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MENTORING BLOG

  • 0 The Power of Paying it Forward

    Most of us can look back on our careers and think of at least one person who took the time and energy to provide mentorship, guidance, and a listening ear. And when we think back on those mentors, we likely don’t reflect on the projects they led or the awards they won, but rather the difference they made in our lives, both as professionals and as people.    Mentoring is usually a powerful and lasting experience for both the mentoree and the mentor, but mentoring is bigger than two people and the finite period of time they work together. It has the potential to become a legacy—a legacy of people investing in people and paying forward the investment that others have made in them.     Each of us is part of a larger team, group, and community, and we all—mentorees and mentors alike—have the opportunity to take what we learn from each other and amplify it.  When we remember the times, we have been helped, it can motivate us to help find ways to help others and enhance their lives in ways big and small, creating a powerful butterfly effect in which helping one person indirectly helps dozens, maybe even hundreds, of others.   So, what does paying it forward look like, and how can anyone from a fresh out of college new hire to the seasoned veteran nearing retirement carry on the mentoring legacy? Here are some ideas.   Seek and apply advice—and tell the advisor how it went. People love to give advice, and it’s even better when someone asks for it. This may seem like a small thing, but in day-to-day life, many of us are less likely to seek others’ advice compared to when we are in a mentoring environment. Looking for opportunities to ask others for feedback or guidance will not only benefit you but will signal to them that you recognize their knowledge and experience and value their opinion. Even better, try their advice and follow up to let them know how it went. Not only will you make them feel appreciated, you might inspire them to do the same.   Thank your mentor. Mentors are hard-working heroes. On top of their day jobs, personal commitments, and challenges of their own, they make time to mentor and develop employees who often do not even work for them or directly impact their day-to-day work. They are motivated solely by the desire to help someone else by sharing what they’ve learned. Say thank you often and show your appreciation by communicating the difference your mentor has made in your life. This simple act will show them the powerful impact they have and inspire them to continue mentoring and influencing others.   Share what you’ve learned. One of the great things about mentoring is that it is a tailored, individual experience, which means that everyone is going to learn something different. Don’t keep that knowledge to yourself! Look for opportunities to pay it forward by sharing what you’ve learned in your mentoring work, whether it’s passing on your mentor’s helpful tips to a friend or colleague facing similar challenges, giving your team a class on a program you gained proficiency in, or maybe just openly practicing your new skills in your day-to-day job to help make your team more successful. Chances are, if something you learned from your mentor helped you, it will probably help someone else, too. Be generous with your gains and look for ways to share them with others.   Mentor someone else. For mentorees in a formal mentoring relationship, this is an obvious next step and one they feel confident taking. For others, it may seem far-fetched. But the truth is, even if you are brand new to the workforce or your agency, even if you’ve never been a supervisor, even if you are not yet an expert in your field, there is a mentor in all of us. Seasoned employees can help guide the next generation of leaders; meanwhile, junior employees who are still getting their footing in their careers, can find plenty of opportunities to mentor someone else through community programs and other opportunities outside of work. We all have something to offer and something to teach.

