HomeThe InfluencersThe seven pillars of a thriving mentoring relationship

The seven pillars of a thriving mentoring relationship

Being mentored can be a fantastic experience. Beverly Landais, a professionally certified coach, shares the seven pillars that build a successful and beneficial mentoring relationship

A mentoring relationship has many benefits, not least the support, guidance and advice from someone who has experienced the issues that you may be facing. Great mentors assist their mentees in setting personal development and career goals. They will help the mentee to create a plan to achieve their goals and offer practical support to implement the plan. They also act as a sounding board for the mentee. A skilled mentor will challenge the mentee’s limiting beliefs and encourage discussion about what it takes to achieve their goals.

With such manifest benefits, why can mentoring feel like a disappointing waste of time for some?

What makes the difference? Choosing the right mentor for the right mentee is the key. When things don’t work out, sometimes a lack of personal chemistry combines with a mismatch of styles. Maybe there are different expectations for the relationship. Perhaps neither party understood the responsibilities of the commitment.

There are no doubt other reasons why some mentoring relationships never live up to the initial flush of enthusiasm. What can be done to avoid such a sorry situation? Luckily, it is not difficult to do. It takes thoughtful planning and some effort, yet the rewards are evident.

Here are the seven pillars to help you create a successful and mutually beneficial mentoring relationship:

1. Be clear about what you want. What’s your goal? Mentoring works well when both parties share a common understanding as to the purpose of the relationship. Don’t leave this to chance. If you only assume, your mentor will have to guess what you want from them, which is rarely satisfactory. Those who gain the best value from a mentoring relationship tend to be clear about what they want, and ready to communicate this from the start. Try using a SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-Bound) approach to define your goals and be willing to explain what will make the mentoring worthwhile.

2. Do your homework. Mentoring relationships are a partnership, with both parties working equally with mutual respect. A mentoring relationship develops over time. Fast forward this process by showing your mentor that you found out about their career and interests. It isn’t difficult, yet so often, people bowl up to their first meeting without preparation. How can you hope to engage the interest of your mentor if you show no interest in them?

3. Turn up prepared. Identify the gaps in your experience and knowledge by conducting a personal SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats). Be frank and open. It is not the time for false modesty, nor is it sensible to over-egg your achievements and abilities. Be authentic and realistic in the self-assessment of your skills and knowledge and validate these with your mentor.

4. Provide timely feedback. After meeting with your mentor, take the time to reflect on what you found most useful and how you might incorporate the learning gained into your plans. Turn up to each meeting after reviewing your notes. Reflect on the progress you have made since the previous session. Let your mentor know what has worked for you and share any additional ideas. Your timely communication will help them to flex their approach and adjust the content of the mentoring sessions accordingly.

5. Use discretion. A good mentoring relationship requires mutual trust. Respect this and you will gain a great deal from the process. Demonstrate good sense and maturity by not revealing to others information a mentor has shared with you in confidence.

6. Take responsibility for the outcomes. Mentoring involves transferring skills and knowledge from a more experienced to a less qualified person. Your mentor’s role is to guide and support you but remember that you are responsible for driving your career. An excellent guide will not create dependency. They understand that their role is to provide advice to help the mentee make their own decisions. It is up to you to put in the work necessary to achieve your mentoring goals.

8. Give something in return. It is a two-way relationship, so offer something back to your mentor in exchange for their time and know-how. It can be as simple as sharing an article you’ve read on a topic that interests them. Your mentor may have a charity that they support. Why not volunteer for a day’s work as a gesture of goodwill? At the very least, ask, ‘Is there something I can help you with?’ It doesn’t take much effort and will make all the difference in the value they attach to your relationship.

Beverly Landais is a Professional Certified Coach (PCC) with a senior business background. She works with people and teams to enable them to be at their resourceful best. You can contact her by email at connect@beverlylandais.co.uk.

Matt Baldwin
Matt Baldwin
Co-founder – Coast Communications

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