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Sunday, February 08, 2009

8 Rules to Maximize the Benefit from Mentorship

In my previous post, Hit Fast Forward and Leverage Mentorship I said, "effective relationships happen when the mentee is actually initiating and driving the relationship with a set of personal goals in mind." I believe that high achievers need mentors; a mentor will help channel a high achiever's energy in the right directions, avoiding having to learn through the school of hard knocks. Mentoring provides a powerful resource for personal and professional growth by facilitating development through the sharing expertise, skills, perspectives, experience, and knowledge. To maximize the benefit of a mentorship relationship I recommend the following eight rules for the mentee:

1) Identify your mentorship goals
Before entering into a mentorship relationship determine what your goals are. Ask the question, "what do you want from the relationship?" Are you looking to better your career, make better decisions, achieve better results, increase your capacity, develop your leadership skills, or just guidance, support, and advice.

2) Be realistic

Don't enter into a mentoring relationship expecting to get a job offer or find the solution to all of your problems. Mentorship is about you as an individual taking a journey of self discovery; a mentor will act as a guide but cannot walk the path for you. Your journey is your own and it is for that reason that you should be realistic and recognize that the responsibility for your goals is yours. This may include changing much of what you have learned or already done. Be open to suggestions and let go of the past so that you can internalize the advice you will receive. The best part about mentorship is you don't have to have the solution figured out. There are many ways to get to the top of a mountain so don’t lock yourself into only one path before you have a chance to understand the other options; you may find a much easier solution than the one you were considering.

3) Initiate and drive the relationship

It is your responsibility seek out a mentor, you are the one who has the most to gain and you know what you are looking for. I do not recommend looking to your immediate relationships for a mentor.
I you work for a relatively large organization ask your manager and the human resources department if they have a formal mentorship program. If you are not able to find the right person or your goals are outside of your current workplace then these following websites may be of some help:

Academy of Achievement
International Mentoring Network
Gotta Mentor

4) Take an active role
Mentorship is about personal growth and to achieve growth requires effort. After each meeting review your notes and write out your actions and next steps. If your mentor gave you names of people to contact or items to research put them on your schedule and make sure to make the effort to complete them before your next session. Before each meeting set aside time to review your goals and objectives and write new ones for the meeting. Then review your notes from the last session, check the work you have done and the research. It is also a good idea to summarize your work from the last session, showing your mentor that you are applying her advice.

5) Allocate time and effort

Making time for a mentoring relationship when your schedule is already full can be difficult and the tendency is to let a relationship drift after a few meetings. This is I recommend that you review your goals, take notes, review them, and act on the advice. By continuing to review your goals you are reminding yourself of what it is you are looking for. Remember you seeking expertise, network contacts, and ideas. When a mentor provides these things it will often require additional work; from researching information and reaching out to contacts. After each session summarize your notes and action items. Much of what you will be working on might not come natural and to realize the value of the relationship set aside time to work through the guidance you are receiving.

6) Be articulate in what you want
Remember you don't have to know all of the questions you should ask, have all of the answers, or a solution when you walk into your meeting; this will allow for a dialog to take place. Make sure that you are clear in what your objectives are for the session, as the saying goes, "if you aim at nothing you will hit it". Start each meeting outlining your goals with your mentor. Don't expect to get all of the answers or to have said the right things that is why you have a mentor to work through your challenges, opportunities, or decisions in an interactive way.

7) Follow through
It is important that when you make commitments you follow through on them. If you are unable to follow through in a timely manner renegotiate. A mentor is volunteering their time to help you and one of the more frustrating mentorship experiences is when advice or commitments are not followed through. The power of a mentorship relationship is that it is a risk free environment to learn and grow; if you are not good at follow through you will not realize these benefits. This does not mean you have
to get it right all the time.

8) Engage in a Dialog

A mentor is not your boss and should not be a person you are looking to get a job from, therefore, be open and candid
in your relationship. A true mentorship relationship is about working through your goals and challenges and being able to learn and grow. What makes this all work is your ability to be open and honest, share what you were thinking when you made particular choices, saw the results, or planned your next step. Talk about how you arrive at decisions, deal with office politics, or negotiate with vendors. A mentor, by being far enough from the situation to not be clouded by it, will bring a third person's view. However, don't expect to get all of the answers, some things will require that you work them out on your own.

leveraging these eight rules will allow your mentoring relationship to be one of the more rewarding professional relationships. I am planning two more posts in this series, the first on what a mentor will gain from the relationship and finally on how to manage your mentorship meetings.

Do you have mentor relationships? Are you actively managing them or passively? I look forward to your feedback and comments.

Related Posts:
Hit Fast Forward and Leverage Mentorship

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