Getting More Out Of Your Mentoring Relationship

it is Well established that those who are mentored deserve and outperform those who don’t. A 2019 study by Olivet Nazarene University found that 76% of people understand that a mentor is critical to their professional success, but only 37% have one. The problem could be that people are looking for a perfect mentor that doesn’t exist or participate in failed mentoring programs plagues many organizations.

Because mentoring is so central to professional success, we need to improve as effective mentors and mentees. So I spoke to some of the world’s top mentoring experts to get their insights on how we can do better.

Vineet Chopra, MD, MSc

Robert W. Schrier Chair of Medicine, University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus

Author, The Mentoring Guide: Helping Mentors and Mentees to Succeed

Remember, if your mentees are successful, you will be successful. The way you think, the ideas you helped shape and your legacy grows with those you serve. The best mentoring relationships are the ones where you get as much as you give!

Lisa Fain, JD

CEO, Center for Mentoring Excellence

Author, Bridging differences for better mentoring

national ambassador, International Mentoring Association

Remember that mentoring is about both the relationship and the learning. Whether you are the mentor or the mentee, you are both 100% responsible for the success of the relationship. If things aren’t satisfying for you, stop waiting for your mentoring partner to fix them. Instead, be curious about what doesn’t work. Take the time to discuss what could be better. Don’t let a deadlock or a hiccup in the relationship be an excuse to let it fizzle out.

Deborah Heiser, PhD

CEO, The mentoring project

2022 Thinkers50 radar list

TEDx talkRethinking Aging: Mentoring for a New Generation

Lateral mentoring is a form of mentoring that most of us are already doing but don’t even realize. And this form of mentorship can turn small actions into big impacts. So when you go to your next in-person or Zoom meeting, consider this as a potential mentoring opportunity. Look to the left. Look right. You are looking for your next potential lateral mentor. Every person you meet has the expertise and likely a superpower of knowledge or skill not yours. It may even be your weakness. Becoming aware that mentoring is an organic opportunity will help engage in lateral mentoring and see the value of daily access to the experts in our field.

Three tips:

1. Identify someone who has the expertise you don’t have;

2. Assess their ability to mentor you;

3. Create – Assign this person to help you innovate or solve a problem by teaching, guiding, and interacting with you as you would a hierarchical mentor.

W Brad Johnson, PhD

Professor of Psychology, US Naval Academy

Author, The Elements of Mentoring (3rd Edition)

Turn to the sculptor Michelangelo, who humbly claimed he never had any preconceived ideas about the beautiful form in a block of stone. He saw his task as patiently recognizing the inner form so that he could free it from the surrounding stone. A good mentor makes that commitment to listen and be curious to learn about a mentee. The mentor can then validate the mentee’s ideal self and career and create opportunities for the mentee to realize this.

Christine Pound, PhD

Director, Center for Improvement of Mentored Experiences in Research (ROOMMATE), including entry into mentoring and entry into research

Author, National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Math (NASEM) Consensus Report: The Science of Effective Mentorship

Adopt a growth mentality in your mentorship. Effective mentoring requires a meaningful combination of evidence-based approaches tailored to the individual needs of each mentee. Additionally, a commitment to continually improving your mentoring practice is key to realizing the potential of any mentoring relationship.

Sanjay Saint, MD, MPH

Chief Physician, VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System

George Dock Professor of Internal Medicine and Vice Chairman of the University of Michigan School of Medicine

Author, The Mentoring Guide: Helping Mentors and Mentees to Succeed

TEDx talk: Improving Health Care: Straight from the Heart

Tip for Mentees: When looking for a career mentor, try to find someone who treats you – and others – as “you” and not “it.” (If you are unfamiliar with these terms, see Martin Buber’s book from a century ago (Me and you) explains the important difference).

Advice for Mentors: Put yourself in your mentee’s shoes before giving advice and guidance, especially if it can be construed as negative. Imagine you were a young person in this field trying to make it – seeing things from their perspective will likely ensure that what you say is friendlier than it otherwise would have been.

David Smith, Ph.D

Associate Professor, Johns Hopkins, Carey School of Business

Author, Athena risesHow and why men should mentor women

It is important that mentors challenge their mentees to develop personally and professionally. Encouraging a mentee to tackle a difficult task or focus on skills that may feel uncomfortable is how people grow and develop successful careers. Mentors can play an important role in creating opportunities for growth or challenge their mentees to develop skills outside of their comfort zone. This often requires leveraging their social capital or opening up their networks to create these opportunities.

Insufficient mentoring is worse than no mentoring. Once the damage is done, a mentee will think twice before reaching out to another potential mentor. However, both mentors and mentees can take steps to ensure the relationship is fruitful.

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