Here at Suzzanne Uhland’s blog, we have talked about many times of the clear advantages of having a mentoring program set up for your employees, as well as joining one as a mentor or mentee in your organization. Companies benefit greatly when they pair up their employees and thus bring new member up to speed on the company’s practices, procedures, and goals while at the same time investing in the development of new members of the organization. If you are a senior employee, then mentoring opens up a door of opportunities in a whole different way, by giving you the chance to learn skills that perhaps were not relevant during your own training and that are common with today’s younger generations, or also by helping you enhance your own leadership skills in a real-world environment.
It is clear that the advantages are many and for everyone involved, but then again we have to talk about the most common mistakes organizations and individuals make when putting together, maintaining and participating in a mentoring program. Mistakes and wrong dealings when it comes to mentoring can develop to become difficulty seeing the advantages of the relationship, benefiting from being part of a mentorship and even result in the failure of the program itself.
These are some of the most common mistakes made when it comes to mentorships.
Sometimes even great mentors fail because they forget to do things such as reframing challenges in a way that can be easily understood and properly assessed by the mentee. Our frame of mind is something crucial when it comes to finding ways to deal with obstacles as things may seem impossible to solve and predicaments may feel impossible from where we are standing. Reframing problems allow us to remove ourselves from the predicament and literally find a new approach. A great mentor knows this and sometimes that is what sets them apart from the rest. Forgetting about reframing or simply tackling issues without changing our frame of mind is a big mistake in mentoring and one that even experienced participants easily fall into.
Another big mistake in mentoring happens when mentors simply give out the answers to mentees. Finding solutions is about coaching individuals and helping them reach conclusions on their own for the most part. A good mentor is not a person who solves issues for you; instead, they guide you and help you find the answers on your own while helping you stay on track while a goal has been set and a plan has been hatched.
The problem with giving a mentee the solution to their issue is that we are literally taking away from them the opportunity to grow and learn from experiences. The job of a mentor is to facilitate such learning opportunities and not to take them away from their mentees.
A great way to mentor is to ask questions. Instead of telling them what to do, have them answer questions about why they haven’t done something yet, thus making them really think about what is it that is stopping them from taking risks or to analyze aspects that they may have not considered before.
As a mentee, one of the biggest and most common mistakes is choosing a mentor that is too similar to you. It is very comfortable to talk to someone with your same background and way of thinking, so developing that kind of relationship will be naturally easy, however, it isn’t recommended to avoid contrast when it comes to mentoring. You will learn the most from partners that are of a different gender and background because you will be exposed to a whole new spectrum of experiences that can enrich your own. Think also outside of your chain of command and go for someone who is not your direct supervisor so you can avoid conflicts of interest. Be bold and brave and get out of your comfort zone.
Another mistake mentees make has to do with asking for advice that is too general. Always be specific about your questions, about the issues that worry you and about the advice you want to receive. It is normal to not be clear about your needs at first, but finding out is part of the experience.
As an organization, one of the most common mistakes people make is wrongly pairing participants. Sometimes this is done at random and that spells out a recipe for disaster. Remember that not all senior members are willing to participate in mentoring, so this shouldn’t be something that is imposed on people. The trick is to find people who are excited about the opportunity to teach others and partner them with employees who have interest in advancing their professional life and goals that can benefit from receiving help from others with more experience.
The last and probably the most important mistake companies make is that they forget to follow up and supervise their own mentoring program. That could mean the end of the program itself, easily.