Maintaining accountability in a mentoring relationship is critical for success. But it’s not one-sided. Accountability must be mutual. “Wait, what?” you might be thinking. “Accountability is hard enough, but mutual accountability?”
Yes! Making sure both mentors and mentees are accountable keeps mentoring relationships moving and on track thanks to regular care and attention. Regular monitoring of your relationship guarantees that even when the relationship seems to be going well, you can still promote mutual accountability and, therefore, a healthy relationship.
How do you get started? Use the following conversation tips to provide a framework that drives mutual accountability — and helps maintain it.
Check in at the beginning of your meeting. Regularly ask, “How is it going?” Probe your mentee’s response, and take it to a deeper level.
Share your observations about how things are going and what concerns you have about the learning process. For example, “I’ve noticed that our discussions are very general and theoretical. Are you finding them helpful?”
Take a step back before you go forward. For example, “Let’s take a look at how we’re doing. What’s particularly helpful to you in your learning? What has been least helpful? What do you think is going well? What do we need to improve? What kind of additional assistance do you need?”
Use your mentee’s goals as benchmarks for measuring the progress and achievement of learning goals. Refer to them frequently. Evaluating progress regularly maintains momentum, keeps learning goals at the forefront of the relationship and holds partners mutually accountable for achieving them.
If you want to have a productive mentoring partnership, you must engage in good conversation throughout your relationship. (more…)
Discussing ground rules is one of the most important conversations you will ever have with your mentoring partner. Ground rules not only manage expectations in your mentoring relationship, but they also lay the foundation for building and strengthening your relationship, allowing you to focus on learning. Rather than restrict the relationship, they encourage and support accountability. Without them, you may end up spending more time managing the relationship than actually learning from your mentor. Here are some strategies for setting ground rules in place:
- Focus on:
- How you will go about allocating and managing your mentoring time
- How you want to give and receive feedback
- Your mutual role expectations
- How and when you will connect and communicate with each other
- How you will address stumbling blocks should they occur
- What steps you will follow if you need to prematurely end the relationship for any reason
- As you discuss your ground rules, keep in mind that they should not restrict your relationship. Their purpose is to encourage and support accountability.
- Once you and your mentoring partner have decided on ground rules, be sure to schedule some checkpoints to determine whether the ground rules are working for you or simply providing unnecessary obstacles.
Lois, Lory and Lisa share many things in common when it comes to mentoring, but it’s their individual approach and unique outlook that make them such a successful team. This spirit of individuality and their complementary skills were highlighted in a recent interview, where they were asked about their passion for mentoring, what they’ve learned from mentors, and their advice to new mentors.
Here’s what they had to say:
Why are you passionate about mentoring?
LOIS: My personal mentoring stories are many. I marvel at how my mentors raised the bar for me, led by example, pushed me beyond my personally defined limits, encouraged me to enlarge my thinking, and believed in me even when I was not sure of myself. I am grateful for their time, their stories and their commitment to my growth. And, while most of my experiences were positive, there were a few that could have gone better. I had no clue then that there were things I could have done, could have said, could have asked, and could have tried that would have allowed me to make the most of my mentoring relationships. I didn’t realize that as a mentee I had an instrumental role to play in shaping the relationship and defining the outcomes of the relationship. So for me, mentoring is both personal and professional. I pay it back, every day and in every way that I can. My passion is reignited every time I work with my many diverse clients and I see how mentoring has helped them change, both themselves and the world around them.
LORY: I’ve interviewed hundreds of mentors and mentees over the past 18 years and heard their stories about breakthroughs, renewed confidence, and shifts in thinking. Their stories have inspired me. I get energized listening to people talk about their renewed sense of energy and commitment to their work because of the support and positive feedback they’ve received from mentors. I recently spoke to a mentee who told me how his mentor helped him see why certain stereotypical beliefs were holding him back and undermining his success at work. When he was finally able to turn his behaviors around, the stress and tension disappeared and new opportunities opened up. It’s exciting to see the transformative power of mentoring play itself out, time and time again.
LISA: I believe the best way to make a difference in the workplace is to help employees feel connected, valued and heard. I think that mentoring is the ideal way to accomplish this, because it creates a safe and powerful space for a mentee to gain perspective, focus on his/her own needs and ask questions that broaden their perspectives of themselves, their teams, and their organization.
What have you learned from your mentors?
