Concentrate on the First 90 Days to Avoid Mentoring Missteps

Today’s guest bloggers are Lois Zachary and Lory Fischler, authors of Starting Strong: A Mentoring Fable.

Mentoring Missteps:

  • Mentors start off a mentoring relationship by drilling down on workplace issues before sufficiently establishing trust and build a solid relationship.
  • Mentoring pairs avoid difficult conversations.
  • Mentoring pairs automatically assume they each understand the need for discretion.
  • Mentees feel compelled to accept mentor recommendations, even though other issues might be more pressing.
  • Mentee goals are not be worthy of a mentor’s time and effort.
  • Goals are too easily accomplished or become a punch list of tasks and to-dos.
  • Goals are beyond the mentee’s capability or position or they don’t align with organizational priorities.

These missteps can be easily avoided if you take the time to lay a solid foundation at the beginning of a mentoring relationship, specifically during its first 90 days.

Engage in conversation. During the first 90 days mentoring partners build a trusting relationship, settle into agreements about how to work together, and focus on creating and working on SMART goals. If trust isn’t established early on, a mentee won’t be real and honest.  She may “posture” and try to look successful.  When this happens it masks a mentee’s real challenges and problems. Conversation will remain on the surface.

  • What questions can you ask your mentee to get her to feel comfortable?

 

Embed structure. Even when trust is established, partners need to put some structured agreements in place to ensure they stay on track and are productive.  Planning, agendas, timelines, confidentiality, deciding how often, where and when to meet all need to be addressed up front.  How do you handle a cancelled meeting?  How do you make the most of your time?  What are the hot buttons each person wants to avoid?  Talking about these at the beginning of a relationship increases the likelihood of mentoring success.

  • What agreements will you and your mentee need to put it place before you get started?

 

Create smart goals. Learning is the central focus of the relationship and the mentee’s goals drive that learning. If the goals aren’t specific, conversations never have a focus.  If goals are measurable, mentoring partners don’t know if they are actually making progress.  Both the mentor and mentee need to be invested in the goals. And not all goals are right for mentoring; they need to be stretch goals, they need to be worthy of the mentor’s time and effort and the energy and commitment of the mentee.  The goals need to make a difference ultimately to the mentee’s career success.

  • How will the goals your mentee wants to work on contribute to his growth and development?

 

The first 90 days are critical to mentoring success. What structures do you need to put in place to make the most of your first 90 days?

To learn more about the mentoring process, watch our recent webinar with Zachary and Fischler, titled The First 90 Days of a Mentoring Relationship.

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