Choosing your ideal mentoring partner! Ah, it sounds like such a lofty goal. Is it even possible? The answer is YES!
But it’s not about choosing the ideal mentor or the ideal mentee. It is about becoming the ideal mentoring partner.
You begin by asking someone you would like to work with. Then you become ideal partners in the process of working out the relationship that will allow both of you to cause breakthroughs in your careers and lives.
In the classic mentoring scenario, we think of a potential mentor as THE one who has all the knowledge and experience. She chooses someone who is worthy and passes down her wisdom to develop into her own image. A “mini-me” if you will.
Those who are fortunate enough to be chosen can reap phenomenal benefits when the relationship is a fit. Unfortunately, as mentoring has become more popular, and career ladders have fewer rungs, many people who want the opportunity to be mentored are disappointed because there aren’t enough people at the top who have the time or the interest to mentor someone on their way up.
There are excellent candidates who may not be at the top but who have more experience than you do who would be eager to help you get to the next rung. That’s because those who mentor rise higher faster and earn more than their colleagues who don’t.
Here’s the takeaway.
Rather than looking for a potential mentor at the very top, look for someone you respect who is further ahead in their career than you are, either within your organization or in your professional association. If you want to be a mentor, choose someone you respect as well.
Schedule your first meeting
At your first meeting, if you don’t know each other well or even if you do, do some relationship-building, share your dreams and goals. Share your accomplishments. If, at the end of the conversation, you both agree to be mentoring partners, take the next step right then and there.
This is the part that takes discipline. Set up a structure for your powerful mentoring partnership. Agree on how often you will meet, weekly, every other week, or monthly. Schedule the next two meetings. Determine how and if you will communicate between meetings, for example: texting an update, calls or emails for support or check-ins.
Keep your appointments. If you have to cancel for an emergency, schedule the make-up meeting as soon as possible. The person who cancels should make sure this happens.
Each meeting should end with the mentee identifying at least three next steps that have deadlines and clear, measurable results. From time to time, one of those steps will be to create a more detailed action plan.
When I mentor, I also take on a project and share my next steps with my mentee. This ensures I will walk my talk. I become a role model and a learning lab at the same time. We struggle, fail and succeed together. When we cause breakthroughs we celebrate and start again with a new project or challenge.Susan Bender Phelps runs Odyssey Mentoring & Leadership. She speaks and delivers corporate training on Mentorship, Leadership and Communication. Her book, Aspire Higher, tells true success stories of business and career mentoring and unpacks the essential elements of an effective mentoring partnership.