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How to get the best out of mentorship

How to get the best out of mentorship

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Mentoring is one trend that continues to grow and gain popularity, and that’s a very good thing. 82% of women agree that mentorship is important, yet only 1 out of every 5 women actually have a mentor. Mentorship plays a key role in helping women advance at work and climb the corporate ladder, but it’s only effective if the mentor-mentee relationship is a good match. Since a mentor is a person you’ll be working closely with, compatibility is crucial to success.

Once you’ve found a person you’re compatible with, how do you get the most out of that relationship?

Be curious.

Step out of your comfort zone and be curious. This is perhaps the most beneficial piece of advice that you need to follow to get the most out of a mentor relationship. Ask thought provoking questions that make you dive deeper for answers. They shouldn’t be questions that can be answered in the spur of the moment, but rather leave you searching for the answer. These questions should linger in your mind while you think about them after your sessions.

Explore the possibilities of doing the things that scare you. Learn as much as you can about them until they no longer scare you. Talk through challenges with your mentor so that you can turn your fear into excitement. This is exactly what a mentor relationship is for. Mentors will help you find answers to your questions that will help you dispel your fears.

Be honest with your mentor.

Your mentor is there to help you, and they truly have your best interests at heart. Be 100% honest and 100% open to feedback. You should feel comfortable enough to fully open up and not hold anything back with them. Inhibitions have no place in a mentor discussion. Remember, they are not judging you. If you hold back your thoughts and feelings when talking to them, you’re not doing yourself any favors.

Be honest with your questions as well as any information you share. If you want something, ask for it and don’t beat around the bush hoping your mentor will pick up on your hints. This will be frustrating for the both of you. Share your thoughts fully and don’t leave out details. Give them the full picture of your challenges, needs, goals, and accomplishments so they can understand how to best help you.

Respect each other.

Respect goes both ways – you should respect your mentor and they should respect you. The best mentor-mentee relationships are built on trust. Mutual trust ensures that you both feel comfortable letting your guard down, knowing that sessions are held in confidence. Respect each other on a personal and professional level and respect each other’s time. Be punctual to your appointments and try to stay within the time limit you’ve established. Respect each other’s boundaries so that neither party feels taken advantage of.

As a mentee, it can be tempting to want to ask your mentor every time a question arises, especially if they’ve agreed to make themselves available to you outside of your scheduled sessions. Save the times that you do reach out to them for the big things, and make a list of the smaller questions you come up with to ask at your next session. This shows that you respect their time, and also forces you to put things into perspective and focus on what’s really important.

Know exactly what you want to get out of the relationship.

Before you get started, you and your mentor should set up some ground rules and establish a big picture goal and outcome for your sessions. This goal should be decided together to ensure you’re both on the same page. If you’re going to be working with a mentor long term, set a few smaller goals along the way. This gives you something to work towards and helps keep sessions on track and focused. Without a goal, you won’t know how much progress you’re making, and you may feel like you aren’t getting enough out of your mentor relationship.

Explore the possibilities of doing the things that scare you. Learn as much as you can about them until they no longer scare you. Talk through challenges with your mentor so that you can turn your fear into excitement. This is exactly what a mentor relationship is for. Mentors will help you find answers to your questions that will help you dispel your fears.

Give as well as get.

You can learn from each other! Don’t be afraid to share advice. It’s not overstepping or crossing any boundaries, it’s simply taking your relationship another step further. Being able to both give and take will enhance the relationship for both parties, and will take your mentor-mentee relationship to the next level.

Remember, your mentor is there to help you succeed. This may mean that they have to give you some tough love or advice that’s hard to hear. Be gracious and know that they are doing this to help you! It’s not easy to receive criticism, but coming from a mentor it’s meant entirely to help you accomplish your goals.

This article is part of a series on Mentorship. Read part 2: What To Look For In A Mentor, part 3: How To Be A Great Mentee, and part 4: Questions To Ask Your Mentor.

What’s your mentor success story? Join the conversation on Twitter and use hashtag #MentorSuccessStory.

How to get the best out of mentorship

Tweet This

Mentoring is one trend that continues to grow and gain popularity, and that’s a very good thing. 82% of women agree that mentorship is important, yet only 1 out of every 5 women actually have a mentor. Mentorship plays a key role in helping women advance at work and climb the corporate ladder, but it’s only effective if the mentor-mentee relationship is a good match. Since a mentor is a person you’ll be working closely with, compatibility is crucial to success.

