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  • Writer's pictureTony Richards

Pitfalls of Mentoring

If you’ve been somewhat successful in your chosen field of endeavor, probably at sometime or another, someone has come to you seeking advice. If you provided advice they could apply and they liked, they probably came back at some point to drink from that well again. Over time, with no formalized program or process, they perhaps even considered you a mentor.

Leading, Managing, Coaching and Mentoring are all quite different in their structure, approach and outcomes desired. However, rather than expounding on those differences, which I really should do in future writings, in this piece, my goal is to keep both sides of an informal mentorship relationship from getting into ditches on either side of the growth road.

One of the first things both sides should realize in an informal mentoring-type relationship is there is no real structure, accountability or power present. In the informal mentor-mentee type relationship, the focus really is on reach goals regardless of the structure or context.

Both the mentor & mentee should realize neither is the source of all knowledge.You are both looking for help. You both want to share. The mentor wants to share experience and knowledge and the mentee wants to share situation, plans and goals. The mentor should realize when someone asks you for help, it can give you a little high and can become addicting. When and if this begins to cloud your judgment, you are no longer in a position to mentor for the right reason and most likely you are not going to mentor very effectively. Be aware and beware the thought which comes and tells you that you have all the answers. You don’t know everything and should be reminded of that OFTEN. I have had particular experience with this, and unless it is kept in check, can cause the relationship to end badly. Very regretful.

It’s a fine line to build rapport, trust and truly listen and not fall into the pitfall of thinking you, as the mentor, HAVE to make this person successful. When you do this, it takes a lot of responsibility off the mentee to do what they need to do in order to achieve what they want to achieve. You must not think about how their success is somehow tied to your own abilities and strengths. Remember, the mentor-mentee relationship holds no power or accountability, so as a mentor, you must hold your thinking to that structure of the relationship. This is difficult, because most people who would be selected to learn from, have had some success leading and coaching others to success, but that is different than mentoring.

As I mentioned, maintaining focus and constantly reminding yourself of the purpose of the relationship is critical to its success as a mentor-mentee project. Be aware of the potential conflicts within yourself before beginning the process, ask a lot of questions and be supportive within the structure.

Good luck! Let me know how it goes!


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