How To Enhance The Mentoring Relationship As A Mentee

Here is Suzzanne Uhland’s Blog, we have talked about all the great benefits mentoring programs offer the organization and each of the individuals involved in this type of relationships that stimulate mutual growth. People are often skeptical about mentorships because they feel that it is perhaps too good to be true. The idea of having a person who is successful and much more experienced than yourself, helping you bounce ideas out of each other and providing you with a unique insight into your own professional field for free, is sometimes difficult to accept. Mentorships seem like a great deal but in a world as competitive as ours, it is difficult to simply accept something that apparently puts you in the position of being benefited without having to give anything up but your time in return.

Shaharris at DementiaHack
Image courtesy of Matthew Burpee at Flickr.com

The reason why people may think this about mentoring programs has more to do with our own ignorance of the role of a mentee than with any possible insidious nature hidden within a mentor’s motives. It is important to understand that successful mentoring relationships are a two-way street and that mentors have just as much to gain from them as mentees do. If you have been guilty of this mentality, then I invite you to learn a little more about the actual role of the mentee. And how being in the seemingly receiving end of the relationship, also comes with its own set of responsibilities and the need to give back.

Successful mentees that are able to make the most out of their relationship with senior individuals are those who seize the opportunities that arise when two minds work together on a single goal and are able to meet regularly to engage in that which they are passionate about.

One of the best ways to make your relationship become more reciprocal is to give a chance to your mentor to listen to what you have to say. Sometimes you have a lot to offer but neither of you are aware of the knowledge and experience you possess and that could be of great value. Mentors are people who are also looking to learn and will be happy to participate in activities that can turn into a learning experience. It is important that your fit with a mentor is based on a mutual understanding and you are both matched based on your personality and common values, since those type of pairings usually work best and spark the necessary curiosity that will allow both parties to become interested in each other’s set of skills and what they can teach one another. Simply being a good company and a genuinely interested individual can go a long way as a mentee.

Another aspect to consider is to be understanding and accepting of your role in the relationship and the fact that in most situations, it will be better for you as the mentee, to be flexible as to the dynamics of the mentorship. Your mentor may be a person who prefers to take on a coaching approach or perhaps they are more into answering questions and allow you to lead the course of the program. It is important for you to be aware of this and be respectful as to which type of relationship seems to be favored by your mentor.

Do not be afraid to talk about the things you know. Everyone is an expert at something and you have not achieved what you have thus far without being particularly good at something. Do not feel that your skills are irrelevant as you will be surprised how the things you know may change someone else’s life and in this case, help your mentor learn something or receive advice from a seemingly unlikely source. Something as common as the age or background difference can be a great place to start, as you can find many ways to teach your mentor something that you take for granted.

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Feedback is a great way to show you mentor that you respect the work you do together and that you take seriously the time they invest in your development. When you give your mentor feedback, you are helping him or her expand their own leadership skills and grow as professionals. Mentoring sessions are an excellent opportunity to evaluate one’s outlook on leadership and to conduct experiments on a smaller scale in which a mentor can evaluate the way they guide an individual and assert their own experience in order to help someone else direct their efforts towards their own professional and personal development. Just like giving feedback, it is important to actually listen to advice and trust the person you are working with. There is nothing more frustrating than a mentee that doesn’t listen to advice, as it makes the relationship ineffective and the time spent together feel as it were wasted.

* Featured Image courtesy of Matthew Burpee at Flickr.com

The Best Uses For Technology In Mentoring Inside Today’s Workplace

Today more than ever, technology is a present influence in every single aspect of our lives. We are using it to stay in touch with those who are far away, it helps us make our jobs a lot easier, we can entertain ourselves but also study, learn and have knowledge about the world we live in, available right at our fingertips.

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That ubiquitous nature of technology has made it so that we always try to find ways to fit it into all of our activities and figure out how we can enhance the way we interact with the things that surround us. When it comes to mentoring, the situation is no difference, as a matter of fact it becomes more than simply a choice that we may feel inclined to consider, it is something absolutely necessary in order to fully take advantage of the tools at our disposal and how we can use them to give mentoring a wider reach and a more effect application. Technology can affect mentoring at the personal level, meaning where the rubber meets the road and the mentor and mentee actually convene to look at realistic work plans to go about achieving their goals. New technological advances are also crucial when it comes to putting together a mentoring program for a company, as these important resources will shape the way the program works, how participants are matched and what sort of impact can be expected from being part of this initiative.

