When Your Mentor Isn’t Perfect: 5 Strategies For Bringing Out The Best In Each Other

by Devi Jagadesan, Summer Associate at Twomentor

Nobody’s perfect, including our mentors that we look up to. Some of us are unorganized, lack communication, or simply get caught in the chaos of a difficult work schedule that we forget we have someone looking up to us as a role model. However, there is always room to improve as a mentor while bringing out the best in your mentee. According to Deloitte, Millennialsplanning to stay with their employer for more than five years are twice as likely to have a mentor (68%) than not (32%). Furthermore, according to a 2014 survey by The UPS Store70 percent of small businesses that receive mentoring survive more than five years – double the survival rate of non-mentored businesses. There is such a strong business case for mentoring, but these relationships can get derailed if not nurtured or if we have unrealistic expectations of each other.

1.    Honesty and open communication

It is important in a mentor/mentee relationship to build the foundation early for how you both will give and receive feedback. Being transparent builds trust and more room for open communication. Make sure as a mentor, you listen closely to your mentee and get to know them both as a person and a professional. You are in a position to help your mentee build on her/his strengths while giving constructive feedback on areas your mentee can improve. I had a concerned mentor ask me often “Are you taking care of yourself,” as part of his dedication to self care being vital in the workforce. His feedback was well received. If you go overboard with critical feedback, the relationship will most likely deteriorate. Good communication is key for a long-lasting mentor/mentee relationship.

2.    Goal setting and task oriented

Part of being a mentor is helping your mentee on the journey toward achieving his/her goals. A lot of mentor-mentee relationships fail because there are no clarified objectives as the basis of the working relationship. It is important to go over the mentee’s goals on the first or second meeting and recognize milestones monthly or bi-monthly. New goals may emerge. Some mentors try to form their mentee into their own image, by having your mentee establish their own goals. Your job is to support your mentees vision and success while encourage them to keep the momentum moving forward.

3.    Mutual respect

Your mentor or mentee might disappoint you personally or professionally. This can be very hard emotionally on the relationship. Mentors and mentees must have mutual respect for one another but might have different values, and beliefs. Although a mentor usually has more experience than the mentee, being able to respect his/her mentee for their strengths and all they have to bring to the table is vital. When a mentor believes in the mentee, it gives them the courage and confidence. Likewise, when the mentee has respect for their mentor for their experience, skills, ability to guide, the mentor is more willing to help. The mentor has an abundance of knowledge to offer the mentee. Each individual will grow together. If you feel on either side that the person is unethical, we suggest you move on and not align yourself with them further.

4.    Carve out time for each other

Along with having mutual respect, a mentor and mentee must allocate enough time for each other. Cancelling and rescheduling too many meetings can really weaken the potential of the relationship. This goes back to the point of mutual respect and valuing the other person’s time. Although we aren’t perfect, and sometimes get lost in a sea of scheduling conflicts, the relationship between a mentor and mentee is an important priority. Carving out enough time for each other must be in the upfront plan, even if it is just for 3 – 9 months of meetings.

5.    Ask each other LOTS of questions

One of the best parts about the mentor and mentee relationship is that there for room for growth for both parties and trust needs to be established early. Getting to know each other is important whether it is about one another’s work, family life, or favorite hobbies and dreams. Finding commonalities make the relationship stronger and more enjoyable for both of you. You do not want to be strangers with your mentee, you want to build a rapport that makes you excited to be on this journey together. The more comfortable you both are, the more questions you can ask each other for learning and growth.  Sharing your life experiences openly is also important for your mentee to hear so they can learn from your successes and mistakes. Your honest insights will make your mentee feel safe in opening up as well.

Lastly,  The mentor/mentee relationship is a learning experience. If you follow these five recommendations, it will only strengthen the bond. A bond is formed when two people are able to be their true, authentic selves around one another. So the best advice is BE YOU, flaws and all because that is how both parties will benefit and grow.

LET’S TALK! 
Scheduling Contact, Sophia@twomentor.com

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