7 Deadly Sins of Mentoring Relationships
I used to write for a mentoring blog, so I would interact with mentors and protégés, and it would always be very delightful to hear the wonderful stories, and the impact that mentoring relationships had on both the mentor and the protegé. Additionally, I also interviewed some of the members of an association to gather stories for their anniversary booklet, and both times that I worked on the project – for their 15th and 20th anniversary – I heard wonderful stories about mentoring and its positive impact on both mentor and protégé.
There was only one instance, during those particular interactions that I heard about a mentoring relationship that went awry. But, I have heard about other mentoring relationships that didn’t progress very well. Sometimes it was because there was no personal chemistry so the mentor or protégé couldn’t relate to each other. Or it was a lack of training so both parties did not know what to expect from, and how to behave in a traditional mentoring relationship.
Here are seven deadly sins of mentoring relationships that I have heard about through my interactions with others. Your experiences may be very different from mine.
- Approach a prospective mentor without knowing your needs: Having a mentor is great. Studies have repeatedly shown that both mentors and their protégés benefit from the mentoring relationship – more increases in salary, more promotions, and they learn from each other. But that doesn’t mean that you should run out and ask someone you admire to mentor you. The first step in the mentoring process is to understand your mentoring needs. Why do you want a mentor? Maybe you do not need a mentor, what you need instead are answers to specific questions. And if that is the case, you can request 15-minute interviews from those who can answer your questions. Please also read Mentoring Needs Assessment
- Treat your protégé like your assistant: A mentor’s role is to guide, advise, champion and act as a sounding board for her protégé. The relationship is based on give and take, respect and trust. Neither party should violate that trust. And a mentor should never treat her protégé like an assistant, taking care of tasks or running errands.
- Take, Take, Take: As mentioned before, mentoring relationships are based on give and take, therefore the protégé should seek ways to give back to her mentor as a way to say, “thank you!” No one has everything, so find a need and fill it. It may take a bit of effort on the part of the protégé to find the perfect way to give back to her mentor, but it is worth the effort.
- Never act on the advice given: Ever heard of the saying that you can lead the horse to water but you cannot make it drink it? Likewise when a mentor gives you advice, it’s your responsibility to take action. That doesn’t mean that you should act on advice that you think is bad for you. Listen to what you mentor says objectively, then decide what you are going to do. Consciously make a decision to act or not.
- Mold your protégé into a carbon copy of yourself: A mentor’s role is to guide and advise her protégé, assisting her to achieve her mentoring goals. It is not a mentor’s role or responsibility to make her protégé into a carbon copy of herself.
- Neglect the mentoring relationship: Every successful relationship requires an investment of time to build and nurture the relationship, and a mentoring relationship is no different. At the beginning of the relationship, decide how often you will meet and when, honoring the commitment you make to each other.
- Stay in a mentoring relationship from hell: Personal chemistry is a big part of successful relationships, and not every mentoring relationship will be a success. If the relationship is simply not working, both parties have to be honest and acknowledge that there is a problem, and there are times when a mentor and protégé will have to part ways.
Characteristics of Successful Mentoring Relationships
- Established ground rules.
- Clear purpose and well-defined expectations.
- Safe and secure environment.
- Absolute confidentiality.
- Commitment to meet regularly
- Values of mentor and protégé are aligned.
- Excellent personal chemistry between the two.
- Relationship built on trust and respect.
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Author Bio: Avil Beckford, an expert interviewer, entrepreneur and published author is passionate about books and professional development, and that’s why she founded The Invisible Mentor and the Virtual Literary World Tour to give you your ideal mentors virtually in the palm of your hands by offering book reviews and book summaries, biographies of wise people and interviews of successful people.
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Image via Morgue Files (heirbornstud)