So 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.
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?
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