7 Things to Do in a Mentoring Relationship

“Mentoring is a two-way street. The mentor gets wiser while mentoring, and the mentee gains knowledge through his or her mentor.” Marisol Gonzalez

If you are new to mentoring, once you’ve set up your mentoring partnership you’re likely wondering, now what? If you are a mentor, you are asking yourself, “Now what do I do with my mentee?” If you are a mentee, you are asking yourself, “Now what can I expect from my mentor?”

Although being an effective mentor or mentee takes practice, you can garner ideas from the following list of activities used in successful mentoring relationships. Select two or three that are most appropriate for the mentee’s goals and how you can work best together. Or, use it as a launching pad to begin a conversation and generate ideas of ways you can support one another in the mentoring relationship.

After all, as Marisol Gonzalez states in the opening quote, mentoring is a two way street. And a mentoring relationship needs to be framed by both parties to work successfully.

1. Take time to get to know one another and understand each other’s expectations.
Mentors, clearly communicate how you will make yourself available – be realistic. If meeting face-to-face, can your mentee also call and email between meetings? If so, what is a realistic expectation for returning their emails and phone calls? mentees, ask your mentor what they hope to gain through the mentoring relationship and what time they have available outside of your regularly scheduled mentorship meetings. Honour one another’s boundaries. Like a good story, a strong beginning will make for a strong ending.

2. Share information about your strengths and growth opportunities.
Mentors, invite your mentee to think about the strengths they bring that will help them reach their goals and the growth areas they need to focus on to meet their goals. Invite them to triangulate that data by asking them to reflect on: comments made in past performance reviews, experiences in past work or educational courses they have taken, and informal feedback they have received from their managers or peers. mentees, ask your mentor to share the strengths they see is needed for you to achieve your goals, and what they have personally or commonly seen as an area for growth to achieve success in the goal you are working towards.

3. Discuss opportunities to expand one another’s network.
Mentors, consider people within your network who could be helpful to the mentee, and make a formal introduction to them. For example, maybe you are not a compensation expert, but you know your mentee is interested in exploring their interests in compensation, so you introduce them to a colleague either internal or external to your organization. mentees, ask your mentor who they want to meet to help them solve some of their internal challenges or grow their own careers. For example, a more senior HR mentor may want to form a focus group of young professionals to understand what they value when looking for a new employer. Consider who in your network you could introduce them to.

4. Invite one another to key meetings or networking events.
Mentors can observe the mentee in action and provide feedback to them on how they delivered a presentation, sold an idea, chaired a meeting, participated in a networking event, etc. mentees could attend a mentor’s meeting or networking event and the two debrief the meeting afterwards.

5. Offer to edit a letter, proposal or other non-confidential document.
Mentors can ask a mentee to analyze and critique their mentor’s documents and then discuss their lessons learned. A mentee could ask their mentor to critique their documents and make recommendations for changes, discussing why they suggest the changes.

6. Share lessons learned from experiences.
Mentors, invite your mentee to evaluate the lessons learned from their experiences – whether positive or negative. These three simple questions can be very powerful: What worked well? What didn’t work well? What will you do differently next time? mentees, invite your mentors to share lessons they have learned from situations that are similar to what you are facing. Then share the lessons you are taking away that are relevant to your situation.

7. Share resources with one another.
Mentors, recommend a book, article, podcast, or video with your protégé that will help them further their goals. mentees, share a book, article, podcast, or video with your mentor and invite them to compare their reaction with yours. Open up a discussion to how it relates to your goals.

After reviewing this list, ask yourself what other ideas come to mind that you could do in your mentoring relationship. Consider sharing your ideas with other mentors and mentee.

Lisa Holden Rovers, MSc, CPHR, PCC, is the Founder of Workplace Matters. Since 2005, Lisa has been coaching entrepreneurs and executives to grow as leaders and spark team cultures that thrive. She’s an award-winning human resources professional and a certified leadership and team coach who is passionate about helping people step into what is possible.  

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