Managing the relationship
Though the mentee owns the relationship, the more you put into it, the more you’ll get out of it. So, it’s a good idea to make sure that certain minimum conditions are met to help the relationship get off to a good start and then to help keep it on track. Here are some fundamental things to pay attention to:
The first meeting is all about building rapport and getting acquainted with each other. You likely learned a bit about the mentee when he or she approached you about a possible mentorship, but you’ll need to have a sense of things like their communication style, their manner, their sense of humour and level of seriousness, and so on. And, since it’s essentially a personal relationship, it’s a good idea to get to know a bit about their personal life, their interests, hobbies and so on – and you should be prepared to share some information like that about yourself. Remember, the better you know the mentee, the more you can tailor your guidance in a way that will make a difference.
Establish ground rules
On a more formal note, it’s important to set some ground rules, things like:
• Agreeing on where or how you will meet (in person, by phone, electronically, or a combination).
• Agreeing on how often you’ll meet and how long the meetings will generally last
• Learning about each other’s communication style.
• Agreeing on methods of giving/getting feedback – for example, do they prefer to receive feedback very directly, or somewhat softened, or with humour. Be sure you explain how you like to receive feedback too.
Agree on goals and discuss expectations
It’s important to agree on the mentee’s goals and a general timeframe for achieving those goals.
• Humans have expectations around all sorts of things – sometimes the expectations are clear and easy to describe, sometimes people don’t even realize they have them. Before entering a mentoring relationship you should discuss your expectations about what the relationship should be like. The more closely your expectations align with your mentees' expectations, the more likely it is that you’ll both find the relationship fulfilling.
Keep the Relationship on Track
Here are some basic things you should do to help ensure a healthy mentoring relationship:
• Attend scheduled meetings or notify your mentee in advance if you need to reschedule the meeting.
• Be attentive at the meeting – actively listen and question the mentee’s actions and their lack of actions.
• Give constructive feedback and be open to receiving feedback.
• Periodically review together whether you are both satisfied with the way the relationship is working – discuss what is working well and what you might want to adjust (for example, how often you meet, how long meetings are, and so on).
• Periodically ask your mentee what additional support they might need.
When is it over?
You should also pay attention to the issue of when to end the relationship. When you believe the mentee has reached his or her goals or if you or your mentee believe it’s time to move on, the formal relationship should end. Formally ending the relationship – rather than having it just fade out – will help you maintain good relations going forward.