  • 0 Redirecting a Mentoring Relationship

    As with any relationship, from time to time, mentoring partnerships can snag, stagnate, or outright stall. Changes in schedule, workload, or circumstances can make it difficult to connect. Or partners may find that they underestimated what would be required as a mentor or a mentee and feel overwhelmed. Other times, pairs find that their personalities or communication styles just don’t seem to mesh.   Whatever the reason, most partnerships can course-correct if both parties are willing to work together. Below are some simple steps that can help a struggling partnership get back on track.   Look in the mirror. Before you give up on your partner or call them out for what you think they could do better, pause to reflect on how you have shown up in the relationship. Are you proactive and engaged? Are you open and candid, and do you clearly communicate your needs and expectations? Just as important, are those expectations realistic? Unrealistic expectations on either side of a partnership can be detrimental. For mentors, unrealistic expectations can lead to overloading the mentee with suggestions and information, pushing them to take on more than they can realistically manage, or pressuring them to make decisions the mentor thinks are best. Likewise, a mentee who expects the mentor to steer the mentoring experience or provide more support than is reasonable can also hinder the relationship. And perhaps the most unrealistic expectation of all for either partner is assuming that the other half of their mentoring pair would (or should) sense they are unhappy and understand why.   Acknowledge the issues openly. For most pairs, the mentoring experience can easily and effectively be “fixed” simply by addressing the issue. If there is something your partner is or isn’t doing that is frustrating you, the most important thing you can do is talk to them about it. They may have no idea that something is amiss, or if they do, they may not be able to pinpoint the problem. Either way, if you don’t clearly communicate what you would like to change, your partner will not have the opportunity to correct it and you will likely continue to feel frustrated or, worse, resentful. While the thought of having such a conversation with your partner might seem intimidating, take a step back and look at it as a chance to practice engaging in a difficult conversation. If nothing else, carefully plan out what you would like to say, including specific examples of what you would like to change and ideas for a way forward. Schedule a time to speak (not e-mail) with your partner when you will have adequate time, energy, and attention to fully discuss the matter.     Go back to the Mentoring Agreement. A great place to start in recalibrating the way you and your partner work together is the Mentoring Agreement, which documents the goals and expectations that you set at the beginning of your partnership. Identify areas you can adjust or revise if the initial plan is not meeting your needs. Revisit the mentee’s stated goals, needs, and aspirations. Identify what progress has been made, and list out clear, actionable steps that each party can take to push further toward those goals. For example, if the mentee hoped to increase their network, the mentor might share a list of potential situational mentors the mentee could reach out to, invite the mentee to attend a business meeting, or share details for networking events in the area that the mentee might find useful. Meanwhile, the mentee could ask the mentor to help them plan and/or practice what they would say in an interview meeting, facilitate an introduction with a potential situational mentor, or read and discuss a book on networking as part of their mentoring activities. Outlining steps that each partner can take and ensuring that these steps are specific, clear, and achievable could plot the roadmap for partnership success.   Revisit the DISC assessment. While you are revisiting documents, set aside time to refresh on the DISC assessment results you each received at the beginning of the program. Even if you get along great, brushing up on each other’s DISC styles can be a helpful reminder of how your partner functions at their best and in times of stress and how best and most effectively to communicate with them.   Check in and reevaluate. Once you’ve had that initial difficult conversation to identify the issues you would like to address, be intentional about checking in with your partner to gauge whether the adjustments you’ve made have been effective for both parties and make additional tweaks as necessary.   Reach out to the Mentoring Program Coordinator. Sometimes, partners may need some outside assistance to get back on track, and in rare instances, it may be clear to both parties that their partnership will not work out for reasons such as a lack of commitment from one of the partners, serious personality conflicts, or a breach of trust or confidentiality. In such instances, one or both partners should reach out to the Mentoring Program Coordinator to either seek their assistance in helping the pair reconnect or, if there is no hope that the match can work, determine the best course of action for both partners.

