10 Habits of Highly Effective Mentors and Mentees

A mentoring relationship is unique, in that a mentor doesn’t only give advice, but it is also a trusted professional relationship between two people.  Information, guidance and advice flows freely and openly between two people for the purpose of learning and growth. As with every solid and respectful professional relationship, a mentoring relationship also has distinguishing characteristics and habits or behaviours that mentors and mentees bring to the table to make it work.

Habit 1 – Respect

Without respect on both sides, the relationship will never achieve the level of openness required. Seek to understand and be respectful of values, beliefs, attitudes and communication styles, even when these are different.

Habit 2 – Active listening

Mentors and mentees will spend a great deal of time in their relationship listening to one another and it takes effort! I Whether you are a mentor or a mentee it is important that you are actively listening through building rapport, being present, asking well-considered questions to confirm or gain further understanding, deferring judgment, providing considered feedback and responding appropriately.

Habit 3 – Develop a trusting relationship

Communicate openly and honestly and develop good rapport with your mentor/mentee. Create agreement about what you are aiming to achieve during your mentoring partnership and commit to succeed together. Trust is also built on reliability, so always do what you say you are going to do and follow up any action items.  Finally, don’t be afraid to challenge! A mentoring relationship build on trust will allow you to challenge each other constructively and to explore wider perspectives.

Habit 4 – Be yourself

You are successful and accomplished, or you might be just starting to build your career. Regardless, be careful about labelling yourself with your mentor or mentee. Ensure that you are relatable by sharing insights into your successes, hurdles, challenges and be honest about what you have learned and perhaps some of the mistakes you have made. These frank or candid insights are often the ‘golden nugget’ in a mentoring relationship and can create a long standing memory for your mentor or mentee.

Habit 5 – Step outside the comfort zone (that’s where the magic happens)

One of the most common complaints of mentors and mentees is that they do not feel the other person is challenging them sufficiently. There is no room for growth or development if you are not prepared to step outside of your comfort zone to be challenged, try an alternative perspective, or think outside the box. Being prepared to stretch your limits helps to challenge your mindset and  build resilience and confidence. If you are not getting sufficiently challenged, simply ask!

Habit 6 – Routine contact

Making regular appearances in your mentoring relationship is key to maintaining the momentum and progress towards agreed goals and objectives. Make an effort to keep in touch with one another, even if it is outside your scheduled meetings. An unsolicited email with an interesting article or just to touch base is thoughtful and easy way to reach out.

Habit 7 – Be able to provide and receive feedback that is balanced, insightful and specific

Once you have developed rapport with your mentee or mentor you will better understand their style, personality and preferences. This insight provides the basis for providing and receiving feedback. Specifically, for the mentor, you will be better placed to anticipate hurdles, be able to provide actionable recommendations and strategies for tackling them.

Habit 8 – Commitment to learning

Stay committed to your own learning whether you are a mentee or a mentor. Mentors should see the mentoring relationship as an opportunity to develop their own skills and understanding, not just provide direction and pearls of wisdom. For mentees, know that mentoring is an important part of your professional development toolbox helping you to operationalise your formal learning on the job.

Habit 9 – Responsible and ready

Be diligent in keeping a schedule and following through on meeting commitments. Be prepared to make your mentoring relationship a priority and factor this into your professional development plan and your daily schedule accordingly. It can be easy to re-schedule or cancel a mentoring meeting above other obligations.

Be respectful to yourself and your mentor/mentee in allocating your meeting time and invest time in thinking things through either before or after you mentoring meeting (take notes if required!). If you have a topic that you would like to explore in a little more depth, be sure to provide your mentor/mentee an indication of what you would like to discuss to enable preparation of examples or additional material to support the conversation.

Finally, be present and ensure that you don’t allow competing priorities or interruptions influence the quality or the outcome of your meetings.

Habit 10 – Provide introductions to individuals and other networks

Chances are there will be times in the mentoring relationship that you may not find the answers you are seeking as a mentee or be able to provide as a mentor. However, a well-connected mentor can find someone who can help or provide guidance with a specific issue. For mentees, be proactive about developing networks and contacts of your own and be receptive to suggestions by your mentor. For both mentors and mentees, being engaged with industry is essential to continued professional growth and maintaining your finger on the pulse of emerging trends, developments and news.

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