Moving Your Mentoring Relationship To A Whole New Level

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Having spoken about how to choose a mentor, why somebody should become a mentor and meeting your mentor for the first time, it’s now time to move your mentoring relation to a whole new level.

Your relation with your mentor or mentee is like any other important relationship. It’s built on trust, shared experiences, reciprocity, respecting boundaries and being genuinely interested in the other person. Eric Barker from Barking Up The Wrong Tree made some great suggestions on how to build trust in a relationship:

  • Act with discretion. Keep secrets secret.
  • Communicate often and well. The more you know about each other, the more you are willing to help each other.
  • Match words and deeds. Remember all the promises you make and set realistic expectations so you can meet all of your commitments.
  • Highlight knowledge domain boundaries. If you don’t know something, be willing to admit your lack of knowledge.
  • Hold people accountable for trustworthy behavior. If someone does well, let them know. If they disappoint you, let them know because they will not respect you if you let them walk over you.

For a mentoring relationship to really blossom it has to evolve into an intimate relationship. It is a relation in which both parties are able to disclose their inner most thoughts and concerns, and where both mentor and mentee become interdependent. This of course can’t be hurried, although specific defining moments can certainly accelerate this process. Who doesn’t remember the bond that was created with your best friend when both of you went through that ‘once in a life time experience’.

Ellen Esher and Susan Murphy in their book: Power Mentoring, mention that to deepen the mentoring relationship you need to:

  • Develop a deep understanding of each other’s work and issues
  • Develop a mutual admiration
  • Treat each others as confidants
  • Be open to ideas
  • Help each other focus on solving issues you can influence
  • Create mutual wins

Not all mentoring relations end up in a powerful and highly successful partnership. Sometimes the chemistry or the intent is not there or simply the circumstances are not right. In those cases you have to have the guts to call it a day and move on. Maybe find another moment or maybe find another mentor. Don’t give up, the support you can get from a mentor makes it a worthwhile pursuit and hopefully at some time you can turn the tables and mentor others.

– Paul Keijzer

P.S. If you are interested in being mentored by me, send me a short email (paulkeijzer@engageconsulting.biz) with the reasons why I should chose you as my mentee. I can’t promise I will choose you but I do promise I will respond! 

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Meeting Your Mentor For The First Time

Mentor meetingSo now you have identified your mentor, he or she has said yes and you have agreed to meet for the first time. Now 5 minutes before the first meeting you are getting a bit nervous as you know how important this first meeting is going to be. You ask yourself how do I make sure I set a good foundation for this relationship to flourish. A great question and the simple fact that you ask this question means that you are on the right track.

The most important step in making your first mentor session the start of a powerful relationship is to be clear in your own mind on the following questions:

  • What do I want to get out of this relationship?
  • What can I bring to this meeting that is of value to my mentor?
  • Am I coach-able?
  • Can I take the responsibility for this mentoring relationship? and
  • What can I do to cultivate this relationship?

Don’t expect to get big revelations from your first interaction with your mentor. The first meeting is all about setting the tone and spending the majority of your time at your first meeting in getting to know each other, align expectations and setting the ‘ground rules’ for an effective mentoring relationship.

Getting to know each other
I am sure that when you look at any of the important relations you have in your life, one of the biggest similarities across all these relations is that you know a great deal about this individual and that this individual knows a lot about you. To establish a strong mentoring bond you have to create the same foundation. Be as open as you can, share experiences, look for commonalities and build rapport by asking questions, be humble, listen intently, learn and be appreciative.

Align expectations
Explore, share, discuss and agree what you are looking to get out of this relationship and of course make sure you understand and commit to the mentor getting his share out of the relation. In addition there are many other areas that you need to align yourselves on:

  • What are the boundaries of the relation?
  • What topics are off-limits?
  • Confidentiality of the discussions
  • What behavioral standards you expect from each other?
  • How can you contact each other outside the formal meetings?
  • How long you can commit yourself to the relationship and when it will end?
  • How you will evaluate the relationship?
  • What are the ways out of the relationship if it is not working out?
  • Any possible conflicts of interest?