  • 0 Becoming a more effective mentoree

    What does it take to be an effective mentoree? Yes, you read that right. This article is about the work of being mentored. Being mentored sounds passive, but effective mentorees aren’t waiting to be transformed. They are actively engaged and working in their mentoring experience. Mentorees will often hear that they should “drive the mentoring relationship.” Taking initiative, being prepared, acting on suggestions, and following up are obvious ways to take the wheel. However, there are more subtle behaviors that can make a mentoree more effective in their mentoring work. Below are some ways to take your mentoree role to the next level. Know your “why.” Many mentorees come to the mentoring relationships with a list of short- and long-term goals to work toward but may have spent less time evaluating their underlying motives. Improving your communications skills is a specific, achievable goal, but understanding what you hope to gain from doing so creates a different level of intention and opportunity for growth. Do you want to become a better communicator because you hope to become more persuasive, expand your influence, form connections, or strengthen relationships? If you are still unsure what you would like to accomplish in the mentoring program, take a moment to envision where (or who) you would like to be in three to five years. Ask yourself what it is about that future version of yourself that appeals to you—are you more successful, more confident, more influential? Understanding what is driving you will help you figure out what to focus on and how to steer your mentoring experience. Communicate your needs. Once you pinpoint your underlying drivers, the next step is to communicate them clearly to your mentor. Be specific about what you want to achieve and how you would like your mentor to help. If all you know is that you want to be more successful or feel more accomplished, don’t be afraid to ask your mentor to help you figure out what that means and where to start. Establishing what you hope to gain provides a starting point to help you and your mentor chart different potential paths. The more you clarify your goals and communicate your needs, the more effective your mentor (and you) can be. Ask questions. Effective mentorees ask questions—and thoughtfully consider the answers. Ask your mentor questions about business processes or skills you want to master, challenges you want to overcome, experiences you want to gain. Ask them questions even when the answer seems obvious or when you already have an idea or set view of things. Asking questions opens the door for new ideas and perspectives, which is a good thing when you are looking to develop and grow. The mentoring relationship provides a safe space. Take advantage of that open forum and unfettered access to the views of a seasoned, experienced mentor. Welcome and accept feedback. Being an effective recipient of feedback is key to being an effective mentoree. In fact, the ability to receive—and actively seek—feedback is key to being successful in any role. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to accept feedback that is less than a raving endorsement of how we would like others to see us. Even when we ask for it, constructive criticism can generate internal resistance that leads us to push the feedback away. In their book “Thanks for the Feedback: The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well,” authors Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen urge readers to focus on cultivating a “pull attitude” toward feedback. They write, “Creating pull is about mastering the skills required to drive our own learning; it’s about how to recognize and manage our resistance, how to engage in feedback conversations with confidence and curiosity….” Ask for your mentor’s feedback and be ready to consider it fully—what makes sense about it, what seems worth trying, what might they be right about, how could you apply it? If you struggle to accept feedback despite your best efforts, this may be an important area to focus on during the program. “Thanks for the Feedback” and other books on the topic can be a great starting point for mentoring conversations and work around this crucial skill. Be grateful. Countless studies have shown that gratitude can change our brains, our lives, and our very selves. Showing appreciation can lead to deeper connections, increase prosocial behavior, improve self-esteem, and enhance mental strength. These gains align with successful, effective mentoring. We all have the capacity to cultivate gratitude and focus on what we already have, not just what we are striving for. Be grateful for your mentor’s time, advice, feedback, and suggestions. Be grateful for stretch assignments and networking opportunities. Be grateful for mistakes that enable learning, challenges that facilitate growth, and the achievement of goals, big and small. In each mentoring activity, look for opportunities to feel gratitude and express appreciation.

  • 0 WISE @ UCF Mentoring Program

    • Mentoring
    • by Kathy Wentworth Drahosz
    • 04-10-2021

    Kathy Wentworth Drahosz traveled to Orlando this week to kick off a formal mentoring training session for the University of Central Florida’s (UCF) Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) Mentoring Program!  The WISE mentoring program matches successful professional women in STEM related positions with young women in their sophomore and/or junior year at UCF.  Due to the pandemic, last year’s program was all virtual, this year we were able to facilitate a hybrid program (both live and virtual).  “The use of technology has been a game changer the past 18 months”, comments Drahosz, “partnerships who may not have had an opportunity to meet face to face, were able to enjoy connecting through Zoom.  Mentors from government and industry (Johnson and Johnson, Duke Energy, Blue Origin, Naval Air Warfare Center, Lockheed Martin, and more) signed up to help the students this year.  The sophomore and junior year can be challenging for some students.  “It’s always wonderful to see our industry and government partners take such interest in growing our future STEM women leaders”, said Melissa Dagley, Executive Director, Initiatives in STEM. 

