Having a mentor to believe in you, support you, guide and challenge you can be rewarding. Mentoring can make you aim high and achieve high. I have supported the matching of many mentoring partnerships both in and outside leadership programs. We have written materials and guides to support mentors and mentees. But I still see mentees who don’t take full advantage of the time and expertise their mentor offers. I’ve observed that the best mentoring partnership emerges when the mentee has a clear vision of what they need and want to achieve and commits fully to the mentoring relationship. It’s important to focus on what’s needed to maximise sessions with a mentor. Here’s what I’ve learned from experience.
How Can a Mentor Help You?
A mentor is a trusted person with experience. They volunteer their time and have a genuine interest in helping others. There are so many ways they can support you. Here are a few. They can;
- Share their own career story / achievements / challenges that they have overcome
- Support you to set goals
- Support you to take action on your goals and hold you accountable
- Help you to look at challenges in a new way and to push through resistance
- Act as a cheer squad by providing confidence when you don’t feel you have enough yourself
- Guide you regarding opportunities that show up
- Challenge your thinking and help you see things in a different way
- Build your confidence by supporting you to act and
- Suggest places for you to network, gain advice and develop new knowledge and skills.
Sounds like the world is your oyster here so how come your mentoring relationship may not be going as smoothly as you’d like?
What Makes a Productive Mentoring Relationship?
I recently asked a client interested in becoming a mentor what qualities they would like their mentee to have. Here’s a few of what they listed off;
- Open minded
- Motivated and
So, please use this as a checklist for yourself as a mentee. Do you show up to your mentoring session with these qualities in abundance. If you do, then in our experience you can expect it right back. If you don’t, then your mentor is likely to wonder what they can offer you and to not be as present or giving as they could be for you. You hold the key.
The Importance of a Shared Vision and Shared Expectations
A mentoring partnership works best when your mentor understands your vision and goals. They aren’t mind readers, so it’s up to you to share this with them. Share with them what you are going for / what you really want to do or achieve. You might find it scary to be open and upfront. You have to. Your mentor expects it. Otherwise they will have no idea what your mentoring goals are and hence will flounder in their support of you. This is the number 1 reason mentors tell me they can find mentoring hard going. You have the key to make it easy and rewarding for you both.
Plan Your Mentoring Sessions
Now you have shared your vision and goals with your mentor and they have a clear understanding of what you are going for and want to achieve then you’re ready to make each session count. Take time to plan a rough outline of what you want to cover before each session. Think about this from a professional and personal perspective. Write down a theme for the session. Then prepare some questions. 2 or 3 key questions is enough for a 30 – 45 mins session. I strongly suggest you email this to your mentor ahead of your session. We know mentors like to have time to think through how best to support you and they can only do this if they know what you want to focus on.
Do the Work
Yes, you read this one right! It’s up to you to do the work. Mentoring is not just showing up to a session with your mentor and then ticking this off your ‘to do’ list until your next session. Be responsible for your own development. Your mentor is there to share their experience, offer suggestions and support you. You are there to do the work! Mentors tell me they like nothing better than when their mentees let them know they have tried something they have suggested or taken on board an idea or piece of advice. Never waste your mentor’s time. Always do the work.
Review your Progress
I can’t recommend this one enough. You can get so busy in your mentoring sessions and then actually doing the work post mentoring session that you can forgot to review your progress. Reviewing your progress helps regroup energy and reset your commitments. Easy ways that we have seen work are to;
- Build in a 5 minute update and review of what you’ve been up to, achieved or what’s worked or hasn’t at the beginning of each and every mentoring session and
- Make every fourth session a review session. This helps you to maintain focus on your vision and goals and it really helps your mentor to refocus on what you want your mentoring experience to be. This places them in a much better position to help you.
I think this is a must do, not a nice to do in your mentoring partnership. You can guide your mentor by saying “I want to start today’s session by reviewing what I’ve done and achieved since we last got together…”. Once you have spent 5 minutes on this then go on to the theme and questions you have planned and shared with your mentor.
Over to You
Ok, go ahead and reread this article. Look for things that really resonate for you. Please take one or two or maybe even three things from this article and take into your next mentoring partnership and or session. It really will make a difference and you will find you gain more from your mentoring experience than you ever thought possible. Good luck. And please feel free to reach out to me here if you think I can help in any way.
Until next time!