Successful Mentoring Relationships: 5 Key Ingredients | by Jennifer Britton

As a professional coach, it's likely that there are several times in your career when you're going to want to find a mentor. Whether it's working with a mentor coach for your certification or credential, or finding a mentor to help you grow your business to the next stage, mentors provide invaluable feedback and insights you may not get in other places.

Below I share 5 areas to consider for a strong mentoring relationship.

As you go about your quest to find the right mentor and grow, consider these 5 areas:

1. What do you want out of the mentoring relationship? And what can you offer?

For best results, both mentors and mentees need to think about what they want to get out of the mentoring relationship. Mentoring is increasingly being seen as having a 'two way' benefit - with 'reverse mentoring' where the mentee or protégé supports the mentor around some of the newer workplace trends and approaches, becoming increasingly common.

As the protégé (the one being mentored) it's likely you're going to be 'driving the bus'. Make sure your meetings and touch points are focused on what's important to you, so spend time co-designing your relationship.

Questions to consider before the first mentoring meeting are:

  • What do I want to get out of the mentoring relationship? (eg. to build skills, get questions answered, industry insights, success stories)
  • What could I bring to the mentoring relationship?
  • What are my expectations?

2. Establish clear boundaries.

It's important to establish clear boundaries for the mentoring relationship and conversations. Importantly, note that the role of a business mentor will likely be different than the role of a mentor coach. So, when reaching out, be clear on specifying the purpose and roles.

Questions to establish clear boundaries include:

  • What do I see as my role in the relationship?
  • What are my expectations?
  • What areas does the mentoring extend to?
  • What are my boundaries around meetings? How frequently will you meet? When? Where? Timing and length of meetings?
  • When and how do I want to be contacted? (email, phone - and at what time of day or night)
  • And if necessary, what's a middle ground for both of us?

3. Create a Roadmap anchored in meaningful, and exciting goals.

Goals will anchor the mentoring conversations so think about these ahead of time. It can be helpful to assign specific topics to specific meetings ahead of time - creating a 'roadmap' for your meetings.

Given that mentoring is a very focused conversation it can be useful to identify the cornerstone of each of your conversations, anchoring them in meaningful - and exciting goals. Just as in coaching, consider how can these be made SMART-E (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound and Exciting).

Questions to consider are:

  • What are my overall goals for the mentoring?
  • What is my goal for each conversation? (Do I want to learn more about how the mentor did something? Do I want to sharpen my skills or learn more about how the mentor approached tricky issues? Do I want help with an obstacle?)

Throughout your conversations refer back to these goals and check in around the progress you're making with them.

4. Follow through.

Successful mentoring relationships are based on trust and open communication. Follow-through is an important part of trust - and it works both ways.

Questions for both mentor and mentee:

  • As a protégé or mentee, what have you committed to following up on? What action steps have you indicated you will be accountable for?
  • As the mentor, what do they need to follow up on? What information, resources or contacts have they indicated they will provide?

5. Check in along the way.

Just as in coaching, it can be very useful to check in as you go. This ensures the mentoring conversations are working as you both expected, and allows you to make adjustments as necessary.

Three questions to ask at the end of every mentoring conversation are:

  1. What was useful about our conversation today?
  2. What are the next steps? What will we both do/learn/explore before the next conversation?
  3. What changes should we make for our next conversation, or what areas do we want to focus on?

Wrap-up

Mentoring is an important professional relationship we will want to leverage at different parts of our professional career. How can mentoring support you in your journey at the moment?

This article is updated and adapted from an earlier ezine article, "Mentoring Relationships that Work: Six Key Ingredients".

Editor's Note: Given the current COVID-19 crisis, you may like Jennifer's new Remote Working Whitepaper. Help you, your clients, mentor or mentee get up to speed quickly!

Contributing author: Jennifer has been involved in designing and supporting mentoring programming and relationships since the early 1990s. She continues to act as a mentor herself to coaches and entrepreneurs, and also supports coaches through mentor coaching in groups and individually. In 2014, Jennifer co-founded the Mentor Roadmap™ program with fellow coach Susan Combs. This program has now been rolled out to Fortune 100s, as well as organizations in financial services, agriculture and education. Jennifer's work with mentor and coaching skills training was awarded a Prism Award or Excellence in Coaching in 2016.

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Image of Mentor and Mentee enjoying themselves by fizkes via Shutterstock

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