Mentoring matters

Nine Steps To Make Sure Your Mentoring Is Empowering

Steven Spielberg once said, “The delicate balance of mentoring someone is not creating them in your own image, but giving them the opportunity to create themselves.”

Positive mentoring can be a powerful influence in the workplace. Research shows that 75% of private sector executives say mentoring has been critical in their own career development.

Good mentoring is grounded in working with someone who sees your strengths and helps you tap into those in ways you may not be able to do alone. Done well, mentoring helps you set goals and accelerate along the path to achieving those goals.

In the workplace, mentoring can bring wonderful opportunities to mentees. Broadening your professional network, getting on the fast track to learn a new skill or function or gaining insights to help avoid common pitfalls are just a few.

As you engage a mentor, there is groundwork to do to ensure you get the most out of the relationship. Here are nine actions to take as a mentee to help get the most out of your mentor:

Have a mentoring goal

Be clear from the start what you want from the mentoring relationship. Brainstorm your objectives. Prioritise them. Review those with your mentor and be clear about what you want to get out of the relationship. It is important your expectations are aligned so they know how best to help.


A mentoring relationship is like any other relationship in that it is based on a degree of interpersonal chemistry. As you work together more its likely you’ll share frustrations, challenges and insecurities. It takes trust to be vulnerable with someone and it takes courage to accept feedback. If you’re not feeling comfortable, don’t be shy about thanking the mentor for their time and going back to the drawing board to find someone who might be a better fit for you.


It is likely you’re lined up with this mentor because they’re more senior than you and they’re someone you respect. Its also likely that the more exposure you have to your mentor, the more you’re likely to respect them. That can create a side effect in one-on-one conversations where you might be tempted to “gild the lily” and stretch the truth around your actions. Its human nature. You’re impressed by them so you want to impress them a little too. Don’t be tempted. It can shake a mentor’s trust in you if they figure out you’re telling stories. And you risk them guiding you in a direction that isn’t effective for your goals.

Don’t be shy

Another symptom of really admiring someone is that you might find yourself overcome with shyness in their presence. If you can resist this, do. If it overwhelms you, tell your mentor how you’re feeling and they may be able to set you at ease. If you’re too shy to share your goals and thinking, it will be difficult for your mentor to help you.

Be curious

Be curious in your mentoring relationship. Ask questions, clarify and debate points. You have unique access to someone who has travelled a little further down the road than you so take every opportunity to learn from their mistakes and successes. Ask how they did things, why they did them, what resulted and if they’d do things differently if they could.

Keep an open mind

An effective mentor is in your support camp, no matter what. They’re there to help you succeed. Sometimes that means giving you feedback you don’t want to hear. It can feel like criticism and it can hurt. At those times it is important to keep an open mind and absorb what your mentor is really saying. You will always have a different perspective on yourself to others. Sometimes it takes an external point of view to help us learn and grow.

Be prepared and be committed

When you work with a mentor you’ll agree to a rhythm of how and when to stay in touch. When you have a meeting coming up, prepare for it. Draft questions or scenarios to discuss. Never blow off a meeting without a good reason or without proper notice. You’re both busy so make the most of your time together by being prepared.

Follow through

As you discuss opportunities and challenges with your mentor you’ll often agree actions and next steps. When you do, follow through. Practice a new habit, skill or process your mentor shares with you. If your mentor reviews some work, incorporate their feedback where it makes sense and debate where it doesn’t. If they use their network to make an introduction to you, follow it up. Remember your mentor is there to help you. If you don’t want to take the advice or introduction, tell them and discuss it, but don’t simply ignore it.

Be respectful

Its probable that one of the reasons you were drawn to your mentor is because of certain skills, subject matter expertise or seniority they possess. Your mentor is giving up their time to support you so be respectful in all your interactions. Be on time, be understanding when things need to change for them and give reasonable notice if things change for you.

Mentoring is not about lining up with someone more experienced and using them to do your job for you. Mentoring is about finding someone who can help you do your job more effectively. Take responsibility to create a positive, empowering mentoring relationship by being a prepared mentee.

For more information on how to get the most out of mentoring contact us.