Mentorships can be one of the more informal relationships in the workplace. Participants must feel comfortable sharing insecurities and challenges in order to receive the guidance they need to grow.
Goncalo de Vasconcelos, CEO and co-founder of SyndicateRoom, an online equity investing platform in the UK, stresses the importance of finding a mentor you can trust in a recent post for Forbes, “somebody to whom you feel comfortable admitting when something is not going quite according to plan. If you feel you can share only good news with your mentor, that person isn’t a mentor.”
In the past two weeks we’ve talked about requisite skills for optimal mentorships: active listening and the effective use of questions. This week, we’re focusing on the grease that’ll make those wheels turn: trust.
But before we get started, I have one question for you:
Just kidding, Jasmine! You don’t have to trust me! It’s just a blog. Take the advice or leave it, but if you take a look around eMentorConnect, I think you’ll realize they know their stuff.
So, how do you create trust in a brand new relationship? Just because you’ve set up two team members with a mentorship and put them in a room together doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll immediately trust each other. You need to set them up for success from the beginning. Here’s how:
1. Encourage them to discuss the importance of trust in their first meeting. Actually write it on the agenda.
2. Begin with positive reinforcement. Remind the participants to acknowledge each other’s strengths and accomplishments in the first meeting. The mentor can also put the mentee at ease by letting him or her know that (almost) no question or topic will be off the table. The relationship should be an open dialogue and present a time to be candid with each other.
3. Remind them both to remain nonjudgmental. We’re talking about a relationship that might have a huge gap in status in the workplace, age, and/or class. Make sure your mentor knows that they need to avoid being patronizing when giving advice.
4. Stress the importance of empathy. Encourage your participants to find experiences that allow them to relate to each other. If a mentee shares a challenge, ask the mentor to speak about a similar challenge that he or she has had in the past.
5. Make sure the mentor asks for feedback. Although we advise mentees to take the lead in mentorships, they may be anxious about offering criticism for the mentor. (Remember that the mentor may be their boss’ boss’ boss!) Push the mentor to ask for feedback, and remind them to accept it without pushing back.
What about now? Do you trust me? If so, check out our previous posts that offer practical advice on how to run mentorship programs and check back with us every week for more!