To get the best out of a mentor, a mentee has a lot of responsibilities. The role of a mentee is to take the lead because they are accountable for their own success and, therefore, the journey they take.
If these are not addressed, it is not reasonable to expect the mentor to continue helping:
- Arrange the conversations
- Be punctual (you may work in a culture where this is not the norm, but it might matter to your mentor - so find out!)
- Analyse your own strengths and weaknesses
- Look at your questions from as many angles as possible
- Invite your mentor to share their ideas
- Listen with an open mind
- Invite feedback
These are all significant points for mentee growth, so it is important to be proactive.
How much you structure each conversation is something to agree between you. Some people like lots of structure, some people don’t. Things to consider:
- How long will sessions last?
- How often do we want to talk?
- What is the best choice of venue? Make sure you can talk freely and are not going to be interrupted
- How will you review change and progress?
The role of the mentee in the first meeting
Be flexible – getting face-time obviously feels better and generally leaves a more positive impact. Yet their lives (working and home) may make this very difficult. So listen for what works for them and fit in.
Get to know your mentor. This is about building a trusting relationship. Ask for advice on how to navigate, not for the map – we are all different and most of us did not create a perfect plan and stick to it! Soak up the wisdom. Questions to ask your mentor:
- How do you spend most of your time?
- Is this where you thought you would end up? Most experienced professionals' journeys are full of interesting tales and surprises. You can learn lots from these as well as lots about your mentor.
- What was your biggest weakness at my age? A truly revealing question. Good leaders and mentors have self-awareness. Something you need.
- What are you most proud of?
- What professional organizations are you associated with and how
Gaining insight for your issues
Look for what is useful in what the mentor is saying in your particular situation. Questions you can ask yourself – with your mentor:
- What possibilities does their experience suggest for my situation?
- What would stop that approach working here?
- What similarities are there?
- What can I learn from the similarities?
Great questions you can ask your mentor:
- What would you do if you were me?
- What other options are there?
- To what extent have you experienced something similar to this?
- Who else would you recommend I connect with about this?
Mentoring should not be a one-way activity. You need to ask, what does the mentor get from this? It’s not a cynical question. Relationships work better when value flows both ways. For a mentor the value may be enjoyment helping others plus knowing that mentoring will benefit their organisation, their industry and beyond. It can also help build and grow the mentor’s own network, skills and effectiveness.
Some things to watch out for
- Give the mentor feedback. How well is this working? What did you do differently?
- Ask how you can help your mentor. You never know!
- The mentor is not expected to know all the answers
A mentor is not your saviour – you are!
Gain valuable insight into mentorship and its benefits with Phil's previous articles:
- How to find a mentor.
- Having a mentor - what is it and what's the point?