“Mentees should always schedule the meeting, bring status reports, and have an agenda”

Think of a mentor/mentee relationship as something that does not have to exist.  It only exists because the mentee wants to grow and is proactive in reaching out to someone they believe can help them, and because the mentor has an interest in helping someone else grow, without an expectation of self-benefit, or anything else obligating them to do so.  In contrast, a boss has to manage an employee.  It is their duty and a job for which they receive compensation.   The boss sets the plan, checks to make sure employees are executing, reprimands when needed, etc..   The problems with mentoring are usually a result of the mentee expecting to be treated like an employee.   Mentorship is the opportunity fo the mentor to not be a “boss”.  Mentors do not take on the additional responsibility of mentoring for any other reason than their desire to help.  However, the fuel required to keep a mentor going, is knowing that the Mentee truly wants to help themselves, and they can show it by how they value the time spent together.

Having been a mentee for over 10 years, I have learned the etiquette which has led to long-term relationships, and mentors who have and who continue to help me grow:

  • Mentees start the relationship by asking to be mentored, and by letting the potential mentor know what they hope to gain from the relationship
  • Mentees schedule the meetings
  • Mentees set the agenda for each meeting and communicate it in advance
  • Mentees readily report on any updates since the previous meeting, understanding that the Mentors fuel is to see improvement
  • Mentees should always be honest and discuss their real problems/objectives.   Mentors do not need to be impressed – their purpose is to be needed
  • Mentees recognize that the mentor’s time is valuable, and always offer to buy their breakfast/lunch/coffee if that is part of the meeting

Having been a mentor for a number of years as well, there are also guidelines that should be followed in that role:

  • Only engage with a mentee if you are the right person to help.  If you are not the right person, connect them with another leader that is a better fit
  • If the mentee has never had a mentor, do not be shy in telling them how it works.  If they do not want to put in the effort, it is not worth the time for either person
  • Follow-up on specific goals they have communicated.  Do this early and often in the relationship, which will improve the agendas, reports, and progress that is made in each meeting
  • Let the mentee do their part – don’t become their “boss”

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