1. Coming to meetings unprepared. Mentoring-on-the-run doesn’t work. It isn’t “an activity” to squeeze in on an already overcrowded calendar. To stay focused and on track you will need to make time to prepare for each and every mentoring meeting. Schedule preparation time when you enter mentoring meeting times and dates on your calendar. Keep a journal (or a mentoring log) and review your notes to get up to speed prior to each meeting. Check in with your mentoring partner in advance to decide how you both want to spend your next mentoring meeting.
2. Falling into the transaction trap. Good conversation is the heart and soul of successful mentoring relationships. Without it, a meaningful mentoring is impossible. Without a meaningful relationship, learning is compromised. It is easy for mentoring interactions that were meant to be conversational to spiral downward and become a string of transactions, especially when one or both partners are under pressure. As you and your mentoring partner establish your mentoring agreements, identify 5-10 “good conversation criteria” you can use as an accountability measure. Then, check in with each other periodically to make sure your mentoring conversations are still conversations and have not been reduced to transactions.
3. “Excusititis.” Mentors and mentees often say that “lack of time” is the reason that their mentoring relationship derailed. In our experience, lack of time does not fully address the root of the problem. It is an excuse for not making mentoring a priority. It is an excuse for not managing mentoring time you do have well. It is an excuse for not wanting to be accountable. (And the list of excuses goes on.) The fact of the matter is that mentoring does take time. There is no way around it. Mentoring demands prime time.
4. Impostership. We bring who we are to what we do. Both mentors and mentees must be willing to be authentic and transparent in a mentoring relationship. People are often unwilling to be candid about themselves for a whole host of reasons. Sometimes it is a matter of not trusting yourself to trust others. When “the real you” doesn’t show up in a mentoring relationship, the results are always less than satisfactory and mentoring meetings become a huge waste of time, resources, and talent.
5. Giving up too soon. Once you’ve gotten to know your mentoring partner and established some agreements, the learning phase of the relationship begins in earnest. This is when the saying “it’s a process” rings true. In a mentoring relationship there are peaks and valleys. There are ebbs and flows. Create a roadmap for the relationship when you set your agreements in place. Talk about what you will do to ensure momentum. Build in check points along the way to make sure that learning is progressing on time.