  • 0 SELECTING A MENTOR

    People often ask us- “how do I choose the best mentor for me?” This question is broad, but understandable. There are multiple metrics that contribute to a successful partnership. Experience is important, but is it more helpful to have years of experience or a certain type? Maybe it’s easiest to collaborate with a colleague who shares a similar communication style, but would it make a bigger impact to absorb attributes from someone who operates a little differently?Set developmental goalsThe best way to get started is by setting your developmental goals. Jot down some notes:What are your career aspirations?Where do you want to be in five years?What will it take to get there?Pull your story together as a pitch that you can lay out quickly. For example, “I would eventually like to be a supervisory IT specialist, so I am working toward a technical detail. I enrolled in this program to hone new technical skills that will help me get there.”Identify your ideal mentorThink about the capabilities or functional background your mentor should possess. Consider whether you are looking to stay in your area or bridge into a new career field. Weigh the merits of seeking specialized experience versus a rich and varied organizational background. Forbes Magazine (https://www.forbes.com/.../4-things-to-look-for-in-a.../...) pointed out that it doesn’t always matter how many years of experience they have, its more about whether their knowledge and expertise is going to be helpful to you in the job you’re doing or the job you hope to get. Identify a mentor who will push you outside of your comfort zone and who is willing to give honest, candid feedback.Create a list of potential mentorsOnce you’ve prepared your pitch and identified the characteristics of your ideal mentor, create a list of potential candidates. Research your candidates’ backgrounds. You might even solicit advice from an outside source like your supervisor or people in your professional network. Try to collect information from articles the mentor may have written or explore their contributions to highly visible projects. NPR https://www.npr.org/.../how-to-find-a-mentor-and-make-it... reminds mentees to “recognize the difference between a mentor and a sponsor.” The purpose of a mentor is to give you guidance and impart their own experience, not to get you a promotion or a raise.Arrange Meetings with your Top Two or Three ChoicesOrganize a list of five potential mentors and arrange meetings with your top two or three choices. The purpose of these meetings is to explore the possibility of establishing a partnership. When speaking with each candidate, find out as much as you can about their accomplishments and character. Partnering with someone who shares some personal commonalities- such as charity work or raising children- can make relationship-building easier too.Ask guided questions about the mentor’s background such as:How did you get to where you are today?What factors and skills have made a difference in your career?What have you found to be the secrets to your success in this organization?Then be prepared to share some information about your background, accomplishments, and areas in need of improvement. Be honest and forthcoming as a good mentor will also be evaluating you to see if the match will reap worthwhile benefits.Prepare as if you were going to a job interview. Lean in and give it your all. Be warm and enthusiastic so that the mentor has an idea of what it would be like to work with you.Prepare for “The Close” with Your Elevator SpeechAn advantage of using an elevator pitch when speaking about your career or aspirations is that you can show you are capable of taking the lead. Instead of waiting on the other party to direct the conversation, and potentially away from what you would like to discuss, you can assertively explain what you need and have to offer.Communicate your interests in being mentored by this person.Share your expectations of the mentoring partnership.Estimate how much time you plan to commit to the partnership.Explain why their talents suit your developmental needs.Once you have narrowed down your mentoring choice, e-mail a message to the mentor expressing (or reaffirming) your interest. Be prepared for the possibility that your potential mentor will not be able to accept so that you can respond with grace and professionalism despite the initial disappointment. Likewise, if you find after speaking that the mentor is not right for you, be prepared to communicate that directly and respectfully.Identifying and selecting the right mentor is both critical to the success of the mentoring partnership and a challenging task. Doing your homework ahead of time will ensure the process moves smoothly for you.

  • 0 January is National Mentoring Month!

    In these unprecedented times, mentors have made the difference!  They have provided a sense of stability, connection and support. In honor of National Mentoring Month, take a moment to thank a mentor who has made a difference in your life.  

