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.

Kate Mason

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.

  • Rey Carr
    Posted at 23:14h, 13 June Reply

    I like the idea of empowering the mentee. (Incidentally, we’ve stopped using the term “mentee” or “protege.” We now use the term “partner” or “learning partner.”.) I also think it’s OK if the mentor takes the lead at the beginning of the mentoring relationships with the aim of gradually turning over the responsibilities to the partner. As the relationship evolves the partner ought to be taking on more and more of the administration. If this isn’t happening or the mentor senses resistance or reluctance on the part of the partner, then this can be a topic for discussion and clarification.

  • Mentorship Across Miles: Keeping Remote Workers Connected - eMentorConnect
    Posted at 10:02h, 26 June Reply

    […] Mentees Choosing Mentors— Beth N. Carvin, CEO of Nobscot Corp. says that remote mentees can go one of two routes when choosing a mentor– either choose a mentor who works or has worked remotely themselves so that they can offer their advice or choose a mentor who is in the office full-time, so that the mentee feels more connected to the hive. […]

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