Have you ever kept trying and trying to get something done or to figure something out on your own? It can be maddening, right? The thing is, we don’t have to go it alone and we can find someone to help us pave a path for where we’re trying to go. Maybe they have a different level of expertise, a different thought process, or another area where you want to learn and grow. Enter the Mentoring relationship! Let’s talk about what good Mentoring is and how to find a Mentor and nurture a meaningful Mentor/Mentee relationship. It’s important to also call out what Mentorship is not. Let’s start with the latter, so we can spend the bulk of the article talking about what it is.
As with most things, there are roles and responsibilities on both sides. The role of the Mentor can be a Teacher, but it doesn’t necessarily automatically become that. It may depend on what your needs are and what you’ve established with your Mentor. We’ll come back to that. The role of the Mentor is more of a Coach and Advisor than telling you directly which decisions to make or handing over endless buckets of information. Growth comes from Curious Questions and willingness to learn, be uncomfortable, and develop. While there should be a healthy relationship with your Mentor and boundaries should be exercised, your Mentor is not really meant to be your friend and tell you what you want to hear, but what you need to hear. Even in friendships, it’s good to have that balanced friend who will give you the Tough Love. The Mentor is not on speed-dial for you, so please be organized and respect boundaries. Find out first what days typically work best for them. Only text if it’s been mutually-agreed upon. Be mindful of “off-work” hours and Time Zones. This is where establishing a good cadence with your Mentor early on will serve you both well. If your Mentor is in your workplace, practice healthy boundaries there too and don’t randomly show up to their office unexpectedly or without an appointment or a phone call or e-mail.
You don’t necessarily need to be so formal around the “agreement” you have as Mentor/Mentee, but establishing some good ground rules for interacting within the relationship is good. A best practice is to discuss early on what each of you is looking for from the relationship to ensure expectations are met on both sides and to vet whether it is even feasible to enter the relationship. You may want to identify standing meeting dates for a regular cadence. As the Mentee, you should be clear on what you need guidance on. You’ll want to have a clear vision for what you’re looking for a Mentor to help support you with. It will help the relationship start out strong from the start. From the Mentor perspective, Mentors should be realistic about whether they can take on a Mentee based on other commitments, and Mentees should honor showing up to meetings too. Sometimes on either side, these meetings get moved way too often, which can erode the integrity of the relationship. If a meeting has to be moved, allow enough grace period to do so. The last thing you want to do is become disruptive to either schedule.
A Mentor can be found in the workplace. It could be your Manager, a different leader within the organization, a colleague, a peer, or someone from a different Department. A Mentor can also be found outside of the workplace too, and could be someone from your church, a family member, someone from an internal or external networking group, or someone you’ve connected with on Social Media. Many more people are reaching across to find Mentors with the impacts of the Pandemic. The Mentor/Mentee relationship can be enriched through different Generations, backgrounds, Genders, and there is a significant benefit to the diversity of that being the case. Remember. You don’t have to go it alone. With the right expectations set upfront, you’ll be on your way to your Mentorship soon enough!
This Breaking the Glass “Allies, Mentors, and Sponsors” moderated Panel Discussion may be very helpful to you too if you can carve out an hour. Consider how you're showing up for self and others, and how you can support your team, peers, and others in the organization through Mentorship, Allyship, or Sponsorship. Pro Tip: These efforts also support Diversity Equity Inclusion initiatives and fostering strong cultures, engaged teams, and Employer Brands- as you know by now, helping to build these environments is our jam!