Once you’ve found a person you’re compatible with, how do you get the most out of that relationship?

Be curious.

Step out of your comfort zone and be curious. This is perhaps the most beneficial piece of advice that you need to follow to get the most out of a mentor relationship. Ask thought provoking questions that make you dive deeper for answers. They shouldn’t be questions that can be answered in the spur of the moment, but rather leave you searching for the answer. These questions should linger in your mind while you think about them after your sessions.

Explore the possibilities of doing the things that scare you. Learn as much as you can about them until they no longer scare you. Talk through challenges with your mentor so that you can turn your fear into excitement. This is exactly what a mentor relationship is for. Mentors will help you find answers to your questions that will help you dispel your fears.

Be honest with your mentor.

Your mentor is there to help you, and they truly have your best interests at heart. Be 100% honest and 100% open to feedback. You should feel comfortable enough to fully open up and not hold anything back with them. Inhibitions have no place in a mentor discussion. Remember, they are not judging you. If you hold back your thoughts and feelings when talking to them, you’re not doing yourself any favors.

Be honest with your questions as well as any information you share. If you want something, ask for it and don’t beat around the bush hoping your mentor will pick up on your hints. This will be frustrating for the both of you. Share your thoughts fully and don’t leave out details. Give them the full picture of your challenges, needs, goals, and accomplishments so they can understand how to best help you.

Respect each other.

Respect goes both ways – you should respect your mentor and they should respect you. The best mentor-mentee relationships are built on trust. Mutual trust ensures that you both feel comfortable letting your guard down, knowing that sessions are held in confidence. Respect each other on a personal and professional level and respect each other’s time. Be punctual to your appointments and try to stay within the time limit you’ve established. Respect each other’s boundaries so that neither party feels taken advantage of.

As a mentee, it can be tempting to want to ask your mentor every time a question arises, especially if they’ve agreed to make themselves available to you outside of your scheduled sessions. Save the times that you do reach out to them for the big things, and make a list of the smaller questions you come up with to ask at your next session. This shows that you respect their time, and also forces you to put things into perspective and focus on what’s really important.

Know exactly what you want to get out of the relationship.

Before you get started, you and your mentor should set up some ground rules and establish a big picture goal and outcome for your sessions. This goal should be decided together to ensure you’re both on the same page. If you’re going to be working with a mentor long term, set a few smaller goals along the way. This gives you something to work towards and helps keep sessions on track and focused. Without a goal, you won’t know how much progress you’re making, and you may feel like you aren’t getting enough out of your mentor relationship.

Explore the possibilities of doing the things that scare you. Learn as much as you can about them until they no longer scare you. Talk through challenges with your mentor so that you can turn your fear into excitement. This is exactly what a mentor relationship is for. Mentors will help you find answers to your questions that will help you dispel your fears.

Give as well as get.

You can learn from each other! Don’t be afraid to share advice. It’s not overstepping or crossing any boundaries, it’s simply taking your relationship another step further. Being able to both give and take will enhance the relationship for both parties, and will take your mentor-mentee relationship to the next level.

Remember, your mentor is there to help you succeed. This may mean that they have to give you some tough love or advice that’s hard to hear. Be gracious and know that they are doing this to help you! It’s not easy to receive criticism, but coming from a mentor it’s meant entirely to help you accomplish your goals.

This article is part of a series on Mentorship. Read part 2: What To Look For In A Mentor, part 3: How To Be A Great Mentee, and part 4: Questions To Ask Your Mentor.

What’s your mentor success story? Join the conversation on Twitter and use hashtag #MentorSuccessStory.

by Rik Nemanick, Ph.D.

Are you getting the most out of your mentoring experience? Many mentees who have mentors with whom they’ve been matched through a formal mentoring program wonder what they should do with their mentors. Below are some suggestions I’ve collected from participants in mentoring programs I’ve facilitated over the years.

1. Spend time with your mentor. While this may seem painfully obvious, you aren’t going to get much out of your mentor if you don’t see her/him. Make sure you have meetings on the calendar, at minimum an hour a month. If you don’t, get some booked. If you and your mentor have a hard time coordinating schedules, make sure you schedule your next three meetings.