  • 0 FINDING MENTORS EVERYWHERE

    In a formal mentoring program, facilitators invest heavily in pairing mentors and mentees. They sort through demographics such as communication style, career trajectory, and experience. They analyze requests and preferences, aiming to create a mutually beneficial experience for both participants. This involved process is critical when planning successful partnerships that will meet the goals outlined in a prescribed program. There is another type of mentoring, however, that is less reliant on a well-engineered matching system. In this month’s newsletter, we will talk about soaking up mentors using daily interactions with colleagues, organizational leaders, or anyone that you find inspiring. In other words, we want to encourage taking on mentors who don’t exactly know that they’re mentoring you. Soaking up a mentor might mean, actively noting the way a well-respected colleague handles an ongoing prickly relationship or observing how a productive supervisor manages their calendar. Every day we are connecting with people on conference calls and email chains who are setting an example of what to do or what not to do in any given situation. Mentors are all around- it’s up to you to take the opportunity to learn from them. Know what you are searching Make a list of immediate needs and long-term goals. Where are your trouble spots? Perhaps your two-year plan is to reach a specific grade-level but you need to get your name out there to even be in consideration for promotion. Maybe you’re struggling to carve a line between professional expectations and personal obligations and looking for clarity on fitting in everything. It could be that the emails you thoughtfully compose are not getting quick responses, leaving you with the sense that the way you make requests isn’t effective. Zeroing in on what you need to do better will ensure that you pick up on the right things when observing others. Take notes and flag examples so that you can refer back to them. Create opportunities to learn Look for relatable learning opportunities. As leadership author Dan Black explains, “It’s all about being observant, which requires having attentive eyes and ears.” Wherever you are, take the time to actively engage, especially if there is someone in the room who you’ve identified as an informal mentor. Raise your hand and get involved in the conversation. Asking questions demonstrates focus and attention, a desire to dig beneath the surface, solve the problem, learn the skill. Asking questions ensures understanding and demonstrates a hunger for learning. Some tips for asking good questions include: Have a general idea ahead of time about the kind of information you seek. If joining a meeting, read ahead to know what is going to be discussed and what areas might need more explaining. Questions should be targeted and meaningful. Show openness when looking for details and try to keep preconceived opinions to yourself. Instead of “I really can’t figure out this weird system and wanted to ask….”, you might say, “What have you heard people love best about this system?” Only ask one-part questions. Overpacking will make it hard for the respondent to offer a clear answer. Leave your comfort zone Don’t be afraid to share your ideas when collaborating with someone you admire, especially colleagues with more seniority. Seek opportunities to talk about the way you have approached a problem and muse about potential strategies. It’s okay to make mistakes when trying to explain. People who know the issue better will jump in with workarounds or additional problem-solving. Consider it free feedback. Be curious Psychology Today explains curiosity as “a combination of intelligence, persistence, and hunger for novelty.” Curiosity adds zest. Cultivate your curiosity about things like leadership and industry knowledge by looking to mentors outside of the office. You might follow a writer on LinkedIn, subscribe to a notable speaker’s weekly podcast, or peruse an industry leader’s Instagram account. Read their biographies and research how they came to acquire their expertise. When they share articles on the topics that interest you, drill deeper to see what sources they have linked or referenced and read those sources for more information and context. Even look to motivational speakers or bestselling authors who demonstrate strong character and an energy that speaks to you. Curate a file of links and snapshots of posts by these lofty mentors so that you can look to them for broad inspiration. Stay curious and keep seeking knowledge. Mentoring is an important contributor to a successful and satisfying career. Joining a formal mentoring program shows your ambition and drive but don’t forget to soak up the mentors who are in your life each and every day. Make an effort to learn from them and follow their wisdom.