Convenience is one of the main factors that technology enhances and brings with it when involved in mentoring. Starting for example with the breakdown of geographical barriers, as mentor and mentee do not have to be in the same place in order to work together. The location is no longer a hindrance when it comes to finding a mentor, or even a group of mentors that can help someone achieve its goals and grow. Not having to stay in one place in order to receive guidance can help mentees use their time wisely and dedicate energy to their mentoring process that would otherwise be wasted with traveling, or by settling under the wing of one mentor that can only help them with one area of their process. The convenience of technology can allow you to have a coach that can help you find balance with the way you handle your personal affairs and creativity, while also giving you the chance of having a professional relationship with another mentor who aids you with career advancement within your own field of work.

Another great advantage that technology brings to the world of mentorships is the way that it has made communication between people so seamlessly. Constant communication between mentor and mentee is one of the cornerstones of a successful professional relationship and nothing has revolutionized the way we communicate like the new technologies. Today you can have video meetings on the go, send pictures, files, videos and audio files with a tool that you can both carry inside your pockets and that keeps you connected to the largest network in existence. Communication within the new technologies are erasing any type of issues that could have arisen in earlier times when planning how to maintain mentorships partners connected.

Reports, documents, and files pertaining the mentoring process can also be accessed by partners with a simple click through one of the many cloud services that make them editable by all parties involved and immediately update any changes made to them. Remember that having a well-placed system for gauging progress can sometimes be just as important as the progress itself

Training is another aspect that has changed so much and so quickly, that we can laugh today by thinking of our reactions if we were told 15 years ago, that you could find so much training, resources and research material online and that you could access all of it from your phone. Companies are understanding this and seeing the great benefits that it brings to their employees. E-learning paired with mentoring programs that are relevant and that take advantage of technology are great not just for the mentees, but also for mentors who in most cases, are people susceptible to continue using time-tested practices but tend to ignore technological breakthroughs that could exponentially enhance their own methods.

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Image courtesy of Cathy at Flickr.com

Technology breaches the gap that sometimes appears when we talk about mentoring being a two-way street, as younger generations are better adapting to the changes innovation brings about and can contribute to the partnerships by coming up with strategies and ways to use those technologies to make the most out of the mentorship. Working together to find these strategies is an excellent exercise for participants and also a great way to adjust your mentorship to benefit all parties involved at the moment, and perhaps even those who will come afterwards.

For more great articles on mentoring and how you can make it work for you, check out our publications at Suzzanne Uhland’s Blog.

The Reasons Why Mentorship Programs Fail

Mentoring programs are becoming more and more popular as organizations continue to see the great advantages they can bring to their individual members and their company integrity as a whole. Mentoring relationships help junior employees find guidance, direction and a practical way to direct their efforts towards the advancement of their professional career and also their personal endeavors. Senior members can also find great benefits from being part of a mentoring program as they can hone their own leadership skills, learn new abilities and widen their network while making a real difference in someone else’s life. Companies see a lower turnover and a higher index of job satisfaction amongst employees when they introduce mentoring programs into the organization. So why is it that something that is so positive for all parties involved sometimes fails? What are the most common mistakes organizations make when establishing their mentorship programs? That is the topic we will look in depth today here, in Suzzanne Uhland’s blog.

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One of the most common mistakes made at the time of creating a mentoring program can happen right from the start. This mistake is a lack of a balance in structure. Remember in our other article when we talked about the necessary steps to take when creating a mentoring program? We mentioned that right from the beginning, you must set clear goals and try planning exactly what you want to accomplish with the initiative. With that being said, you start to create a structure that will make those goals become attainable and that structure has to be based on the type of mentors and mentees that you are going to have as participants of the program. You have to understand that different individuals have diverse preferences and communication styles. Sometimes, the person in charge of the program fails to take that into consideration and their structure ends up lacking in flexibility or sometimes it even becomes so relax that it could be considered inexistent. The trick is to reach a balance in the structure that helps those who need to maintain their discipline and that doesn’t get in the way of those who are more organized and are able to better manage their time.