2. Articulate your goals and objectives. Your mentor can only help you if your goals are known. Spend time establishing longer term career goals (what do you want to be doing in five years) and then establish with your mentor what your near term objectives are for getting there. If you already established mentoring objectives, pull them out and see how you are progressing.

3. Come to meetings prepared. Don’t show up expecting your mentor to do all of the pre-work. Make sure you have an agenda. Review your notes from the last meeting, including action items. Bring items to discuss (performance reviews, e-mail from colleague, interesting article you’ve read, etc.).

4. Give your mentor feedback. Your mentor will be much more effective if he/she knows whether his/her mentoring is effective for you. If your mentor doesn’t listen enough or tells boring stories that go nowhere, speak up. Don’t waste your time or your mentor’s if things aren’t going how you would like. If things are going well, let your mentor know what is working.

5. Have your mentor observe you in action. The better a mentor knows you, the better she/he can work with you. Find opportunities for your mentor to see you give a presentation, lead a meeting, or participate in a team meeting. This will give your mentor better insight into who you are as well as providing an opportunity for feedback.

6. Ask to observe your mentor. Some people are better showing you how to do something than explaining it. You can learn a lot by watching your mentor in important situations as well as everyday happenings. Sitting in on a meeting might shed light on a part of the organization with which you were unfamiliar.

7. Ask your mentor about his/her goals. While much of the focus of mentoring is on you, your mentor probably has career goals as well. You can learn a lot about your mentor by discussing her/his goals. In addition, your mentor’s goals may give you new ideas for your own career path.

8. Build your network. The most successful people usually have more than one person to whom they turn for advice. Ask your mentor about people in his/her circle that you might meet. While you may not find others right away who would be good mentors for you, you will be laying the groundwork for possible future relationships while building your own social capital.

How to get the best out of mentorship

How to get the best out of mentorship

The word “Mentor” has origins in Greek Mythology. Odysseus’s great friend and advisor was named . [+] Mentor. While Odysseus was away fighting, Mentor cared for his Telemachus, Odyssesus’s son, through trust and affection. In this statue, Mentor Forces Telemachus to Abbandon Eucharis on the Island of Calypso, by Tito Angelini (Photo credit: j. kunst)

One of the many ways that women in the Committee of 200 “pay it forward” during their time as members is by visiting universities around the world to speak with, encourage, and share their stories with young undergraduates and MBA students.

During the Annual Conference this year, fellow C200 members and I visited Queens College to discuss relevant topics around women and business. One of the topics that caught my attention, as well as many other’s in the C200, was the conversation around mentors. It immediately caused me to reminisce about the people in my life who challenged me to keep striving and growing.

Early in my career, Boone Powell, Sr., the head of Baylor University Medical Center, promoted me to Director of Public Relations. I was 23. We had a famous political prisoner as a patient that was arriving from another country for heart surgery. I got a call from the State Department and they informed me that they would be literally moving in with me. I went to Mr. Powell and said I was worried that I would have a mishap. He looked me straight in the eyes and said, “Because you are so cautious, you WILL NOT make a mistake. I have total confidence in you.”

My mentor’s advice gave me confidence to handle tough situations for the rest of my career. Other C200 members had similar stories.

Having a mentor throughout your career is a valuable asset to your growth, but there are often things that people forget while searching for and growing relationships with their mentors.

During our time at Queens College, comments from Maryann Bruce, President of Turnberry, caught my attention. Turnberry is a private business services company, where Maryann advises clients on strategic business issues.

Here are her thoughts on mentorship that stuck with me.