Meeting practicalities
Then of course there are the logistics you need to agree on:

  • How often do you meet?
  • Who takes responsibility for setting up the meeting?
  • Where will you meet?
  • How long can you meet for?

If you are able to cover all the above you have had a tremendous first meeting and you can be proud that you have set the right foundation for an impactful follow up conversation. Do make sure that at the end of the conversation of course you agree when the next meeting is and that you appreciate the mentor for his/her time, effort and guidance. A sincere thank you always goes a long way!

Enjoy your first mentor meeting and let me know how it went!

– Paul Keijzer

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How Do I Find A Mentor?

mentorA couple of weeks ago, a friend came up to me and said Paul I really want to find a mentor. I need someone, whom I can trust and help me navigate through the organizational politics, put a perspective on the challenges and opportunities I am facing and help connect me to other people inside and outside the organization. He asked me how to go about this.

A great question, as I have met many people who had similar needs but didn’t know whom to or how to approach a potential mentor due to the fear of being rejected. Whatever the reason here are a number of steps for getting a mentor:

Step 1: Know What You Want
My favorite Stephen Covey habit is “Start with The End In Mind”. The same applies when finding a mentor. Know yourself and know what you are looking for. What do you want a mentor to help you with? Is it networking, office politics, feedback, new ideas on that project you are working on, work – life balance questions, career  counseling or all of those above. The more specific you are, the easier it is to identify an individual that can help you. 

Health warning: only use a mentor for personal learning, growth and reflection. Don’t use a mentor as a shortcut for promotion, as it will surely come back flying in your face. 

Step 2: Go Outside Your Comfort Zone
Knowing what you want from the mentor relation will help you identify the expertise, relations and experiences you are looking for in a mentor. If for example you are a mechanical engineer working in a fertilizer plant who has the ambition and skill to move to general management but you lack specific financial or business-2-business experience, you should find a person in the company who can guide you and give you insight in your area of interest , how to move in that role and aspects to consider when trying to transit.

Don’t restrict yourself to your own department/company. Look outside, who are role models in your field of work, who are the leading experts. Check your LinkedIn network, talk to friends, senior colleagues, executives in your company. Ask them who they think could be the best person to help you in your quest to become better and grow. Or better yet approach the person who you have always looked up to.

Be bold go outside your comfort zone and pick the best there is. 

Step 3: Get Introduced
If you have zeroed in on a potential mentor who you don’t know yourself then the best way to get connected is by being introduced. Approach someone who can help you get introduced to the individual you are inclined towards speaking with. The change of getting a positive answer by cold calling in my experience is close to ‘zero’. I personally have never ever been successful in pitching to a person who I have not been introduced to, or who has heard about me. I also don’t react on any approaches I get from people that I don’t know. 

Work the network and get people to introduce you to your ideal mentor. 

Step 4: Be Interesting and Give Back
As much as you want to learn from a mentor, you have to make it worthwhile for the mentor to be willing to invest in the relation. I personally would never be able to mentor a person who is mundane and dull. Make it interesting, give back to the mentor, and help him with experiences or skills that he doesn’t have. You have to create a relationship that is worthwhile for both. 

In the late 90’s the CEO of a global company took it upon himself to mentor a number of young trainees who recently joined the company. Of course the trainees were delighted to be mentored by the global CEO, but it was not his altruistic motives that were at play here. He had a clear intention to gain as well from the relationship as he wanted to understand how young people interacted and used new technology (this was the height of the dotcom area for those of you who remember). 

Step 5: You Are Responsible
Finally don’t forget the number one rule of the mentor – mentee relationship: the mentee is responsible! He/she is responsible for making sure the meetings are organized and taking place, actions are being followed up and in general make sure the relation continues to flourish. If you do this well the relationship will surely last a career and be ‘priceless’. 

Next week: Why Should You Become A Mentor?

– Paul Keijzer

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