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Management Training-Tips for Getting the Best out of a Mentoring Relationship

16 June 2016

One of our Learning Consultants was recently asked the question, “What should I be looking for when choosing a Mentor?” The context to this question was that during an informal career conversation with a member of their HR team, it was suggested that this individual may benefit from a mentoring relationship. Intrigued by the idea, they soon realised that they had almost as many questions as answers, the first of which being…

What is Mentoring and how does it differ from Coaching?

Coaching and Mentoring are often confused, as they sit so closely together. Both add genuine value but if you had to draw a distinction between the two, a coach will draw out your thoughts through some searching questioning techniques, whereas a mentor will be more inclined to offer guidance in the form of suggestions and answers to your questions.  The outcome of both types of conversation should be a tangible plan that you can then action.

What can a Mentor do for me?

A mentor can be a really useful point of contact in your life, be it personal or career focused.  You can expect to receive advice and guidance on situations that you are facing, decisions that you have to make, often with a focus on your career development.  This is likely to work best if you create your own objectives for a meeting, as this will in turn steer the agenda to ensure that you get what you want out of the conversation.

Your objective may for example be to focus on a particular issue that you are facing at work such as a challenging business relationship or a particular problem that needs to be resolved. In these situations a mentor can offer guidance and advice. Often mentors have already “been there and done it” and have a wealth of experience and knowledge that they are able to impart to you.

How do I go about choosing a Mentor?

Finding someone who has achieved what you are hoping to is often a good starting point.  Who do you look up to and respect in your Organisation?  Remember that they don’t need to work in the same department as you, albeit if you are predominantly after technical advice, this can be advantageous.

We all have our own ways of doing things.  Some of us like to plan and be organised, whereas some of us are a little more off the cuff and tend to be more impulsive.  If you are the type of person who works from lists, is organised, detailed and likes to plan, you may well be best suited to someone who holds the same priorities. 

How should I approach a Mentor?

It is all too common for mentoring conversations to begin with the immortal chat up line, ‘Hi, please will you be my mentor?’ followed by the obligatory response of ‘Yes of course, I would be delighted. How very flattering’.  Whilst there is nothing technically wrong with this approach, the relationship hasn’t been formed on the firmest of foundations and may lead to challenges down the line.

It is your responsibility to drive the mentoring relationship so first and foremost, be ready to explain what your objectives are and why you believe they specifically could help you to achieve your goals.  How often would you like to meet with them, where would you like to meet with them and how will you measure the impact of the mentoring?  The earlier these questions can be answered, the better.

Then of course, it is important to consider your line manager.  How will they feel if they find out that you are seeking guidance elsewhere?  In an ideal world they will be delighted and may even have been consulted as to who would be a good person to approach.  Handled poorly however and they may feel paranoid, hurt or even redundant.  

For more tips on mentoring or to learn more about our Management Training, please call us on 01295 675506 for a free consultation.

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