  1. Find the right mentor. This is someone who you look up to, admire and more importantly, trust. They need to be someone who takes an active interest in your development in order to help you succeed in both your personal life and professionally.
  2. Don’t forget it is a two-way street. “The mentoring relationship should be centered on mutual respect, trust and support from both sides rather than the mentor always giving support and the mentee always receiving it,” Maryann explained. “You will be more receptive of your mentor’s feedback if you take an active, participatory role in the relationship and it will be more helpful once your mentor sees the ‘real’ you.”
  3. “Always develop short and long term goals and be SMART about it.” It is key that you are completely honest with your mentor about every aspect of your career – your goals, aspirations and even strengths and weaknesses. Maryann pointed to the SMART acronym as a guide for goals. Make them Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound in order for them to make a direct impact on your life.
  4. Mentor relationships take time and attention. Meeting with your mentor should be frequent and at least an hour in length. I agree with Maryann’s point. Coming from a creative background, I have always questioned how something new is accomplished without taking the extra time to think outside of the normal box that you jump to when given a short time frame.
  5. Collaboration with your mentor is to your benefit; don’t take advantage of it. Maryann reminded me that people should always take care of the relationship with their mentor. Don’t take it for granted. Be prepared and have informed conversations about career and business issues. Be candid so you can work toward the right solution. Be open to criticism. Maryann recalled a speech by former football coach and ESPN commentator Lou Holtz, who said; “Criticism is like medicine, it is always given to make you better.” Collaboration within the mentor-mentee relationship is constructive for learning, and criticism is something you have to be prepared to accept.

My biggest takeaway from Maryann’s comments was this thought: “At the end of the day, the final decision on the best solution should always be the mentee’s. You need to make your own decisions for your own growth.”

Always listen to the advice of your mentor and trust your gut. Remember, the decision to make a change will always have your name on it.

Behind every successful person is a mentor – or several – who help them along the way. Here’s how to make modern mentoring matter.

How to get the best out of mentorship

Steve Jobs mentored Mark Zuckerberg. Warren Buffett mentors Bill Gates. Martin Luther King Jr was mentored by his college president. Bob Dylan was mentored by Woody Guthrie. Even Mother Theresa had a mentor in Father Michael van der Peet.

It seems, when we dig a little deeper into the lives of those at the pinnacle of their profession, that behind every successful person is a mentor – or several – who helped them along the way. So if mentoring works, what does meaningful mentoring really look like in today’s digital, globalised and ambiguous world? How vital are mentors to your success and what should we be doing to find, keep and have positive, successful mentoring relationships?

Mentors are experienced, trusted advisers who engage in a deeply personal relationship to proceed support and guidance; they are totally invested in the success of the mentee, and most often they are free. As an executive coach, I encourage my clients to find mentors, as well as a coach, and look for positive, energising relationships that will support them.

While mentoring is not one size fits all, the art is in the application, so here are five ways to get the best out of your mentor.

    Principle one: Know what you want from your mentor
    Before entering any mentoring relationship – even before you have started to think about the people you might talk to or invite to help you – it’s imperative that you know what it is you really want from the conversation. Remember, if you have a clear goal, for example, “How do I navigate a transition to a C-suite role?”, then you will be able to choose an appropriate mentor who can help you and you’ll be able to communicate what you need from the relationship.

Principle two: Do your homework
Work out more what you have done to date about your intended goal and how far you have come on your own. Next, think about exactly which part you need assistance with. What is it you need to get what you want?

Principles three: Define the type of mentor you want
Identify the type of relationship you are looking for – informal or formal. Informal mentoring might be meeting for a coffee to catch up in general without using the labels mentor and mentee. A more formal relationship would have set times and frameworks and might be set up by a company you work for or an institution you are part of.

Principle four: Find the mentor
This requires a creative and open mind. Look through your contact list and ask others for theirs. Chat to people on flights between cities (I’ve found two mentors this way), join an industry group or cold call. Once you have found the humans that look like they might be right for you, then it’s time to approach them, with respect and clarity, to form a connection. Remember you can learn from people who you don’t necessarily ‘like’, as long as you respect them.

  • Principle five: Be awesome
    I was going to write, don’t be a jerk, but I decided to reframe it! The simple rules are to be open and respectful of the time and place you meet your mentor. Go to your mentor, pay for the coffee, listen, be open to feedback, be willing to share without protection, check their expectations of you and vice versa, say thank you and ask if you can do anything for them. It seems obvious, however, often mentees forget and ask too much of their mentor.
  • Modern mentoring can be done online or on the phone, and should always be personalised and about the relationship. It is a powerful catalyst to success and, at its best, can be a transformative experience.

    The term ‘mentor’ comes from Greek mythology. While Odysseus was fighting the Trojan War, he appointed a ‘mentor’ to develop his son, Telemachus, into a future king and warrior. The mentor in ‘The Odyssey’ was actually Athena, Goddess of Wisdom, who took the male form in order to be accepted as an appropriate adviser and trainer to a king. Her method of teaching was to lead by example and to provide the opportunity for experiences so that Telemachus could learn from them.