Another big mistake to keep in mind is poor training given to mentors and mentees. The problem is that some organizations feel that all they have to do is give people the opportunity to team up and they stop there. That is not the way you go about making sure that your mentorships are successful because you are abandoning your people to their own devices and failing them as an organization. Sometimes there are external factors like geographical constraints that make it difficult to gather your people and have them attend training sessions, but there are other ways of getting it done using the latest technologies. In order to keep your program alive, you must nurture its most crucial aspect and that is the human component.

Poor matching is perhaps one of the main reasons why mentoring relationships fail. Matching criteria must go hand-to-hand with the purpose of the program. The problem is that sometimes that purpose is so vague that people fail to understand what they are looking for in a partner to start a mentoring relationship. You cannot blame your participants if you left them to choose blindly the person they are going to work with.

If the purpose of your program is clear, then you can identify possible candidates and start matching them before the initiative even begins. It is true that in most cases you want partnerships to be formed in a very organic way, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t some planned component to it. Like we have said a few times before, it’s all about balance and finding the perfect dose of structure and freedom to choose.

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The last factor we are going to explore is the lack of clear benchmarks for success. This happens very often with companies that are hasty to start a mentoring program to meet some expectations but fail to realize the true responsibilities that come along with it and ignore the fact that the road to success is made out of many small stations along the way. Benchmarks are small goals that help track success and that motivate participants because it allows them to clearly map their improvement. Success must be measured and gauged so it can be repeated and so effective practices can be studied in order to implement them in other areas of the program.

This last part because an issue because sometimes organizations rush towards an end goal but forget that when it comes to mentoring it isn’t so clearly cut. What works for some may not be so evident for others, and while something may be seen like the norm in a company, it can be new territory to others.

 

10 Tips On How To Be A Great Mentee

Here at Suzzanne Uhland’s Blog, we always talk about the ways someone can be a better mentor and how rewarding this type of relationship can be for all parties involved, so in this occasion want to turn the tables around and chat about things from a different perspective. There is a lot of talk about how to be a great mentor and how to cause the greatest impact in your mentees by providing the right guidance and properly directing your experience to make the most out of the sessions; but how about the other side of the partnership? Mentees also have a great responsibility to make the situation work so it is mutually beneficial. A mentor-mentee relationship has to give both parties involved the opportunity to grow and to improve personally as well as professionally in order to be mutually appealing.

Let us take a look at some easy tips to consider when entering a mentoring partnership so you can work together as a team and make the most out of this excellent opportunity.

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Image courtesy of Jamie McCaffrey at Flickr.com

Have clear goals

As with all endeavors, whether they are personal or professional, you must first sit down and decide what it is you want out of the relationship. A mentorship can help you find much-needed guidance when switching careers or advancing in your already chosen field of work. Trying to figure out what to do in more general terms in your professional life is also a valid goal, but the more specific you are about what you want to accomplish, the most you will be able to get out of the relationship.

Make your choice wisely

Just as important as deciding what you want to gain out of the mentorship, you have to also decide who you mentor is going to be. Whichever skill you want to gain or whatever field you want to receive further insight in, you have to look for someone who has significantly more experience than you. Your mentor has to be a person who is in a position you admire and perhaps even want to reach eventually. It doesn’t have to be the world’s top expert in that field, but it must know a lot more than you in order to help you advance.

Give just as you receive

Remember this is a two-way street and just like you are receiving help, you must also give back. There are many ways that you can do this as you also have skills that you can exchange with your mentor and even help him strengthen his own leadership and mentorship skills.

Keep communication flowing

You must actively communicate with your mentor and show interest in growing the relationship. Be inquisitive and interested, understand that your mentor’s time is valuable and they are investing that time in your growth. Keep your mentor informed of your advancement and your feelings about the partnership. Remember that you can also give feedback about their work as a mentor and thus help them get better at it.

Let your mentor speak

Listen more than you talk, take in all the information and take advantage of the learning opportunities. You do not have to show off with your mentor, to allow them to speak and get their message across. If you dominate the conversation then you aren’t doing either one of you any favors.

Trust the experience of your mentor

You chose your mentor for a reason, so if you are placing your trust in this person you have to not only listen but also follow through with the advice they give you. Mentoring sessions are there to talk about progress, to plan the next move and the pick up where you left off. If you aren’t doing what you both decided in advance, then what is the point of the mentorship?

Understand the importance of constructive criticism

Your mentor is there to give you feedback and even if you do not like it you should trust their experience. Do not make up excuses or try to justify your mistakes, remember that your mentor is not your boss nor your enemy and they are there for you. Your mentor’s goal is never to make you feel under attack, so you shouldn’t be defensive and understand the importance of the progress you are accomplishing together.

