Mentoring, according to Chip Bell and Marshall Goldsmith in their “Managers as Mentors” book is, “At its most basic level, it is simply the act of helping another to learn.” For us at MarchFifteen, mentoring is defined as a pair of individuals working together in order to achieve specific objectives for skills growth and development. The pair consists of an individual who possesses wisdom, skills and knowledge, and is willing to transfer it to a person who has curiosity and needs to acquire the same wisdom, skills and knowledge. From that perspective indeed, the mentor’s role is to help the protégé learn. In our experience however, the learning is not one way. Mentors learn often equally, or even more, than protégés throughout the engagement. It is therefore a relationship that is mutually beneficial.
Since the opportunity to enter a mentoring relationship can be exciting, yet unnerving for first-time participants, here are a few tips to help you make your mentoring relationship a success:
- Know what you want to gain out of the relationship
- Be clear as to your roles and responsibilities within the mentoring
- Create S.M.A.R.T. goals and an action plan to help you stay focused on what is relevant
- Be realistic with your expectations as to what can and cannot be accomplished through mentoring
- Invest in building a trusting relationship with your mentor
- Accept responsibility for your own growth and development
- Initiate and direct the mentoring process; you have to drive the initiative, not the organization, nor the mentor
- Monitor and track your own progress and pit-stop with your mentor regularly to validate your perspective
- Confidentiality is a big thing – be clear on what is and is not confidential
- Respect the time of your mentor and always come prepared; you don’t want your time wasted, and you certainly don’t want to waste your mentor’s time
- Feedback is an intrinsic element of your mentoring relationship, be ready to receive it in a non-defensive and open-minded manner; ultimately you need to decide what to do with the information you receive
In addition, Bell and Goldsmith recommend you select a mentor that can help you be the best you can be, not one you think can help you get a promotion. Participation in a mentoring relationship is not a guarantee of career advancement. It’s a safe way to take risks and experiment with new skills and refine your ideas. But let’s not forget mentoring’s primary reason of being is to help organizations gain a competitive advantage, so all mentoring relationships are designed to be temporary. When you have met your mentoring goals, be willing to let the relationship end, reflect on your future goals, and embark on the next phase of your growth and development, with the same mentor, a different mentor, or no mentor at all.
I plan to write another blog from a mentor’s perspective, so stay tuned and in the meantime we welcome your input and continuing exchanges.