    I am a strong believer that you should always be both a student and a mentor.

    As an entrepreneur, you learn new tips and tricks in your niche on a daily basis. Eventually, the time will come when you can help out someone in the same situation you were starting out.

    If you were to make a list, you might find that the pros of becoming a mentor far outweigh the cons. Actually, let’s go ahead and do that.

    Here are three perks of being a mentor, followed by three pros of being a student (and there’s no reason you can’t do both at the same time):

    Perks of Being a Mentor

    1. Giving Back

    Do you remember when you were bright-eyed and bushy tailed, ready to take on the world if only you knew how?

    Sharing the lessons you’ve learned along the way can be a fantastic way to give back. You’ll be helping a budding entrepreneur along their journey, and bettering the business world by educating others.

    Another perk of being a mentor is expanding your list of connections in the business world. Let’s be honest: We all need more people on our side. Chances are, your protege will probably become a kick-ass younger version of yourself.

    2. Become a better manager

    Managerial skills are often learned through trial and error, and learning how to delegate tasks can be especially difficult.

    Fine-tune your skills by budgeting time to focus on your student, and giving them your undivided attention during those times. Setting high (yet attainable) standards for them to meet will build their self confidence as an entrepreneur.

    3. Keep up on the latest trends

    The good thing about discussing business with someone who is “fresh-faced” is keeping up with the latest trends.

    You may have a wealth of knowledge in a specific area, but it’s nearly impossible to keep up with the ever-changing business world on a daily basis. There’s always a new app or program to explore, and perhaps your mentee will be able to offer some insight into these areas.

    While many of us feel as though we are the leading authority in our field, the key to outpacing your competition is to always be learning. Soak up as much information as possible, and your business won’t ever go stale.

    Pros of Being a Mentee

    1. Self confidence

    Nothing boosts your ego like advice from a professional in your field. It’s like having a cheat sheet in your back pocket, with the answers to any question you might have.

    Learning from the best gives you an advantage over the competition, and with that comes a healthy dose of self confidence.

    2. Learn to take positive feedback

    Sometimes it can be tough hearing feedback on your hard work, but learning how to take constructive criticism will only benefit you in the end.

    Take it from me: You’re not doing everything correctly all of the time, and having an outsider’s point of view on a project can be the difference between making it and breaking it.

    3. Build contacts

    Think of taking on a mentor as a privilege. If someone is willing to take time out of their chaotic schedule to build you personally and professionally, you have to respect that.

    One of the great parts of being in this type of relationship is the connections made in the process. Your mentor will want nothing more than to see you succeed, and they may introduce you to key players along the road. Consider every introduction as a possible business associate, and tend to those relationships accordingly.

    Now, it’s time for the hard part: Create a list of your dream mentors. Keep in mind that the ultimate goal is to learn as much as possible. You never know–even the person most out-of-reach may consider mentoring you one day.

    I’ve recently been helping the CIPD North East of England Branch launch their professional mentoring programme. Having run some mentoring skills workshops for the mentors, we realized that we also needed to give some guidance to mentees because research has shown that the mentoring relationships that succeed are the ones where both the mentor and mentee take an active role in developing the relationship.

    How to Get the Best From Your Mentor

    So here are my 10 top tips on how to get the best from your mentor :

    1. Define what you want to get out of the mentoring relationship. Do you need career advice? Are you looking for a new job? Are you keen to get experience of a particular specialism within HR? Are you struggling with a particular project or challenge?

    2. Develop a picture of success for the relationship. If the mentoring is successful for both you and the mentor, how will you know? What will be different as a result? What will be the signs that the relationship has been effective?

    3. Make a positive start. The initial meeting is crucial. Use it to get to know each other and to agree how the relationship will work. Will you meet face to face or communicate mainly through e-mail and the telephone? What boundaries do you want to agree for the relationship? Think about any ground rules you want to establish.

