Relationships are like circles of fire. Now let’s see if you can complete yours.
If you are looking to get into a mentorship relationship then start with the why — seek first and foremost to understand what is it that brings the other party in.
As a mentee, it is in your best interest to comprehend whether your mentor is being altruistic by wanting to give value back to the community or maybe he or she is also on the lookout for an opportunity to learn more about being a better leader by getting to understand the needs of other aspiring professionals and future leaders.
By the same token try putting yourself in their shoes for a moment and contemplate the following:
- How can you phrase your questions to make it easier for your mentor?
- How can you structure your communication to make it smooth for both sides?
- How shall you both know that you are doing a great job?
One of the cornerstones of effective communication especially within the context of a mentorship relationship is your capability to ask the right questions.
To formulate this precisely: your progress is guaranteed only insofar it is driven by your eagerness to be proactive and the efficiency of your mentor in giving you action items.
Make it easy for your mentor to give you the maximum value that they can either during one single session or throughout the entire process.
To that extent: take notes or record your discussions and contemplations for later review, compile and summarize the key takeaways, and follow-up via email to keep a track record of your mutual work.
Your progress is guaranteed only insofar it is driven by your eagerness to be proactive and the efficiency of your mentor in giving you action items.
Manage your expectations on multiple levels. How will you keep in touch with your mentor? Be specific and attentive to details from the very beginning as you define and shape your expectations. Will you be using a phone, WhatsApp, Viber, email, etc. to communicate?
Maybe you would much rather prefer to meet in person and have face-to-face discussions over coffee. Whatever the case is as a next step find a workable cadence and clarify how often should the two of you meet.
Please also realize that the agreements you come to with your mentor are probably not going to be set in stone, but rather represent a more realistic commitment for you both. As busy individuals, you both should be mindful of the fact that things can change as you move forward and it is beneficial to course correct in an iterative manner while keeping a healthy balance between your lives, careers, and engagements of other natures.
Now Let’s Be As Active As Possible
To keep things on track maintain an open ongoing-communication while being fluid enough not to put your partner under too much stress.
Realize that the agreements you come to together with your mentor are probably not going to be set in stone, but rather represent a more realistic commitment for both
The reality of the matter is that it takes two to tango and yet someone needs to take the lead. And while it is true that both parties can make or break the record, as a mentee it is your responsibility to take ownership of the relationship and drive the process to success by setting the right objectives and attaining key results.
It is your responsibility to beat the drum and foster the communication, give heads up if things change, as well as bring up the most important issues on your list to the attention of your mentor.
Whether it is through a warm intro or pure chance that you get to know your mentor, show them that you have done the work:
- Do not be shy to communicate the fact that you are following their career and admire them.
- Tell them what is it that prompted you to want to talk to them.
Once you recognize the work of your mentor, be vulnerable and open to receive advice — allow your mentor to pour new experiences into your life.
Once a professor went to seek an audience with a Zen master and to inquire about his teachings. The master served tea and started to pour his visitor’s cup until it was full, and then kept on pouring. The visitor watched the overflow until he could no longer restrain himself. “It is overfull. No more will go in!”
“Just like this cup,” the master said, “you are full of your own opinions and speculations. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?”
— Zen Wisdom
Set yourself up for a good start — come with an emptyy cup, and allow your mentor to teach you, and yet never hesitate to bring your current challenges to your mentor’s attention. By doing so you are virtually giving them the necessary context of topics to discuss, and also ways and means for them to see themselves as givers and role models.
You are giving them opportunities to listen to themselves as they coach you and allow them to review their own experiences, which effectively helps them crystallize everything that they might have to offer you down the road.
Nevertheless, be mindful of the fact that by utilizing the mentorship relationship as your main vehicle it is ultimately your responsibility as a mentee to become a better decision-maker as opposed to delegating decisions to your mentor.
- Make it easy for your partner by asking the right questions and managing expectations,
- Give your mentor a chance to see themselves as a giver and review their own experiences,
- Be vulnerable and open to receive advice — empty your cup first to obtain new standpoints,
- Provide the necessary context of issues that need to be discussed,
- Be real — seek first to understand and then be understood.
- We Only Have What We Give by Chedva Kleinhandler for Product League.
- What Mentors Wish Their Mentees Knew by Vineet Chopra, MD and Sanjay Saint, MD for Harvard Business Review.
- My own experience and observations.