A good friend asked me this weekend why do so many mentoring relationships appear to not work? I had to think about this for a bit before I realized that a mentorship relationship should be built on a foundation of equality and mutual respect. If either the mentor or mentee is feeling superior or inferior the relationship is out of balance and ultimately will breakdown.
Yes the person you have as a mentor should have more experience, more seniority, or be in a place that you seek to achieve. However mentorship is about individual transformation and this must take place within the mentee.
If you believe yourself not equal to the one you are working with you will not be able to absorb their teachings and thus not transform yourself into the person you seek to be.
Mentorship, rather than a hierarchical relationship of superior and inferior, is a relationship of equality, mutual respect, and empowerment; it aims to free an individual from the sense of weakness or hopelessness preventing them from achieving their goals and desires.
You can learn much more from a mentor who shows you what is possible when you apply their practices. Therefore it is the belief that you have the capacity to achieve that which your mentor has achieved which will allow you to truly grow within a mentor/mentee relationship.
What I realized is that if as a mentee you don't believe you are equal to your mentor in your abilities then you won't take responsibility for your actions. If you don't take responsibility then you cannot change and thus the relationship starts to breakdown.
The mentee is in control and therefore is responsible for the relationship and its outcomes. The mentor is there as a guide and hence a guide can only make recommendations. The mentee decides how to act on the recommendations.
It is okay to look to a mentor without giving up who you are or becoming inferior.
It is really that simple, if you don't believe you can achieve the change you are seeking from mentorship (giving into the feeling of inferiority, powerlessness, or fear) then you won't. That is it, "mentorship relationships are not successful without equality".
If you liked this post you might also like:
Hit Fast Forward and Leverage Mentorship
8 Rules to maximize the benefit of mentorship
Mentoring Part III: The Mentor
Written in Xian, China