    4. Develop the relationship by showing respect and building trust. Be respectful of your mentor’s time and the other priorities in his/her life – work, family, travel, interests etc. If you’re going to get the best from your mentor , you need to make every effort to build trust in the relationship. For example, show up for meetings on time, follow up on any introductions made by your mentor etc

    5. Prepare well for your meetings with your mentor. Be clear on the issue or topic you want to discuss and be ready to share with your mentor your own thoughts on how to approach it. Remember, your mentor is there to help you think things through and share their knowledge and experience to give you other ideas to consider. They are not there to do the thinking and make the decisions for you.

    6. Open yourself to new ideas. Your mentor won’t give you advice or tell you what to do but they will share their ideas and experiences. In order to get the most from this relationship you should approach the situation with a fresh and open mind, welcoming in as many new ideas as possible.

    7. Request introductions to your mentor’s network contacts. One of the greatest benefits you can get from any mentoring relationship is introductions to people who you normally wouldn’t know or be able to reach. Be clear on who you would like to meet and why, don’t be afraid to ask your mentor to introduce you and be sure to follow up with any leads.

    8. Express your gratitude. Your mentor will be giving you the benefit of their knowledge, experience and network contacts. Be sure to express regularly that you value and appreciate your mentor’s guidance.

    9. Give back. Provide your mentor with an insight into what goes on in your role, your level, your specialty and your organization so that they too can benefit and learn from your experience.

    10. Be helpful. Hopefully, your mentor will pass on information that he or she thinks might be useful to your professional development. Return the favour by e-mailing over any news stories that they might be interested in or information that they might find valuable.

    As with all relationships, your relationship with your mentor will need to be worked at. Getting the most out of your relationship will require more than just turning up for the odd meeting but the effort will be worth it.

    What advice do you have about how to get the best from your mentor?

    Please share your thoughts in the comments box below.

    Behind every successful person is a mentor – or several – who help them along the way. Here’s how to make modern mentoring matter.

    How to get the best out of mentorship

    Steve Jobs mentored Mark Zuckerberg. Warren Buffett mentors Bill Gates. Martin Luther King Jr was mentored by his college president. Bob Dylan was mentored by Woody Guthrie. Even Mother Theresa had a mentor in Father Michael van der Peet.

    It seems, when we dig a little deeper into the lives of those at the pinnacle of their profession, that behind every successful person is a mentor – or several – who helped them along the way. So if mentoring works, what does meaningful mentoring really look like in today’s digital, globalised and ambiguous world? How vital are mentors to your success and what should we be doing to find, keep and have positive, successful mentoring relationships?

    Mentors are experienced, trusted advisers who engage in a personal relationship to proceed support and guidance; they are totally invested in the success of the mentee, and most often they are free. As an executive coach, I encourage my clients to find mentors, as well as a coach, and look for positive, energising relationships that will support them.

    While mentoring is not one size fits all, the art is in the application, so here are five ways to get the best out of your mentor.

    Know what you want

    Before entering any mentoring relationship – even before you have started to think about the people you might talk to or invite to help you – it’s imperative that you know what it is you really want from the conversation. Remember, if you have a clear goal, for example, “How do I navigate a transition to a C-suite role?”, then you will be able to choose an appropriate mentor who can help you and you’ll be able to communicate what you need from the relationship.

    Do your homework

    Work out more what you have done to date about your intended goal and how far you have come on your own. Next, think about exactly which part you need assistance with. What is it you need to get what you want?

    Define your mentor

    Identify the type of relationship you are looking for – informal or formal. Informal mentoring might be meeting for a coffee to catch up in general without using the labels mentor and mentee. A more formal relationship would have set times and frameworks and might be set up by a company you work for or an institution you are part of.

    Find the mentor

    This requires a creative and open mind. Look through your contact list and ask others for theirs. Chat to people on flights between cities (I’ve found two mentors this way), join an industry group or cold call. Once you have found the humans that look like they might be right for you, then it’s time to approach them, with respect and clarity, to form a connection. Remember you can learn from people who you don’t necessarily ‘like’, as long as you respect them.

    Be awesome

    I was going to write, don’t be a jerk, but I decided to reframe it! The simple rules are to be open and respectful of the time and place you meet your mentor. Go to your mentor, pay for the coffee, listen, be open to feedback, be willing to share without protection, check their expectations of you and vice versa, say thank you and ask if you can do anything for them. It seems obvious, however, often mentees forget and ask too much of their mentor. Modern mentoring can be done online or on the phone, and should always be personalised and about the relationship. It is a powerful catalyst to success and, at its best, can be a transformative experience.

