The importance of managing mentoring expectations
When a mentoring relationship goes off the rails it is usually down to the mentee, so it’s important to manage mentoring expectations.
I am seeing a rekindling of interest in mentoring after the process seemed to go through a period of bad press with quotes such as “women are over-mentored and under sponsored” doing the rounds for some time. This particular line was very damaging and came out of research from major international organisations which have formal mentoring programmes.
The reality is that 99% of organisations pretty much globally are SMEs, and many don’t offer either mentoring or sponsoring programmes. This means that the majority of women have little or no access to either group. One of the biggest complaints I get is from women who find their senior leaders closed and unapproachable. So for many women finding a mentor is a challenge.
In all the mentoring pairings I have been involved in when a mentoring relationship goes off the rails it is usually down to the mentee, so it’s important to manage mentoring expectations.
What a mentor isn’t
1. A goal setter
Any mentoring process is driven by the mentee and it’s important to have clear goals and expectations before entering the relationship. The mentor can help you gain clarity or hone your goals, but the mentee must bring some ideas to the table of what they need from the mentoring process.
2. A coach
This infographic sets out the differences clearly but many mentees and even other experts confuse the two.
3. A counsellor or therapist
A mentor is not a counsellor or a therapist, and if there are any challenges which maybe rooted in historical psychological issues the mentor should advise their mentee to seek other specialist support.
Advantages of a mentor
1. Experienced advisor
A mentor offers the benefit of their experience. They support professional development by giving advice based on their own deeper experience or knowledge. Finding a mentor can be done via formal processes sometimes offered in large companies, or informally via network connections or professional introductions.
2. Supports professional development
Whether this comes via a formal programme or informal contact a mentor’s role is to develop their mentee in the best way possible. They encourage the mentee’s professional growth by supporting their goals and giving appropriate actionable feedback.
Worth a read: Men Mentoring Women Post #MeToo – 3 Plus International
3. Transfers knowledge
With deep experience in a particular function or with advanced skill sets, mentors can share valuable insights and information to support a mentee’s career success. Access to this type of experience can help a mentee can gain confidence knowing that their challenges aren’t unique and someone else has been what they have been through, and there are lessons to be learned.
4. An accountability partner
A mentor is a mentee’s accountability partner and helps them stay on track to achieve their goals. Reaching these important milestones, no matter how small, can be a real confidence booster. Supporting a mentee to both play to their strengths and gently nudging them out of their comfort zones,contributes to their professional development and learning.
5. A cheerleader
A mentor is a mentee’s principal cheerleader, supporting and encouraging them to achieve whatever goals they have set themselves.
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6. Makes network introductions
With more miles on the tires, mentors offer not just a wealth of experience, but access to a wide and deep network. When a mentor trusts their mentee they are usually willing to share their network connections and make helpful introductions. Building up a strong rapport with a mentor is critical because any actions taken by the mentee will reflect on the mentor.
One of the most common complaints I have heard from mentors is the abuse of their network introductions usually by failing to engage in a timely way rather than anything inappropriate.
The only time to look for a mentor – is now but when you do it’s important to manage mentoring expectations.
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