Mentoring: Quick Tips for Mentors and Proteges

Managers-as-MentorsI’ve been writing about mentoring, and to some extent executive coaching. I think many smart executives carry around misconceptions about what goes on in the mentoring relationship at work. It’s not surprising, since mentoring has evolved in the last decade.

One of the best books out is the 3rd edition of Manager as Mentors, by Chip Bell and Marshall Goldsmith. I highly recommend it.

The quality of your mentoring relationship will determine its ultimate success. Each partner must accept responsibility for making it work. When something isn’t gelling, be sure to communicate your concerns. When expectations are met, let go and move on.

Whether you are a protégé being mentored or the other way around, it’s important to keep alert to signs that the relationship is working or not. It’s up to both of you to make it work and to speak up or take steps to adjust as you go along.

Chip Bell and Marshall Goldsmith offer some fundamental tips in Managers as Mentors:

For Being a Great Protégé:

  • Select a mentor who can help you be the best you can be—not the one who can ease you into a promotion.
  • You can sometimes learn more from people who are different from you.
  • Clarify your goals and expectations for the mentoring relationship, and communicate them in your first meeting.
  • Be yourself. Be willing to take risks with new skills and ideas.
  • When given feedback, listen well and say thank you.

For Being a Great Mentor:

  • Mentoring is a partnership to help your protégé learn. It’s not about being an expert or authority.
  • Don’t instruct; foster discovery. Ask powerful questions instead of giving smart answers.
  • Be authentic, open and sincere. Establish a comfortable and safe environment.
  • Act more like a friend than a boss.
  • Be curious and attentive.
  • Give feedback with a strong focus on the future, not the past.

In the work I do with clients, I stress how important it is that we check in with each other regularly about expectations and outcomes. If you’re not doing that with your coach or mentor, I suggest you do the next time you meet.

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