  • 0 Situational Mentors: Creating a network of learning

    When our son decided he wanted to become the goalie for his lacrosse team, my husband and I were thrilled that he’d set such a challenging goal for himself. We supported him, encouraged him, and believed he could do it . . . but we also knew he would need more than our cheerleading to achieve his goal. He needed someone with knowledge and experience to help him develop the skills and technique that we couldn’t teach. He needed a coach—a situational mentor.   This scenario is every bit as common in professional mentoring relationships as it is in parenting. Mentors often encounter opportunities to help their mentees grow and develop by enlisting the help of other colleagues or leaders in the organization. In fact, in many formal mentoring programs, identifying and recommending situational mentors is an encouraged or required part of the program.   A situational mentor is a subject matter expert who can offer knowledge related to a specific task, skill, or topic. This type of mentoring relationship is generally a short-term partnership that focuses on achieving a particular purpose or goal. Partnering with a situational mentor supplements an established mentoring program or relationship, and allows the mentee to gain a new skill, perspective, or relationship.  There are different types of situational mentoring that mentors can recommend. Here are a few examples.  Job shadowing. Shadowing involves observing another employee at work for a set period (from a few hours to a few days) to gain a better understanding of how that employee performs a specific task or process. People often think of shadowing as an opportunity to spend the day with a senior leader or attend a high-level meeting with a manager, but shadowing can be done with any employee at any level for any task.  For example, in one agency where report writing is a critical focus area, employees can sign up to shadow editors or statisticians while they review reports, or to attend another team’s in-process review to take notes on the types of questions and feedback the team receives. Observing these activities without being directly involved in them allows employees to filter the experience through a different lens and gain valuable insight that they can apply to their own reports. Setting up a similar experience for a mentee is as simple as identifying the activity the mentee would like to shadow, what they hope to learn from the experience, and the right person to ask.   Informational Interviews. Interviews are great for mentees who have questions about a concept or program, or who are seeking career advice from people who have already accomplished objectives they hope to achieve. When I was a mentee in a formal program, a few of my mentoring colleagues met with a successful female executive from another agency. The executive shared her professional story, detailing how she rose through the ranks and learned along the way. Meanwhile, my colleagues and I were able to ask questions and solicit her advice. This type of situational mentorship can also be helpful for a mentee considering a significant job change. Connecting with a professional in the field or position they are considering could help answer their questions and identify issues or considerations they weren’t aware of.   Project-based. Project-based mentoring involves soliciting technical expertise from a subject matter expert to help a mentee complete a project, or to provide feedback on a project the mentee has completed independently. This type of situational mentoring can be longer lasting and more in-depth depending on the breadth and scope of the project. For example, when one mentee was tasked to help present a briefing to the head of the agency, her mentor recommended that she meet with a situational mentor to help her prepare. The mentee met with her situational mentor several times in the weeks leading up to the briefing. The situational mentor listened to the information she needed to present, helped her organize an effective slide presentation, hosted “dry runs” to let her rehearse her section of the presentation, and provided her valuable feedback and advice based on his experience regularly briefing the agency head.   With so many of us working remotely and socially isolating, you may be tempted to postpone recommending or facilitating a situational mentor until things are “back to normal.” But now could actually be a great time to consider your mentee’s goals and objectives and evaluate where in their mentoring plan a situational mentor could add value. The same applications that allow us to attend meetings online can enable mentees to meet situational mentors virtually—mentees may even be able to shadow through screen sharing! And with the delay or cancellation of so many meetings, conferences, trainings, and extracurricular activities, mentees and potential situational mentors might find it easier to schedule a time to meet. These examples highlight how situational mentors can enhance a mentee’s growth and development. Situational mentors don’t replace a formal mentor, but they can add an element of diversity, dimension, and a different perspective—hallmarks of an effective mentoring experience.   In any event, to stay engaged and maximize the benefits of a situational mentoring experience, be sure to follow up with the mentee to discuss what they learned from the experience and how they can apply—and share—the new knowledge or skills that they gained. 

  • 0 MENTORING THROUGH THESE UNCERTAIN TIMES

    For many of us, working from home presents a myriad of new challenges including staying productive and collaborating from afar, all while sharing spaces with our loved ones, fighting temptation to check the news, and possibly even taking on a new role as a homeschooling parent. With so many competing priorities, our mentoring partnerships might seem like the easiest thing to push off until later. Truthfully, however, some of us need mentoring right now more than ever. Mentors can offer advice on staying focused, stepping up with division work, and making sure extra effort is visible to our organizational leaders. It isn’t just about giving us strategies for staying productive; our mentoring partners can offer companionship during a period in which working from a home office may seem disorienting and isolating. At The Training Connection (TTC), we are always advising geographically distanced partners on keeping momentum and making progress against their mentoring goals even when they aren’t able to meet face-to-face. In truth, we sometimes find that meeting virtually can be more efficient than drifting into your partner’s office for a chat. Partners tend to be less likely to cancel a phone call and, in turn, more likely to prepare for it. Mentees usually only dial the phone when they are ready with a list of questions, mentors might come with an article they earmarked, some will even plan to use the mentee’s Mentoring Action Plan (MAP) to orient their conversation. Things you can do over the next few weeks: Check in with your partner. Call them up. Be candid- ask how they are faring. Do they have a peaceful workspace? How is their family and/or roommates? Tell them what this temporary landscape means for you and why you hope to keep the partnership moving. Use technology to stay focused. Facetime is more intimate than a traditional phone call and makes it easier to gauge interest and reactions. Share your screen in a zoom meeting so that you can both look at the Mentoring Action Plan or Mentoring Agreement without losing your place. Establish new norms. Texting might have seemed too casual a couple of weeks ago, but it might be easier and more intimate now. Perhaps you used to catch up during lunch, but if school is closed and the house is noisy at lunchtime, look to plan morning meetings instead. Be candid about your limitations and ask your partner to do the same. Get out your calendar. Set weekly partner meetings for the next couple of months. It might be surprising how much easier it is to keep a regular meeting schedule when it’s planned in advance. Mentees might even jot down a “theme” for each to ensure that the topics are interesting and relevant to their professional development.

