Perhaps you have an official mentor whom you meet twice per month to seek insight, ideas, and feedback. Alternatively, perhaps you meet with an esteemed colleague for guidance and idea-sharing informally and infrequently. Whether you have a conventional or unconventional mentor, it is in both parties’ best interest to establish a productive, beneficial relationship: one with mutual respect, appreciation, integrity, and healthy boundaries.
Here are six (typically unspoken) guidelines for establishing an effective, healthy mentorship:
- The responsibility of the relationship falls on the mentee, not the mentor. The mentee pursues a relationship with the mentor (also called a protégée), seeking advice and asking questions. You see, the mentor shouldn’t have to say, “Hey, I have a wealth of information. Can I impart it to you?” Instead the mentee says, “Wow, you have a lot of wisdom and experience. Can I ask you a thing or two?”
- The mentee comes to the mentor session with clear objectives. Make every minute of your one-hour session count. If you’ve arranged a lunch meeting or phone conversation with a mentor, come prepared with specific questions, concerns, or problems. Inform the mentor of your objectives in advance.
- Prioritize meeting commitments. Unless there is a true emergency, be at the designated mentor meeting, and be there on time. Neither the mentor nor mentee’s actions should say, “You’re really not that important to me” by failing to keep commitments.
- Prepare to hear honest feedback. A good mentor will tell you the truth. Constructive criticism may hurt your feelings, but, if applied, is a valuable component of growth.
- Respect confidentiality. The mentor and mentee should discuss what information is to be kept confidential. While it shouldn’t be private that you are meeting, some information may need to be kept private. The mentor may not want his past failures discussed over the office lunch table, and the mentee may not want the constructive criticism she received known to her peers. Set boundaries for confidentiality and respect them.
- Respect and value your mentor’s time, energy, and willingness. Your mentor is likely volunteering her wisdom and time, whether for one brief phone call or for ongoing meetings. Consider how you can let her know you appreciate her expertise. Tell her thank you; send her a thank you card; publicly acknowledge her mentorship when appropriate; and purchase her lunch when you meet for a lunch mentor session. Additionally, in effort to respect your mentor’s time, be willing to meet your mentor in a location easily accessible to her, end your session on time and do not monopolize her time. Call and visit only during times she is expecting to meet with you.
I hope this series of three blog posts has given you a fresh perspective on mentorship. We discussed what mentees can learn from mentors, thinking outside the box to find mentors, and today we learned how to have a positive mentoring experience.