Who Leads? Mentor or Mentee?

Female designer tries to get her freelance producion associate to understand exactly how she would like her ideas to be produced and executed.

Okay, you can do this. You have a 50% shot of getting it right. The answer is…

You’re probably wrong. Sorry! Of course you would think that the person in a higher level position, sometimes an older individual, the leader in the office even, would lead the mentorship process. But this is one of those counter-intuitive situations. Because the mentee usually has more to gain. Put the mentorship process in the hands of the mentee and you can bet they’ll follow through.

If you’re the administrator for a mentorship program, it’s important to manage participants’ expectations with clarity. Tell mentees at the beginning that they should lead in the following ways:

  • Set meeting agendas
  • Outline goals for benchmarks
  • Prepare for meetings and be on time
  • Update mentorship administration with progress
  • Ask for feedback
  • Acknowledge mentor’s time and support
  • Set aside time to ask for mentor’s insight and direction for the relationship

 
Don’t forget to inform the mentors that they should be expecting the mentee to take the lead. Not only does this process ensure more complete follow-through, but it builds leadership and confidence in the mentee. Mentees might feel nervous about approaching their mentors with plans, deadlines, or schedules. Remind them that not only is their mentor expecting them to take the lead, but will feel more comfortable knowing what’s expected in advance. This approach also gives the mentee an opportunity to shine in front of a higher level employee.

Set your mentees up for success. They’ll need suggestions and a framework to follow in terms of scheduling meetings, establishing expectations, achieving goals, and tracking progress. Remind them to communicate honestly but also to maintain confidentiality. Give them the chance to ask you questions and make sure they understand the terms of the program before they contact their mentors.

Does it sound like the administration is really taking the lead in this process? Isn’t that always the case?! You’re a clever one. If you need help streamlining your company’s mentorship program, check out eMentorConnect.

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Kate Mason
kate.mason@ementorconnect.com

Kate Mason is a writer, historian, and stand-up comic living in New Orleans, LA. She is the Programming Coordinator for the New Orleans Film Society and an avid enthusiast of pop culture. She approaches mentoring challenges with a witty, creative mind.

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