How to Manage a Mentoring Relationship
Below are some guidelines for setting up and running a successful mentoring arrangement:
Set regular mentoring meetings
A mentoring relationship is one of mutual trust and respect. So meet regularly, and lead by example. The mentoring conversation may be informal, but treat the overall arrangement with formality and professionalism.
If possible, conduct mentoring meetings away from the mentee's normal working environment. A change of environment helps remove the conversation from everyday perspectives.
Be honest and open
If you're not honest, a mentoring meeting will probably be a waste of time for both of you. Discuss current top issues or concerns. Sometimes an honest exchange leads to the mentor and mentee deciding that they don't really like or respect each other. It's better to know up front and build from this sort of understanding, rather than have it hurt the relationship.
Build sustainable improvements, not quick fixes
Use the mentoring session to exchange views and give the mentee guidance, and don't just give the mentee immediate answers to a problem. A simple answer to a problem is rarely as valuable as understanding how to approach such problems in the future.
Play by the rules
Establish some rules or a charter for the mentoring arrangement, with desired outcomes. This could be a set agenda for points to cover, or some performance goals for the mentee to pursue outside of their regular appraisal structure. (One of the key reasons that mentoring can fail is that there's a fundamental misunderstanding about what's expected from the mentor and mentee.)
Most mentoring arrangements work best when they're outside of the day-to-day line management relationship between people. That doesn't mean that you can't mentor the people in your team, but it's often best to have a mentoring relationship that crosses reporting lines.
In a small organization, you may not have this option. If this is the case, make sure everyone knows when you're acting as a mentor, rather than as a manager.
Mentoring is a great way to progress a person's professional and personal development, and help create a more productive organization. It can also be very rewarding – for the mentor and the mentee.
Treat the mentoring relationship with the respect it deserves. Focus the relationship on the mentee's needs, and use the powerful skills of smart questioning, active listening, and value-added feedback to achieve the best outcomes from your mentoring.
To keep the mentoring relationship on track, set regular mentor meetings, be honest and open, and don't look for quick fixes. Mentoring is a long-term commitment.
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