LOIS: I’ve learned to listen to my own voice, to think outside the box, to let my creativity shine through, and to never give up. And that’s only the start of it. I’ve learned from observing my mentors in action, how they model the art and practice of being a reflective practitioner and asking deep, penetrating questions.
LORY: My first mentor believed that I had the skills and talent to be successful. He believed in my abilities more than I did. He inspired me to take risks and take on assignments that I would never have done without his support. I learned to believe in myself and see myself as a capable leader. My mentor also helped me understand how to think strategically and understand the politics of the institution. In a sense, he helped me see how the chess pieces moved. I learned to think several steps ahead, rather than jump in and make decisions on the fly.
LISA: I’ve learned to slow down, and to step back and think about the impact my role can have on the organization as a whole. This has helped me be more strategic and focus my own development so that I can have the greatest impact. I’ve learned to pay attention to what lights me up. I’ve learned to appreciate the positive feedback I get and to process difficult feedback constructively and in the proper context.I’ve learned a ton about the importance of developing relationships with people who believe in me and to nurture those relationships.
What are the top 3 things you’d like a new mentor to know?
- Pay attention to your intuition. Your gut feeling is more often right than wrong.
- Don’t be afraid of the silence. Silence allows a mentee to catch up, to process, and come up with new insights.
- You don’t need to know everything. A good question is the most powerful tool in your mentor’s toolkit.
- Talk about your challenges and struggles with your mentee as well as your successes. It will make you more approachable and human.
- Believe in your mentees and let them know that you see their potential. They are doing the heavy lifting and your positivity helps them continue the effort.
- Push your mentee out of their comfort zone. It’s the only way they will reap real rewards.
- Share your own experiences — the good stuff and the stuff that might not be so good. It makes a world of difference for mentees to know you are human and that you can bounce back from difficult experiences.
- Give honest but constructive feedback — and help the mentee turn it into something actionable. Mentees can make great gains if they get honest feedback from their mentors. It helps many mentees to have a space to talk about the best ways to improve.
- Check in on the relationship. If something the mentee is doing isn’t working for you, or is sabotaging their own progress, share it with them as soon as possible. Some of the greatest progress has come from mentoring relationships that started out rocky, but where the participants addresses issues openly, swiftly, and willingly.
We recently talked about the top ten best practices for mentors. But what about the mentees? Don’t worry, we have you covered!
Here are top ten mentee best practices from our 2015 Mentoring Matters Reader Survey:
1. Focus on achieving learning goals
- Learning is the purpose and the payoff of mentoring. It’s easy to get sidetracked and lose focus. After three cups of coffee and little work on leadership development, mentoring fizzles out. Goals help you stay focused, moving in a positive direction, and benchmark your progress.
2. Expect to drive the mentoring relationship
- Mentors are not mind readers. Be prepared to ask for what you need, when you need it. They won’t know what you need unless you tell them.
3. Create SMART goals that will contribute to your development
- Fuzzy goals result in fuzzy outcomes. Make sure your goals are crystal clear to you and your mentor. Goals need to be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely.
4. Be authentic, open and honest
- Your willingness to be vulnerable makes a significant difference in your growth and development. If you pretend that all is perfect, your mentor will never get to know the real you, and you will miss out on real learning opportunities.
5. Prepare for all mentoring meetings
- Advance preparation for mentoring sessions will save time, make meetings more efficient and result in more meaningful learning.
6. Stay connected and in communication with your mentor
- Utilize multiple ways to stay connected to your mentor. Regular and consistent communication is the name of the game, whether it’s face-to-face, email, Skype or telephone calls, the operative word is “and.”
7. Be willing to stretch and step out of your comfort zone
- Expect your mentor to challenge you with questions and learning opportunities that might take you outside your comfort zone. They may initially make you uncomfortable, but the stretch is what will maximize your learning.
8. Ask for specific feedback
- Your mentor’s honest and candid feedback will contribute to your self-awareness and get you to the next level. Practice asking for specific feedback and be prepared to receive it without being defensive. Share feedback with your mentor and act on what you hear.
9. Focus on the future
- It’s easy to get bogged down in day-to-day issues instead of focusing on your future. Keep in mind that mentoring creates momentum towards your future development. Be prepared to articulate your vision for yourself so that you and your mentor can create strategies for your future success.
10. Keep a journal
- You will want to make notes of conversations that reflect your learning, and also track your mentoring progress. A journal is a great place to record insights and questions in preparation for mentoring meetings. Although keeping a journal requires discipline and practice, it’s well worth the effort.
If you have other best practices that you’d like to add, please let us know!