Best Practices for Making the Most of Your Mentoring Relationship

Oct 30, 2017
| Amanda Schnieders, Chronus
Making the most of your mentoring relationship
 
Learning through others is a powerful tool that can help to unlock the potential in all people. This is the power of mentoring. When it’s applied to the workplace, it has the ability to increase employee engagement, development and retention. It’s no wonder why 70 percent of Fortune 500 companies offer formal corporate mentoring programs to their workforce.
 

Benefits of Mentoring

Mentoring is a strategy that helps companies position themselves more competitively as an employer, improve diversity and inclusion, and cultivate a learning culture that prioritizes helping employees meet their career goals. For mentors and mentees, mentoring provides learning and development benefits that can impact their trajectory and growth as employees.
 

For a Mentor

Those willing to share knowledge with peers and colleagues across the organization can gain leadership development, as well as a legacy of impacting others around them. Participating in a mentoring relationship can enable a mentor’s leadership and facilitation skills in guiding his or her mentee through development challenges. The experience can also impart new knowledge on the mentor. Learning is rarely a one-way street. As the mentee is learning and navigating the relationship, so the mentor will gather new takeaways from the perspective of the mentee. This also helps the mentor to engage in the relationship in an impactful way that helps the mentee and company as a whole.
 

For a Mentee

A mentee has the privilege to engage with a colleague or superior for the purpose of growth in a personalized manner, addressing specific needs and concerns. Participating in a mentoring relationship helps to expand a mentee’s network, giving them the chance to interact with more people in the company they might never have connected with, especially senior leaders and executives. Creating this network allows mentees to receive valuable feedback on where they are currently at in the company, and what tasks or milestones they need to accomplish in order to progress. Mentoring in the workplace allows the mentee to engage in experiential learning, so mentees are able to apply concepts immediately, which helps them better understand and internalize what they’re being taught.
 

Best Practices as a Mentor

While there are many mentoring program formats and uses, it’s best to prepare for participation in any program with a few tips and reminders in order to be successful.
 

What to Prepare Before The First Meeting

Before entering a mentoring relationship, make sure you’re in it for the right reasons. Are you prepared to serve as a counselor, coach, friend, and even guardian? A mentor must be ready to serve the mentee in whatever guidance they need. It’s not just about sharing your experiences, but listening and understanding the mentee’s as well. You also need to make sure you have the time to devote to mentorship. You’ll likely need to be available multiple times a month of even week over the course of the mentoring program. Make sure you have this time to spare. You don’t want to overload yourself with commitments, and then have to back out on your mentee. Lastly, go in with the intention of really committing to the relationship, and ready to develop a deep trust and honest with your mentee.
 

What to Talk About

It’s important to discuss a few ground rules in the beginning of a mentor/mentee connection. Make sure you’re on the same page about how often you’ll meet, and how (i.e. via email, phone, in person, etc.). Establish how you will handle it if one of your availability changes over the course of the program. It’s also important to discuss candidly how you’ll handle differences of opinions throughout the course of your relationship. People have differing opinions regarding any number of subjects such as politics, workplace protocol, religion, and more. Discuss up front the best way to progress through disagreements. Finally, set goals for yourself. It’s not just about the mentee’s progression. What do you, as a mentor, want to get out of this?
 

Key Mentor Skill for Success: Five Levels of Listening

You can help yourself be more aware of your aptitude and attentiveness for mentorship by focusing on the different levels at which you can be listening. Here are the five levels of listening to be aware of:
 
  • Listening to Disagree – Listening while waiting to disagree with something your mentee is saying
  • Listening to Respond – Listening but paying more attention to what you will say in response compared to what your mentee is actually talking about
  • Listening to Understand -  Listening in order to understand your mentee’s perspective
  • Listening to Help Your Partner – Listening not only to your mentee’s words, but also how they are saying it, why they are saying it, and what they are not saying
  • Listening Without Intent – Pure, fully present level of listening where you’re fully present and really attune to the experience of your mentee

Bring these levels up with your mentee and challenge yourselves to identify which level you usually listen at, and at which level you’d like to more actively listen.
 

Best Practices as a Mentee

It’s really important for a mentee to drive the mentoring relationship. In order to do this, it’s best to understand a few best practices to keep in mind.
 

What to Prepare Before The First Meeting

As the driver of the relationship, the mentee is in charge of identifying the goals he or she wants to reach, and the outcomes wished for from the mentoring relationship. Having some direction in mind allows the mentor to respond to the items rather than trying to mind read where the mentee wants to start with growth and development. Beyond goals, make sure to have next steps in mind as well. Mentorships can lose steam if no one if driving the progression. Take charge and steer the interactions towards the topics most top of mind.
 

What to Talk About

Building trust and rapport is a huge part of ensuring a successful mentoring relationship. Come in with an open mind and candid demeanor to help build that rapport with your mentor. Ice breakers are a great way to get a conversation going, and get to know your mentor. As you build the relationship, you’ll see how your mentor can most likely help you achieve your objectives.
 

Key Mentee Skills for Success: A Growth Mindset

We often think our brains reach a certain capacity or ability at a certain age, and can’t get any smarter, but research has found that the brain is much more malleable than once believed. This means our minds have the capability over time to continue growing and learning. Keep this in mind during your mentoring interactions. Rather than assuming you’ve, for instance, always been bad at math and therefore will never be good at math and can’t begin to think of a job in finance, keep an open mind to the things you can still learn and the vital pointers and tips your mentor can show you to improve your skills. Reflecting about a growth mindset with your mentor will help both of you determine where around you can craft a more determined growth mindset at in order to serve your goals.
 

Mistakes to Avoid in a Mentoring Relationship

While there is no strict rulebook for how to ensure the best mentoring relationship, there are a few things both mentees and mentors can watch out for in order to set up a relationship for the greater likelihood of success.
 
  • Not Listening – Thinking you already know what your mentor or mentee might say, and therefore disregarding the words and guidance they are actually dispelling.
  • Failing To Setup Goals – Without goals to adhere to in a mentoring relationship, many connections can result in well-meaning, but ultimately rambling conversations that don’t lead to the outcomes intended.
  • No One Drives Engagement – If no one drives the continued engagement, it is easy for things to go silent in a relationship. It is often best for the mentee to drive the continued interaction and agenda setting in the relationship, but either way, if no one takes control the relationship can easily get off track.

Being a good mentor or mentee is a serious commitment but it’s important to have fun, which will encourage both parties to put more effort into being an effective mentor or mentee.
 

Conclusion

Learning through others has proven benefits for employers and employees alike. Improvements in employee development, engagement, and retention can create a better productivity and culture for any company. Employees want more than just to be promoted to the next level. They’re looking for continual learning and opportunities. So shift the focus to creating dynamic mentoring programs that allows employees to drive their own career development.

To learn how to start a high-impact mentoring program at your organization, download the Chronus eBook.

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