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The Biggest Mistake(s) a Mentor Makes






I have provided instruction to a lot of perspective mentors over the years. I have worked with countless people in a mentoring arrangement/mentoring relationship. My reflective process has provided me with the opportunity to learn from each mentoring session and to be able to share that knowledge with others either in a one on one situation or via a mentoring circle.

I wish there was just one mistake a mentor makes. Here are some things that I have seen over the years that we could do better as a mentor.

We have expectations of ourselves as mentors and we sometimes set similar expectations of the mentee. I usually go into a mentoring arrangement with no preconceived expectations of the person I am going to work with. I may set expectations for myself but that’s okay. One of the expectations that I always have of myself is that I am going to work hard at bringing value to the relationship. If you can meet that expectation you will do well as a mentor.

We sometimes get caught up in the corporate mentoring world which is usually focused on professional growth (career development). We fail to look at the personal growth challenges that our mentee is dealing with. As a result the mentoring arrangement is in greater risk of not being successful. I always focus on the personal side or at least have an understanding of some of the challenges for every mentoring arrangement that I am involved in. I see some mentors struggling with this aspect as it does take a different skill set to be able to work with people in that regard. Take the time to get to know your mentee and be comfortable sharing something personal to build the trust. Understand the personal challenges that they are facing. It will definitely strengthen the relationship that you have.

We need to be better at story telling/story sharing. I have had mentors ask me what I do when my mentee doesn’t talk much. How do I bring value when I can’t get them to open up? Welcome to the world of storytelling/story sharing. I have had mentoring sessions that went for an hour and my mentee wasn’t engaged or so I thought. I told stories for most of that time, periodically trying to get them to engage. At the end of the mentoring session I asked what value they got as I seemed to have done most of the talking. They advised that they could see themselves in my stories and could draw on my experiences to prepare them for their own challenges. They also felt that they were in a safe environment – a safe place because of my sharing and that it helped their self-esteem.

I work with people at all levels in an organization. I work with executives, managers, supervisors and employees that are all bringing value to the organization in some way shape or form. Each one of these mentoring relationships is unique and the mentor arrangement needs to be customized to each person in order to optimize growth – growth for the mentor and the mentee. We sometimes get caught up in a one size fits all and it doesn’t work that way.

Keep these thoughts in mind as you head out the door for your next mentoring session. Remember that bringing value to the relationship is of the utmost importance. You are creating a life changing experience when you share the “Gift of Mentoring.”