1. Choosing the wrong mentoring partner. The decision to participate in a mentoring relationship needs to be deliberate and well-thought out. Choosing the right mentoring partner is critical to achieving successful outcomes. It is easy to zero in on chemistry when meeting a prospective mentoring partner. Rather than relying on chemistry alone, focus on “learning fit.” Is there a match between what the mentee wants to learn and the attributes, skills, experience and expertise of the mentor?
2. Going through the motions. Whether you are a mentor or a mentee you are the one who ultimately gets to choose if and how you will participate in a mentoring relationship. You can show up completely by being fully present or just go through the motions. Mentoring is a development opportunity for both mentor and mentee. It doesn’t happen without authenticity and commitment.
3. Jumping in too early without laying the groundwork. Relationship is the groundwork for mentoring. Mentoring relationships are built one conversation at a time. Before you jump in and start working on goals, work on your relationship. Get to know your mentoring partner. Each of you brings a whole history and multiple selves to the relationship. Your “history” affects how you interact, learn and connect with one another. You need to “know” each other not just “know about each other.” Be curious! What is you’d like to know about your mentoring partner?
4. Making assumptions without checking them out. This is a bigger stumbling block than most people think. Why? We act on our assumptions. When we don’t check them out to see if they are valid and they aren’t, it creates distrust and compromises communication. For example, a mentee might be assuming that having a mentor will ensure promotion. The mentor, on the other hand, is assuming thepurpose of the relationship is developing promotability. Or, a mentee assumes that the mentor will be there for them 24/7 and the mentor only has limited time availability. The list goes on. The lesson: Check out your assumptions before they undermine your mentoring relationship.
5. Settling for low-level goals. When mentoring partners settle on low-level mentee goals, they end up being dissatisfied with their mentoring relationships. Even though the goals may produce a set of easily accomplished tasks that result in some sense of accomplishment, they don’t create the needed traction that will lead to sustainable career development. If you are a mentor, push back on your mentee to make sure that the goals are truly development goals. If you are mentee, don’t waste this precious opportunity to grow and develop, opt for s-t-r-e-t-c-h goals.