Effective mentoring is a professional activity built around a trusted relationship and a meaningful commitment to growth. While mentoring relationships range from informal collegial friendships to highly structured, formal arrangements between expert and novice, the ultimate goal of each is to provide professional and personal enrichment along with career advice. Developing skills, working to enhance performance and becoming the person they want to be defines this effort to maximize professional potential.
While there are a variety of mentoring prototypes, Metros and Yang (2006), outlines a popular four-phase model that includes: identify, negotiate, facilitate and graduate. During the identify phase, the goal is to identify a mentor and establish goals for the mentorship as well as core competencies needed for effectiveness in the mentee’s present job and prospective future positions. Here it is important to have a clear understanding of the mentor’s motivation for becoming a mentor and the mentee’s motivation for wanting to be mentored. Mentors should mentor based on a realistic assessment of their skills and leadership experience, while mentees should select a mentor based on relevance to their career goals. In addition to the formal mentoring programs offered by larger organizations, mentors may be found externally through associations and personal referrals via family, friends and colleagues. Additionally, it is common for previous educators, professional coaches, and peer groups to serve as mentors.
During the negotiate phase, mentoring partners work to identify and agree upon goals, desired outcomes, ground rules and logistics that will guide their work together. A formal contract or memorandum of understanding may be established during this phase or a simple dialogue about expectations as the mentor and mentee work to build trust and create shared understanding. Here it is important for both parties to clearly communicate their expectations and be realistic about the commitment to oversee the relationship (mentor) and to make time for field tasks, homework and self-reflection (mentee). An exit strategy should also be co-designed during this phase, so both parties are clear about how and when the mentoring relationship ends.
The mentoring plan is implemented during the facilitation phase. While mentors advise based on their knowledge and experience, they also refer to others when they do not have sufficient expertise on a particular topic. They also provide relevant examples and exercises to help mentee’s manage weaknesses and build on their strengths. This happens through feedback and constructive criticism and periodic evaluations of progress. Mentees actively participate through listening and engaging in the mentoring conversations, by accessing resources and doing their homework, acknowledging weaknesses and working to build on their strengths and of course, accepting feedback and constructive criticism as a path toward development. Both mentor and mentee work to celebrate successes as a part of the mentoring process.
The final phase is graduate. Ending a mentoring relationship typically happens once the initial goals of the partnership have been successfully attained. However, sometimes the mentoring relationship ends due to a mismatch of personality, expertise or values, or other irreconcilable differences. Regardless of why the relationship is ends, it is important to be sensitive to and acknowledge when the relationship has run its course. When ending a mentoring relationship, both mentor and mentee should provide a summation of the experience to one another. Mentee’s should also thank their mentor for their time and knowledge. Often it is also appropriate to keep in touch with mentors and discuss career progress over the years. In fact, many mentoring relationships evolve into long-term professional friendships.
As a leader, are you interested in and willing to mentor others? How can you find some extra time to spend with mentees on a regular basis? Make sure you understand the payoff to them, you and the organization before beginning each mentoring assignment.