Effective mentoring involves the development of a trusted relationship that is the foundation to any great and rewarding mentoring experience. Part of relationship building is watching for non-verbal cues when you are having those relationship building conversations.
Let me share a true story with you that a colleague shared with me today.
“My mentee and I had been meeting on and off monthly since around the October time frame. While the meetings were okay, I’d noticed that my mentee was a quiet individual; he wasn’t really sure what this whole “mentoring” thing was about and really didn’t seem to drive much of the conversation or agenda. I could tell throughout the meetings that while we got along well enough, we really weren’t connecting in a way that was meaningful or valued. I wasn’t sure why, but it was certainly something I was aware of.
In our first meetings I had always dressed business casual. I wanted to make a good impression on my mentee; I wanted him to see that I took this mentoring stuff seriously and that I was serious about helping him. What I didn’t realize was that this only added to the intimidation factor that was already in place. This hit me like a ton of bricks when in our last meeting I decided to dress down in jeans and a t-shirt, and it was like talking to a whole different person! The walls came down, we talked about all kinds of different things (we found out we have common interests), and for the first time in months made a real, human connection. I still haven’t wiped the grin off my face!
The truth is, the signs were there all along. My mentee is very intelligent, winning awards and scoring marks in the top 1% of his class. Every time we met, he was always telling me about his achievements, his awards, etc. Not in an arrogant way, but in a way that he was trying to “sell” me on his intelligence. I never picked up on it, until last week. It was a case of a young mentee feeling intimidated an out of place, and putting up walls and guards to try and ensure I didn’t see that side of him. I didn’t recognize this and as a result didn’t provide him with the best mentoring experience possible.
The point of all this is that as a mentor, we need to make sure we make a human connection with our mentees. If we don’t make the effort to first connect with them on a human level and build that trust, we can’t effectively enter into a mentor/mentee relationship. Trust is everything, and without it the relationship doesn’t exist.”
My colleague has very eloquently pointed out the need for the trusted relationship as the foundation to an effective mentoring experience. This example very clearly shows the difference between mentoring and effective mentoring. It also demonstrates the value in having training. The analysis that my colleague did would not have taken place in a normal mentoring relationship. Effective mentoring takes the trusted relationship to the next level and that takes place when training provides the mentor with the tools to analyze situations such as this. My colleague is a great effective mentor and is an awesome advocate for sharing the “gift of mentoring.”