    The first mentor?

    The term ‘mentor’ comes from Greek mythology. While Odysseus was fighting the Trojan War, he appointed a ‘mentor’ to develop his son, Telemachus, into a future king and warrior. The mentor in The Odyssey was actually Athena, Goddess of Wisdom, who took the male form in order to be accepted as an appropriate adviser and trainer to a king. Her method of teaching was to lead by example and to provide the opportunity for experiences so that Telemachus could learn from them.

    How to get the best out of mentorship

    It’s not about making people more like you.

    There are lots of ways to be a good mentor, but there are a few common principles that the best mentors share. One principle is putting the relationship before the mentorship. No amount of mentorship training outweighs the value of an authentic connection between mentor and mentee. Secondly, focus on developing your mentee’s character and not just their job skills. Invest in your mentee’s self-awareness, empathy, and capacity for respect. The next practice of good mentors is sharing their optimism much more than their cynicism. If your mentee shares an idea that seems unrealistic, try the 24 x 3 rule: spend 24 seconds, 24 minutes, or a day thinking about all the reasons that the idea is good before you criticize any aspect of it. Finally, be more loyal to your mentee than you are to your company. If your mentee’s passions and skills are not a good fit for their job, or if your company has limited opportunities for your mentee to move up, you should help them move on. At its highest level, mentorship means committing to helping other become fuller versions of themselves.

    It’s not about making people more like you.

    Mentorship comes in many flavors. It doesn’t always work unless leaders bear in mind a few common principles.

    Over the past three years, as part of my forthcoming book, I’ve been researching how leaders can better judge and develop their talent in light of a changing, more purpose-driven, more tech-enabled work environment. Having interviewed close to 100 of the most admired leaders across business, culture, arts, and government, one important characteristic stands out: They do everything they can to imprint their “goodness” onto others in ways that make others feel like fuller versions of themselves. Put another way, the best leaders practice a form of leadership that is less about creating followers and more about creating other leaders. How do they do that? I’ve noticed four things the best mentors do:

    Put the relationship before the mentorship. All too often, mentorship can evolve into a “check the box” procedure instead of something authentic and relationship-based. For real mentorship to succeed, there needs to be a baseline chemistry between a mentor and a mentee. Studies show that even the best-designed mentoring programs are no substitute for a genuine, intercollegial relationship between mentor and mentee. One piece of research, conducted by Belle Rose Ragins, a mentoring expert and professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, demonstrated that unless mentees have a basic relationship with their mentors, there is no discernable difference between mentees and those not mentored. All this is to say that mentoring requires rapport. At best, it propels people to break from their formal roles and titles (boss versus employee) and find common ground as people.

    Focus on character rather than competency. Too many mentors see mentoring as a training program focused around the acquisition of job skills. Obviously, one element of mentorship involves mastering the necessary competencies for a given position. But the best leaders go beyond competency, focusing on helping to shape other people’s character, values, self-awareness, empathy, and capacity for respect. They know in the long run that there is a hard truth about soft matters and that these values-based qualities matter a lot more than skill enhancement. There are many ways to mentor people around these values and to build greater self-awareness.

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    Shout loudly with your optimism, and keep quiet with your cynicism. Your mentee might come to you with some off-the-wall ideas or seemingly unrealistic ambitious. You might be tempted to help them think more realistically, but mentors need to be givers of energy, not takers of it. Consider why an idea might work, before you consider why it might not. The best method I know for thinking this way is the 24×3 rule for optimism. I’ve written about this approach and tried to practice it for years, but it’s very difficult to master. Each time you hear a new idea, see if it is possible for you to spend 24 seconds, 24 minutes, or a day thinking about all the reasons that the idea is good before you criticize any aspect of it. It’s been said that the world prefers conventional failure over unconventional success; good mentors should encourage exploration of the latter.

    Be more loyal to your mentee than you are to your company. Of course, we all want to retain our best and brightest. We also want our people to be effective in our organizations. That said, the best mentors recognize that in its most noble and powerful form, leadership is a duty and service toward others, and that the best way to inspire commitment is to be fully and selflessly committed to the best interests of colleagues and employees. Don’t seek only to uncover your mentees’ strengths; look for their underlying passions, too. Help them find their calling. Most of us have experienced people, such as friends, religious leaders, and family members, who serve as our anchors and guides outside our workplaces. Why can’t we bring this same high level of trust and support inside the workplace? In a lot of cases, we owe it to mentees to serve as something more than just career mentors.

