Congratulations, mentee. Someone has decided to be your Mentor.
When Odysseus gave the task of protecting, guiding and educating his son Telemachus to his old friend Mentor, he did this knowing that Mentor would be the best person possible to care for his only son during his absence from Greece. Since then, Mentor is synonymous for someone who is willing and able to provide guidance and support to bring out the very best in his mentee – without any other personal agenda.
The success of your mentoring relationship does not only depend on your mentor, it is significantly more dependent on you to help your mentor in helping you. Your ability to develop a relationship of mutual respect and trust with your mentor defines what you receive in return.
1. Be Serious
If you have been invited to go through the mentoring programme by your organisation, share with your mentor your fears or concerns. This is to avoid you (mentee) feeling “victimised” or “forced” to undergo the programme. If this were truly the case, your mentor would be feeling equally as lousy.
Siew, one of my mentees, was nominated for the High Potential Mentorship Programme. He was very quiet for 2 meetings, he did not show much interest but showed up for both meetings. On the 3rd session, I decided to share with him how I feel and I told him that we can cancel this relationship since it may be wasting both parties’ time. Finally, he spoke up and told me that he is very sceptical about such programme as he did not have a good experience with his previous company. He shared with me what he would really wish to get out from this programme. I heard him and much later, he turned out to be one of the best mentees I ever had.
2. Be Prepared
Spend some time to prepare yourself before entering into the mentoring relationship; do some planning and self-assessment. This includes setting your own goals and what you expect from your mentor.
- What’s important to you now? (e.g. leadership capability, personal effectiveness, career, professional development)
- What do you expect to gain from your mentor?
Jot it down and share with your mentor on the first meeting. Ask your mentor what his/her expectations are of you. A discussion to align expectations at the beginning of the relationship can prevent misunderstandings that can damage the partnership. Clarify this topic and let it serve as a guide for your relationship. You will be surprised by the new things you would have learned when you reflect back on this a few months down the line.
Here is a template for you to do a self-assessment, i.e. self-reflection activity for you, the mentee, on your own with the purpose of identifying what you wish to gain from a mentoring relationship.
3. Be Mature to Manage Up
Managing up is one way of cultivating the mentoring relationship. Managing up means you (mentee) takes ownership of the relationship, letting the mentor know what you need and organise information in the form the mentor prefers.
Finding a successful mentoring relationship is like dating: one cannot expect a perfect fit every time, and a good relationship requires work from both parties. Dissatisfaction may occur from a mismatch of goals, commitments, expectations, or from a reluctance to own and pursue your own development; a reluctance to ask for personal help. There can be power issues, generation tensions (over differences in work schedule expectations) or personality clashes (over differences in communication or work style).
As a mentee, you must express your needs in a direct manner and take responsibility for setting and sticking to a goal schedule. Managing up makes it easier for mentors to help you, and it makes the relationship more satisfying and more successful for both parties because the mentor can target help and you get exactly what you need most.
4. Be Receptive to Feedback
Feedback, although difficult to hear at times, is critical to your personal and professional growth. Demonstrate that you are open to suggestions to bring out your best and overcome any of your blind spots. Take initiative to ask your mentor for feedback. Get feedback on specific issues, for example, how you come across to others. Ask for specific details to ensure you understand the specific behaviours. Use SBI (Situation-Behaviour-Impact) method to ask for feedback.
5. Be Reflective and Make Every Moment Count
Unless we reflect on our experiences, we often miss out the gems in moments we spend with each other, including our mentor. Keeping a mentoring journal is one suggestion for capturing and remembering the lessons learned through this important relationship. After each meeting, ask yourself what you learned from the meeting and how you can apply the learning. Summarise your responses to these questions and share them with your mentor. Let your mentor give you feedback and ask him or her – as well as yourself – if there’s anything else you have learned through the meeting.
As a mentee, you are the ‘gauge’ to measure the success of a mentoring relationship. This success depends mostly on you. Make use of this opportunity and you will gain more than you ever expected. Enjoy your learning journey!
About the Author
Amy BC Tan is a Partner with Centre for Organisational Effectiveness (COE). She has more than 20 years of experience in Human Resource. Her expertise has been in Organisational Development, HR Strategy & Planning, Competency Modelling, Change Leadership Development, Talent Management, Succession Planning, Performance Management, Mentoring and Coaching. Amy’s career experiences were with companies such as AT&T, Nokia, Aon, Ministry of Manpower and Singapore Youth Olympic Games Organising Committee. Amy is also a Six Sigma Black Belt. She can be reached at Amy.Tan@COE-Partners.com