by Rik Nemanick, Ph.D.
When I started this newsletter almost six years ago, much of the focus was on helping individuals and organizations get the most out of mentoring relationships. Most of the articles in the newsletter at that time were tips for mentors and protégés on how to approach mentoring to build such partnerships for both their own benefit and the benefit of the organization. Although we have broadened the scope of our newsletter over the last few years to focus on leadership more broadly, I thought it was a good time to review some of those tips and summarize them here (back issues can still be found on our website for the original articles).
- Be intentional about mentoring. Whether you are seeking your own mentor or helping someone else find one, you should always think about why mentoring is the right solution. What do you hope to learn from a mentor? Will you be able to devote the time to make mentoring work? What do you believe a mentor will help you achieve that you cannot achieve on your own?
- Focus on your goals. Mentoring is most effective if you can articulate your longer term career goals. Your goals give a mentor insight into what drives you as well as a direction in which to start. Even if your goals change over the course of mentoring, starting with them will give you and your mentor a good start.
- Seek out multiple mentors. If you are seeking out a mentor on your own (instead of having one assigned as part of a formal mentoring program), you should look for more than one person to approach for mentoring. Not everyone will be interested or available to be a mentor at this time. Be ready to talk to several people about mentoring. Also, most successful leaders can point to more than one mentor over the course of their careers.
- Add a little structure. After you find someone who seems like a good mentor, ask if you could meet on a somewhat regular basis to check in and get advice. This small ask will help your potential mentor see his or her role as a mentor more clearly and give you permission to get in touch more frequently. Setting an expected meeting schedule will help you start to build the mentoring relationship.
- Drive the partnership. Successful mentoring depends on the degree to which the protégé drives the relationship. Don’t wait for your mentor to call you. Keep in regular touch with your mentor (try to meet at least bimonthly outside a formal program, monthly as part of a mentoring program) in order to build momentum. When you meet with your mentor, think about what you want to discuss in advance. Also, close the loop on action items you discussed during the last meeting.
- Give and seek feedback. Make sure you give your mentor feedback periodically on what you have gotten out of the partnership. While you know what you have learned, how you have been affected, your mentor is often in the dark as to how the relationship has helped. Often some of a mentor’s motivation comes from seeing someone grow and learn. Your feedback lets a mentor know if she or he is actually helping. Also, seek feedback regularly on how you are doing relative to your goals.
Most of these tips are covered in more depth in back issues of our newsletter which can be found on the website.