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MENTORING BLOG

  • 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.  

  • 0 Why Mentoring Matters

    January is National Mentoring Month!  What a perfect time to pause and celebrate the impact your mentors have made in your life.   As I am writing this post, I’m thinking of one of my past mentor Bill Bonnstetter.  Bill was a big part of my personal and professional support system.  Whether it was helping me gain confidence standing up in front of groups, consoling me when a project went south, or pushing me out of my comfort zone—Bill was there to help me reach my full potential.  It goes without saying, mentors boost our spirit, touch our hearts, turn us around and give us honest feedback.  Not always feedback we “want” to hear but “need” to hear.  Mentors are also catalysts.  They help us discover “why our work matters” and how to stand in front of our competition. But mentoring is not just a “nice thing to do.”  It’s a good business decision. Studies have shown that employees stay longer at organizations when they feel their work matters and they are making a difference!  They are not just putting in their time –they are plugged in on many levels (emotionally and intellectually).  Healthy organizations, high performance organizations, the best places to work organizations, know this and create conditions where mentors can do their thing—whatever that thing is (guide, listen, challenge, or teach).  These high performing organizations acknowledge, recognize and support mentors because they know they are making a difference!  Happy National Mentoring Month!  

  • 0 Finding the Perfect Mentoring Match

    Is finding the perfect mentor like finding a needle in haystack?  It doesn’t have to be.  Seeking out the right mentoring match may seem like a daunting task at first, but with a little time investment and self-reflection, the process can yield multiple options.  Mentors are plentiful.  They come in all shapes and sizes.  Thinking through what you want to get out of a partnership before you begin your search usually results in the most rewarding and productive match. So, what type of mentor are you looking for? Technical mentors – People you turn to for professional advice. These mentors generally have a strong reputation for technical excellence. Consider – do you want to connect with a subject-matter expert?  Or maybe you are looking for broad-based experience across a variety of skills and competencies. Relationship mentors – People you can turn to and learn how to develop strategic relationships and partnerships. Relationship mentors also provide a safe environment for you to learn how to deal with difficult people, manage conflict, influence others. Selecting a mentor with whom you can have authentic, honest conversations requires a certain level of chemistry and trust. Navigational mentors – People who can help you understand how to navigate the unwritten rules, corporate culture, and can help you strategize next steps for success within the organization. This mentor can decode the unspoken organizational culture – an agency Sherpa, if you will! It is important to remember that although you might originally have one type of partner in mind (for example, someone like you) being open to new perspectives often yields a perfect and powerful match.  A recent study provided by The Training Connection, Inc. discovered that it is actually the differences that make the best matches:     84% responded favorable in response to differences in experience. Mentors are likely better able to offer mentorees a different point of view through their own experiences. 71% responded favorable in response to differences in behavioral style (DISC). Finding a partner who brings a different behavioral style to the partnership (not too similar, but not too far apart) is very beneficial to the growth and success of the partnership.  (One obvious example - if you are quiet and shy to look for someone who is more outgoing and charming.)  Differences in gender, cultural background, and generation have also made a positive difference. Below are some additional thoughts to keep in mind when beginning your search: Be proactive. Mentorees need to be proactive not just in their mentoring search, but in the partnership as well.  In formal mentoring programs, the programs do not fail, the partnerships do. This occurs when parties are not committed up-front to the process, or clear with their partner if something has changed and they need to end the partnership.  Look for someone outside of your chain of command. It goes without saying that your boss should always be your informal mentor, however in a formal mentoring partnership, the best matches are outside one’s chain of command.  Mentorees are more likely to open up and feel comfortable confiding in someone who does not have input to their performance reviews.  Mentorees need someone who can create a safe space to bounce ideas off of and a mentor who is outside of their immediate day to day work environment can provide that. Thoughtfully commit to the mentoring partnership. The most successful mentoring matches are ones in which both the mentoree and mentor are given a voice in the partnership - meaning the match is not forced and both are willing to give their full attention to the partnership.  Be sure to thoroughly research the mentors background and availability.  Don’t be discouraged if a mentor says they are unavailable.  When requesting a mentor let them know you have others in mind if they are unavailable, this will allow a mentor the option to say no if they do not have time to dedicate to the partnership.  You may find it helpful later on to see if they are available as a situational mentor to enhance a formal partnership.   A situational mentor is the right help at the right time and is usually available to help solve a quick problem, uncover a hidden talent or learn a new skill or behavior.  They can be the perfect enhancement to a formal mentoring partnership. As I mentioned earlier, finding a mentor doesn’t have to be like searching for a needle in a haystack - you simply need to do the homework.  Carefully  thinking through what it is you are looking for in your mentor is sure to result in a fruitful partnership for both you and the mentor. 

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