By definition, a mentor is an individual who serves as a role model, a support system, and a coach who provides advice to someone. This process establishes a relationship with that person so their personal and professional development is faster than if the individual had to develop on their own.
A mentee is an individual who receives mentorship services so they can develop and attain their personal or professional goals faster and with a better quality than if they had to do so without a mentor.
For this relationship to be as effective as possible, there are some key points that must be remembered so mentors and mentees can experience growth.
1. No one does all the work.
The focus of a mentor vs mentee relationship often comes down to the work which needs to get done. Many mentors expect their mentees to do all the work while they serve in a consultation role. Mentees may expect their mentors to share an equal load of the work. Both expectations are unrealistic. The focus of a mentoring relationship is on the mentee, but both need to roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty.
2. It requires commitment.
Many mentoring relationships break down because one person (or both) are not fully committed to the process. A mentor must remain in consistent contact with the mentee for growth to occur. Mentees must reach out to their mentors for regular advice. Agree to meet on a regular schedule to unlock the best possible results.
3. Ask for feedback.
Mentors rarely reach out to their mentees to receive feedback about the relationship that has been developed. Mentees tend to focus on the negative aspects of the relationship rather than look at the growth that has been achieved. Open and honest feedback must happen on a regular basis to prevent negativity from festering. This feedback will also help both individuals be able to refine the relationship to the mutual benefit of each.
4. Expectations need to be realistic.
Many mentors and mentees have unspoken expectations for this type of relationship. When those expectations are not met, the relationship breaks down. Have the courage to discuss each person’s expectations for the other. Plan when you’ll meet, what you’ll work on, and what it looks like to meet goals successfully. As your relationship evolves, allow the expectations to evolve as well.
5. Be willing to take a risk.
Any relationship has a certain amount of risk to it. Even couples that have been married 50+ years make a daily decision to stay together. This risk can create uncertainty, but it’s a healthy risk to take. Good mentor vs mentee relationships should be challenging so each person can develop as much as possible. Allow yourself to get out of your comfort zone, whether you’re the mentor or the mentee.
6. It must be a give and take process.
Many mentoring relationships break down because one person feels like they are giving all the time and not getting anything back. Mentoring is like a bank account. If you keep making withdrawals, eventually you’ll wind up with nothing. Remember to make some deposits from time to time. It doesn’t have to be anything complicated. Something as simple as a “thank you” for a piece of helpful advice can be a tremendous deposit.
7. Be yourself.
Mentors don’t need to conform to their mentees. Mentees don’t need to turn themselves into their mentors. The goal of this relationship is to recognize the uniqueness of each person and enhance those traits. That is what drives diversity, creativity, and individuality. Everyone has different experiences and this is what gives a team strength. By yourself, recognize your differences, and mentoring can be a powerful experience.
8. Silence can be beautiful.
Mentees can take the silence of their mentor as a bad sign. Silence is often an invitation to take a courageous step forward on your own. It is also an indication that there is comfort within the mentoring relationship. People who need to talk all the time are usually uncomfortable with their present circumstances… or are a pure extrovert. For those who are uncertain about the silence, don’t let fear drive your next decision. Just ask if there is something you could be doing better. The same applies to mentors in this situation.
9. Pay it forward.
Mentees become fantastic mentors. Always pay it forward.
The mentor vs mentee relationship isn’t one that is confrontational. It is complimentary. Together, this is how wisdom in any environment can be developed and then implemented.