There is a mountain of information and research on the role and benefits of mentoring. If you google “mentor” there are loads of definitions – David Clutterbuck is always good to look to on the mentoring front:
"A mentor is a more experienced individual willing to share knowledge with someone less experienced in a relationship of mutual trust" - David Clutterbuck.
If you google mentee definition then interestingly the definitions seem more basic:
According to Oxford dictionaries: “A person who is advised, trained, or counselled by a mentor.”
Here I want to focus on mentees as this basic definition is not reflective of the role of the mentee.
What makes a good mentee?
The mentoring relationship needs to be one where these is trust per the mentor definition above. Being able to build a relationship, show vulnerability and build trust is important. To recognise if a mentoring relationship is achieving this or not is important, this assessment is not just up to the mentor – some mentoring relationships don’t work out. Some do not offer as much value as you might hope. You need to be able to determine if a truly trusting relationship and ability to share concerns, ideas, issues and challenges will work or is working. Someone in your line management may not be your best choice for a mentor. Or they might indeed be the absolute best choice – I have had both – I have had some amazing bosses who were brilliant mentors that I had high trust relationships with. I have also had people in my line management that I would not put in this category. As a leader in business for many years, I very much encourage people in my teams to look broadly for mentors. I have seen and indeed mentored people whose managers have felt threatened by an external mentor and discourage those relationships – let’s just say I think that is a warning sign, a red flag about the type of manager you are working for! Good leaders will embrace their people’s best opportunities for development and help identify the right mentor. Often a mentor outside direct line management or outside the company is a very good option.
To achieve the fullest benefit the mentee needs to have a desire to listen, learn, change and be able to accept feedback. A mentor is providing time and the learnings from their experience to assist and develop the mentee. The mentee needs to own their own development, to be ready to consider things from a different angle, to perhaps hear some feedback about themselves, possibly blind spots or habits that are not constructive or helpful but may be confronting or difficult to hear. Some of the toughest feedback has been given to me by respected mentors, but this in fact has helped me the most, as difficult as it was to hear it. The mentee needs to decide what changes they may want to make, the mentor is not there to solve the challenges for you or seamlessly pave the way for you – the mentee has work to do!
It is very important to consider what you want from mentoring. I pose this question back to people when they ask for a mentor – because this really informs who might be the best possible mentor at that point. What you want from a mentoring relationship changes over time, across your career and life. Sometime a single conversation has been incredibly formative for me, as a mentee. Other times it is a longer period of time and many more engagements to tackle a challenge or challenges. Is it technical expertise and understanding that is required? Is it leadership insight? Is it a particular issue that someone with specific expertise can best assist with? Is is broader career development where the best mentors are ones that see you at work? Are the challenges and issues personal, and maybe about the workplace – where an external mentor may be best? Do you want in depth personal development (and coaching may be a better option here than mentoring – and you can have and do both, I have. But more on coaching another time).
The Verity Mentoring Program
Verity Leadership understands the importance and benefit of mentoring in career development. We have fabulous mentors, with a great amount of experience, form a diverse range of industries at a range of levels of experience - Chairs and Non-executive Directors, CEOs, Partners, General Managers and Senior Managers. Our mentors are passionate about making a difference and supporting the development of engaged and committed mentees in Newcastle and the Hunter. A number of mentoring scholarships are available – click here to express interest!
Being a mentee has been a big part of my own career development and I have experienced great, trusting, constructive, honest engagements which I have really enjoyed but have played a big role in my development, as a leader and across complex technical industries.
I am also really excited to offer an opportunity for people to gain a unique insight into one of the most influential mentoring relationships in my career. Jez Smith, currently Orica’s Chief Scientist, a mentor, sponsor, coach and major influencer on my career will be joining me in a discussion on mentoring, our experiences and journey over the sixteen years I was at Orica.