  • 0 Gaining Trust in a Mentoring Relationship

    If you take a moment to reflect on the people who have had the most positive impact on your career, you will likely think of people in whom you had a high degree of trust. When we trust someone, we know that we can communicate openly with them, that we can rely on them to follow through when they commit to do something, and that we can believe and act on their input. Not coincidentally, these are also the building blocks of an effective mentoring partnership. Trust is the foundation of any successful relationship, but especially so in mentoring where mentees must feel safe asking questions and sharing concerns and must have confidence in their mentor’s feedback. While the mentee will drive many aspects of the mentoring relationship, it is the mentor’s responsibility to proactively build trust. Mentors must foster a relationship in which trust can grow steadily. Below are some mentoring behaviors that are key to gaining your mentee’s trust. Start strong. We’ve all heard it before—first impressions are lasting impressions. The level of sincerity and credibility you demonstrate during the initiation, or “getting to know you,” phase will set the tone for the duration of your mentoring relationship. Seemingly simple behaviors, such as being on time, being attentive and interested, and listening more than you talk, communicate to the mentee that you care and are committed. Conversely, being late or canceling meetings, interrupting or dominating the conversation, or forgetting important details from your previous meetings can signal that you don’t take the process (or the person) seriously and can create doubt about your intentions and level of investment. Treat your first few interactions with your mentee as you would a job interview—be on time, be prepared, be focused. Put your best foot forward from the start and you will take a huge step toward gaining your mentee’s trust. Build credibility. To build trust, you must first establish your credibility. In his best-selling book The Speed of Trust, Stephen M.R. Covey defines the four cores of credibility as integrity, intent, capability, and results. Convincing people of your integrity, Covey writes, includes not only being honest, but also congruent—does your behavior match who you say you are and what you say you believe? Showing trustworthy intent involves acting with (or stating outright) motives that are straightforward and based on mutual benefit. Sharing your talents, skills, and knowledge demonstrates your capability. And providing results is simple—do what you said you would do when you said you would do it and invest the effort to do it well. When you exhibit the cores of credibility over a sustained period, your mentee will begin to trust you and see you as a person who is willing and able to help them reach their goals. Be consistent. Trust is not something you earn once and have forever. Trust must be built, nurtured, and maintained. Keeping a person’s trust means consistently demonstrating the characteristics and behaviors (the four cores of credibility) that led them to trust you in the first place. This doesn’t mean that you can never make a mistake—even mentors are human. But it does mean that you should follow through whenever possible, and be willing to take responsibility for mistakes when you make them. (In fact, admitting fault is such a difficult thing for many people that doing so could actually increase your mentee’s trust in you.) Consistent, reliable mentoring behavior will become increasingly important as your relationship deepens and your mentee begins to share their questions, concerns, and challenges. Listen to them without judgment. Be honest in your feedback. Keep what they tell you confidential. Follow up to check on their progress and ask how you can help. Connect them with additional resources or situational mentors. These behaviors will demonstrate your commitment, maintain your mentee’s trust and confidence, and help your mentee grow and achieve their goals. Extend trust. Another key tenet that Covey sets forth in The Speed of Trust is that extending trust to someone else is one of the best and fastest ways to establish and grow trust. “Not only does it build trust,” he writes, “it leverages trust. It creates reciprocity; when you trust people, other people tend to trust you in return.” Extend trust to your mentee by sharing information about yourself. Mentoring means being open and honest about your experiences—including relevant professional missteps or regrets—opinions, and feedback. When you are willing to share, you encourage your mentee to do the same. Trust also means believing that the other person will follow through with what they say they will do. Believe that your mentee is capable of achieving their goals and trust that, with the right resources, guidance, and support, they will do the work they need to do to get where they want to be.  

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