LEARN FROM SOMEONE WHO KNOWS
Every January we celebrate National Mentoring Month and pay homage to the dedicated mentors who generously offer their experience, influence, knowledge and guidance to others. Although we take this opportunity to acknowledge mentors, it must be known that mentoring relationships are beneficial to both the mentee and the mentor. Whether you are a youth trying to find your future path, starting your education, early in your career or an experienced employee, the mentor-mentee relationship can be incredibly rewarding. This article will help you understand the true value of mentorship and provide you with tips for a successful mentoring relationship.
“A mentor is someone who sees more talent and ability within you, than you see in yourself, and helps bring it out of you." — Bob Proctor
Even though there is undeniable research showing the benefits of mentoring, according to the Association for Talent Development, only 37% of employees currently have a mentor. When you increase the scope to include students, the number is even lower. Yet the positive reasons for participating in a mentoring relationship are undeniable. In a study conducted by Gartner, mentees are promoted five times more often than those not in a mentoring program. And for those of you who are dealing with employee recruiting and retention issues, the same study showed that retention rates are higher for both mentees (22% more) and mentors (20% more) than for employees who didn’t participate in a mentoring relationship.
“Show me a successful individual and I’ll show you someone who had real positive influences in his or her life. I don’t care what you do for a living—if you do it well I’m sure there was someone cheering you on or showing the way. A mentor.” — Denzel Washington
Before we go further, let’s define what we mean by mentoring. According to Grand Valley State University, mentoring is the reciprocal learning relationship in which a mentor and mentee agree to a partnership where they work collaboratively toward the achievement of mutually-defined goals that will develop a mentee’s skills, abilities, knowledge, and/or thinking.
“Mentoring is a brain to pick, an ear to listen, and a push in the right direction.” — John Crosby
Now that we’ve established what mentoring is, we’ve created 5 Key Elements of a Successful Mentoring Relationship; Reciprocity, Learning, Trust, Action, and Celebrating Success:
Reciprocity - Each person in the mentoring relationship has responsibilities toward each other. This association can’t be one-sided. Both parties must contribute in order to build trust and establish the connection. When a mutually beneficial bond is created, the mentor can also learn a lot from the mentee during the course of their mentoring conversations. Tip: Set up ground rules that include when and how often you’ll meet, how the communication of feedback will take place - is it okay to be candid and blunt or would they like a gentler approach? Will the mentor assign “homework” and how will the outcomes be documented?
Learning - The purpose, the process and the product of the mentoring relationship is all about enlightenment. Mentees are there to soak up knowledge and mentors should consider themselves as facilitators of learning. In order to move beyond polite conversation, effective mentoring relationships establish goals. Create an understanding of what each party is looking to get out of the mentoring relationship. What does the mentee want to accomplish? Where do they need guidance? Sometimes the mentee might not be able to clearly articulate their exact needs but a skilled mentor will ask questions, listen and offer suggestions. Tip: Both the mentor and the mentee should have written goals that are reviewed as part of each of their meetings.
Trust - Strong mentoring relationships are built upon a solid foundation of trust. Each participant must feel comfortable sharing insights, lessons learned and challenges experienced in a judgment-free, confidential manner. Tip: Mentors who are open and honest about their own strengths and weaknesses make themselves more relatable. Both parties should be as transparent as possible.
Action - Mentors are donating their time so the mentees should drive the relationship. That means mentees should be responsible to help set up the meetings, schedule the contacts/calls and create the agenda for the conversation. Be sure to share updates on what progress has been made since the last meeting. Discuss any barriers and identify options for addressing open issues. Tip: Use an agenda to focus the discussion but leave room for organic conversation to take place. Make sure all of the necessary to-do’s are addressed. Don’t forget to include time to build the relationship at the beginning or end of the meeting.
Celebrate successes - The mentor-mentee relationship is created to promote the mentee’s growth and development. It’s mutually satisfying for the mentor to have played a role in a mentee’s success. Acknowledge achievements - large and small. Forward progress provides positive reinforcement for both the mentor and the mentee. Tip: Review the goals of the mentoring relationship during every meeting. Look for progress against milestones and celebrate achievements.
Through our Youth Solutions programs, youth participants often recognize their program specialist as an important mentor in their lives. Lewis Williams, a Jobs for Michigan’s Graduates (JMG) Alumnus from Cody High School, didn’t let the barriers he faced stop him from building a brighter future for himself. His desire to improve himself and his environment was evident from the moment he entered the JMG program, and with the help of his JMG specialist, Carolyn Miller, he did just that. Miller became a trusted mentor to Williams. He said “To be honest, I didn't know what I was going to do after high school. My JMG Specialist kind of pushed me towards it (a career in the energy field) and opened me up to the idea. Since I've been a part of it, it's been a great learning experience. I learn something new in the field every day.” In part, through this mentoring relationship, Williams has found personal success and fulfilling employment, working for DTE since 2018.
It’s clear to see that mentoring is worth the effort and benefits both parties involved in this connection. So now what?
Mentees: We challenge you to make a list of people you admire. Approach 3-5 potential mentors and engage them in a conversation about building a mentoring relationship.
Mentors: Start the conversation with potential mentees. Be approachable. Host a conversation with students or newer employees to understand their goals for personal and professional development. Determine if there is a connection and if so, offer to be their mentor.
The delicate balance of mentoring someone is not creating them in your own image, but giving them the opportunity to create themselves.” — Steven Spielberg