    The best mentors avoid overriding the dreams of their mentees. If an employee and a job aren’t a good fit, or if an ambitious employee realistically has limited upward mobility in a company, a good mentor will help that employee move on. They might be better suited to another role within the organization, or even to a new path somewhere else.

    At its highest level, mentorship is about being “good people” and having the right “good people” around us — individuals committed to helping others become fuller versions of who they are. Which is why the organizations and leaders I’ve come to admire most are the ones devoted to bringing others along.

    How to get the best out of mentorship

    Behind every successful woman, is a mentor. Someone who, at some point in their lives, helped guide them in achieving their own goals and dreams. Have you ever wondered how most world-leading entrepreneurs or business women became successful? The common myth is always that it was effortless –involving the least amount of struggle. That myth is never ever true.

    At the beginning of a career, or at the start of a new business, you may find that you are unsure of how to and pursue your dream. You have the end goal in mind, but the process of putting it into effect and finding direction can be a huge mountain to climb. Although learning through experience on your own is important, getting guidance on how to pursue your goals intelligently can very helpful. Having a mentor who can help guide you through the stages of your career does make it a little bit easier.

    First set your goals

    Mentorship, whether in entrepreneurship or corporate, is based on the same core principles. It is to create a relationship for the betterment of you, the mentee and your mentor. It’s extremely important that both parties create an environment of learning and growth.

    With this environment in mind, both your mentor and you should work together to set your mentorship goals for short, medium and long term. Giving yourselves goals helps in keeping the relationship from becoming too lax in achieving any kind of visible growth. It also sets the stage for a great working relationship. From my own experience, a good mentor also wants to see the goals you want to achieve. This helps them get a better view of how to can help you. One of the most important things a previous mentor taught me is the importance of putting your goals onto paper. And it works!

    Goal-setting will give you the opportunity to identify where your life is life to be heading. In turn, goals and expectations give both you and your mentor a common understanding of what the relationship is meant to achieve.

    Adding detail to your short, medium and long term goals will be beneficial in creating your career development plan. This plan can be used as a guide. It will allow you to communicate clearly what you want to achieve in a specified amount of time, and have your mentor to help you achieve those goals in the most focused way possible. Having a plan in place, and having a mentor guiding you through your growth process can help you grow. This will get you to where to where you want to be faster than you thought.

    Then establish a relationship

    In order to establish a good mentorship, and for you to be able to succeed in the industry of your choice, some important factors should be considered:

    • Receiving valuable advice: You receive valuable advice from your mentor. As the mentee, you gain insight from your mentor into your ideas. Not only that, you get help on using that advice as a guide to achieving your goals in the most efficient way.
    • Assistance with building strengths and overcoming weaknesses: As part of the goal-setting exercise between you and your mentor, you’ll need to discuss ways your mentor can help you overcome weaknesses and build strengths. Identifying your skills and competencies will help you know where your strengths lie.
    • New ways of thinking: A mentorship allows for a way to bounce ideas off each other and gives you an opportunity to discover new ways of thinking.

    Win-win for both

    A mentorship should be a win-win situation. Both parties should be fulfilled in the mentorship. The mentorships that work are usually between people that want to make the relationship work. You will need to be engrossed in the growth of your career. And your mentor should have a sense of fulfillment from helping an up-and-coming young person. If it isn’t fulfilling both parties, then it makes no sense to waste each other’s time. A mentee and mentor need to find a formula that works for them, and stick to it.

    One of the biggest mistakes you can make as a mentee is thinking that the mentorship is one-sided. Inasmuch as you approach a mentor to learn and grow, the same applies for your mentor as they too have goals to pursue. Just as you receive the chance to learn from a more experienced individual, your mentor will receive an opportunity to pass on what they’ve learned in life.

    About Anelisa Kasper

    How to get the best out of mentorshipI am a Consultant by profession, and an SLA writing contributor. I’m passionate about Women Empowerment and helping young women achieve their career goals and making a difference. I’m also an aspiring hiker, enjoy reading novels and also have a fourth degree black belt in Jenga.