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Meaningful Mentoring: Build a Partnership that Works!

This season of gratitude is the perfect time to reflect on those who’ve made a positive impact on your professional career:  Think of a time that someone invested in your career. What did they do? What was the impact?  How did it make you feel?

Now, focus on where you are in your career development. Would you benefit from being mentored? Do you have the skills and sensibilities to serve as a mentor? Read on for Careerstone’s top tips for an effective and productive mentoring relationship!

Choose wisely.

The results of a positive mentoring relationship are innumerable! Strong partnerships help the protégé – or mentee –  to develop independence and critical thinking skills, contribute to the increased understanding of the needs and benefits of a multi-generational workplace, and have a positive effect on overall workplace engagement.

Effective mentors:

  • Help the mentee in developing partnership goals
  • Support vision alignment – is the mentee working in ways that will help them achieve their goals?
  • Provide authentic feedback by prompting reflection, rather than having “all the answers”
  • Seek out opportunities for the mentee’s development
  • Serve as the “glue person”

Effective mentees:

  • Know that a good mentor can help close gaps in their skillset
  • Establish the framework of the relationship
  • Arrive prepared with specific questions, feedback, requests for support
  • Make clear asks
  • Are responsible and accountable
  • Express gratitude

Let the mentee take the lead.

Being a mentee is not a passive role. Certainly, the traditional mentor has a wealth of knowledge and experience to draw from, and the mentoring relationship will thrive because of it! Don’t let the mentor assume the sole responsibility of ensuring a successful outcome; position the mentee to take the lead in planning mentor/mentee meetings. Mentees can lay the groundwork for using time wisely by:

  • Proposing each meeting’s agenda
  • Submitting their questions ahead of time
  • Creating a document outlining what they hope to accomplish through the partnership
  • Simplifying the process. Try this language on for size: “In our next meeting, I’d hope to have a quick catch-up, and then further expand on our conversation from last time. I’ll come prepared with some specific questions that I think you could help me answer.”

Build the Relationship.

Successful mentor/mentee partnerships are the result of investing time in building the relationship. Mentors and mentees should establish expectations for communicating with one another, starting by clarifying their communication preferences (When? How often? What medium?) and focusing on learning more about one another.  Consider these effective relationship-building questions that allow you to be open with your needs and create a safe environment where both mentor and mentee can share thoughts and experiences in confidence, and can expect to be challenged in a meaningful and productive way.

Work S.M.A.R.T-er.

At its core, the mentoring partnership is goal-oriented. Work together to ensure the mentee sets reasonable goals and has a clear plan for achieving those goals. Research shows that individuals who articulate their goals in writing, share them with a friend or colleague, and communicate weekly updates are 33% more likely to achieve these goals. The mentoring partnership is made for this!

Mentors can support their mentees in drafting S.M.A.R.T. goals – those that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based.  A sample S.M.A.R.T. goal for mentees might be: Complete 5 information interviews with leaders in X industry by Quarter 2; Volunteer for a new project that involves X skill I want to develop in 2022.

S.M.A.R.T. goals are more likely to be implemented by instituting a Relationship Action Plan (RAP).  RAPs help to expand your network by aligning people to your goals; for each goal you’ve outlined, consider who can help you achieve this goal.  Work from the outside in – start with thought leaders whose work you can learn from, but whom you may never actually meet. Next, identify those people in your organization who are experts in this particular skill or field. Lean in to the mentor’s experience, network, and expertise to expand the mentee’s network and depth of knowledge.

Ask for favors fearlessly.

This may involve a shift in the way you view favors. Generally speaking, people enjoy helping others, particularly those they like! The mentoring relationship is designed to be one of service. Consider this: favors can help build relationships. Favors create a shared experience that can be mutually beneficial.

When crafting your ask, reflect on how this favor will impact the other person. Is it possible that this is an opportunity for the giver to gain experience, reconnect with people in their network, or elevate a concern of their own? Ask with the expectation that they will say yes. Then, be truthful and specific when requesting your favor. Balance optimism and positivity with reality: provide details on how you might return the favor, or “pay it forward.” If you’re still nervous to ask for a favor, offer a simple way for them to opt out – “you’re the first person I’ve asked, so no worries if the time isn’t right” – when you’re comfortable and confident in asking for a professional favor, those you’re asking will be comfortable and confident in giving you an honest reply.

Express Gratitude.

Those in mentoring partnerships are focused on development. It can be challenging to stretch yourself, to be vulnerable, to ask for help, or to give advice or introductions to a carefully curated network. Infuse the mentoring relationship with gratitude. Just like writing S.M.A.R.T. goals and asking for favors, expressing gratitude requires specificity and clarity.  Reflect on the behavior you’re grateful for and get comfortable expressing the positive impact it’s made on your skills, mindset, network, and career development. Find opportunities to celebrate both mentor and mentee!

Are you interested to learn more about mentoring? Can your team benefit from implementing a mentoring program? Contact Careerstone Group for more information on the positive impact of mentoring partnerships!

Mentoring is a tool that smart organizations use to nurture and grow their people. Learn more about mentoring:

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