Some good tips to manage a mentoring relationship

We have already seen many definitions for mentoring and we have seen many types of programs and approaches to mentoring. We don’t have to go again at those definitions. Instead, this time we will focus on the relationship mentee and mentors have and how this relation can be managed.

It is not only about a contract or having some kind of agreement but also about understanding the goals and the objectives that the mentors have for their mentees and what mentees expect from their mentors.

Suzzanne Uhland has compiled some very useful tips that give the readers some pointers on what are the terms that every mentoring relationship should have so mentors, mentees, and companies that use such programs understand and get the most out of their programs.  

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Image courtesy of Pixabay at Pexels.com

The first meeting

This is comparable to the first impression and the saying “there is only one chance to make a first impression”. Here the mentor and the mentee should meet each other and be very open about all the topics and about their own backgrounds and experiences. The idea with this first encounter is to know each other and to build that much-needed trust that will be the keystone for everything during the mentoring relationship. Some of the topics that are recommended to be discussed by mentor and mentee are the objectives and expectations of the relationship; what will the responsibilities be and what will the time commitments be; a place and schedule for the meetings; how confidential information will be treated and what will the limits be to conversations and topics;  which obstacles could arise and how to deal with them; and the terms to end the relationship.

The objectives and expectations of the relationship

Here the mentee´s goals are of most importance. The mentor should treat this information with a lot of commitment because here is where he or she can understand where the relationship will go. The goals should be specific, attainable and measurable. Going down to reality, the mentees sometimes don’t know where they are going exactly or have goals that are either too crazy or too short. Here the mentor can push the mentee to get out of his or her comfort zone and make the mentee think outside of the box and look for bigger and more ambitious goals. After this, the mentor should take a good look and see if he or she can really help the mentee on reaching such goals. This will prevent one of the most common reasons that mentoring programs fail which is a mismatch of mentor and mentee. Then, if there is a match, the mentor and mentee should discuss how these goals are going to be met.

A topic that mentors should avoid is talking about how expectations could fail or how their personalities could clash in the future of the relationship.  If there is chemistry the relationship should start and make changes as they go because if there is empathy on both sides any problem can be solved and learned from.

The limits

It may sound similar to a couple who negotiates times and hours for their own space, but it is absolutely necessary. The goals and objectives should be set and the boundaries for them should be discussed as well. Mentor and mentee have to be very clear on what limits would the relationship have because often people become too friendly or they use more time for the relationship than it is expected affecting other activities for the mentor or the mentee. Other problem that could arise are the questions on how to handle a difficult member of the board or the company; concerns about the strategic approach that the company has; and personal issues that are not the mentor´s job to handle. In many firms, a different mentor that has nothing to do with the mentee or is not within his group is assigned to the mentee in order to deal with personal issues and to not lose the ability to have a full and open disclosure.  Some of the common limits that firms set for a mentor – mentee relationship are: that the mentor gets involved in issues that require dispute resolution; using the relationship for direct career advancement, and talking about money or having an economic relationship.

Confidentiality and conflicts

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Image courtesy of michael_swan at Flickr.com

This stage is delicate and should be managed correctly by the mentor. Of course, a lot of information that is confidential will come up in the conversations but there has to be an agreement on which is useful for the relationship and which information is just part of the conversation itself and not part of the program. If the lawyers are from different firms, for example, they should know and understand the Rules of Professional Conduct and abide by them.

Be sure to also read this post about the advantages of mentoring in the law profession.

* Featured Image courtesy of Pixabay at Pexels.com

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