becoming a better mentor on page two…