Ask the right questions

Your mentor may be experienced but they cannot read your mind. Be specific about your questions and always ask until you understand. If you come up with good ideas when you aren’t together, then write them down so you can ask when you meet or when you send them an email. A mentoring relationship is great because it will give you back just as much as you put in, so great questions will probably have great answers as well.

Always tell the truth

Be honest with your mentor, like we said before, you are in this together as a team. The more truthful and honest you are, the more benefit you will get out of your plans together. Remember they are not there to judge you but to guide you and help you be better.

Be grateful

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Mentors take time out of their schedule to help you, so be grateful and say thanks every once in awhile. Be appreciative of what a mentor is doing for your and always say thanks.

Better individuals, better professionals

In today’s evolving corporate juncture, mentors embody a great beneficial resource, since they are capable of narrowing the gap between what is known and what is to be learnt. Although having a mentor might seem as a one-sided relationship —given the fact that mentors are the ones who commonly provide a word of advice, provide answers to complex questions, etc.—, in reality, such relationship ought to be seen as mutually enriching.

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Suzzanne Uhland has openly written about the magnificence of benefiting from what a mentor has to offer regardless of the scenario: a good mentor can actually bring something good to a vast majority of aspects, whether personal or professional (or both, for this matter). By understanding that the bond people establish with their mentors are at the very least mutually beneficial, such relationship will result in the inexorable improvement of both their knowledge and expertise in a specific field. Mentors strive to provide the highest amount of answers relevant to a specific job, however, in order for this to happen, not only it is necessary to disregard the belief that such bond is one-sided, but also to acknowledge the importance of becoming a good student (or mentee, in such case). By paying special attention to what the mentor says, and by always being willing to accept their advice on what to do to attain success, the likelihood to achieve goals in the long run while gaining more experience and becoming more proficient in a specific field increase. Nevertheless, as in every other relationship, it has to be nurtured, which is why it becomes highly important to show the mentor commitment to always follow their recommendations.

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Be that as it may, and having stressed the perks of establishing an enriching relationship with a mentor, it is also necessary to become proficient in realizing whether the person that seems to be a good choice is really capable of providing the information required. Hence the importance of assessing whether such persons might result in something positive.

Bear in mind that people who have chosen to be mentors are always willing to help others —no mentor has become a mentor without willingly agreeing to lend a helping hand when needed. Mentors always strive to share what they know and their experiences; they are willing to teach, and moreover, they are concerned that their mentees learn: mentors show interest in regards to their mentee’s personal and professional development, as they fondly remember that they also started that way.

The idea behind mentoring is to make people better professionals and better individuals at the same time. Mentors consider that their mentees might as well become mentors in the future, which is why most of them stress the importance of having a positive attitude towards life and work; they fondly nurture their mentee’s personal attributes so that they can develop what it takes to be successful in both the personal and professional field. By teaching their mentees the specific behaviors and attitudes required to dwell with expertise within a given field, they are making sure that in the future their students will be a positive role model.

As readers imagine, the responsibility behind becoming a mentor ought to not be taken lightly: the mentee is everything. In the same way, mentors also pay special attention to whether the person asking for help is actually willing to receive it. Mentees should be open to having their mentors be around since they are people with excellent communications skills striving to share their knowledge in a compassionate way. Think of them as school teachers or even trainers. A school teacher is always willing to help their students become better individuals by empowering them to develop their own strengths and personal attributes.

Remember: mentors are often one step ahead; they are in a position to accurately show how a specific field is evolving and changing as time passes by, nonetheless, they never lose their will to learn —as there will always be new things from which knowledge can be acquired—. Mentors seek to provide guidance to those who feel stagnant or stuck in both their lives and their professions, therefore, as a mentee, value fondly what they will be offering, as it is not in vain that they have gone a long way preparing themselves for this specific moment: they have spent hours and energy learning and becoming better at what they do for living, which ultimately turns out to be their passion.

Nevertheless, perhaps the most significant characteristic of a good mentor is their ease of conveying information in a constructive manner. Such aspect must not be go unnoticed by mentees, as this is the way their mentors will help them overcome their weaknesses and develop their strengths in a way that they can successfully become more proficient in their fields.