by Linda Phillips-Jones, Ph.D.
This month’s topic is important to your mentor and to you. Since your mentoring relationships exist mainly for your growth and success, it makes sense for you to monitor those relationships and ensure they’re as good as they can be.
Based on many years of observing mentoring relationships, International Mentoring Group found that mentoring relationships tend to be more satisfying for both parties when certain elements are in place and when both the mentor and the mentee take active roles.
We invite you to take a look at one or two of the mentoring relationships you’re in, especially those that are at least somewhat formalized. (You can also look at any totally informal relationships you have; but realize that these are more difficult to assess and as a mentee, they’re more difficult to shape or influence.)
One idea is to look at a formal mentoring relationship that seems to be succeeding and another that doesn’t feel completely right to you. Read over the following elements, and begin thinking what is and isn’t a strength in those relationships. Next month you’ll have a chance to assess more formally your performance on each of these factors.
Key Ingredients of Intentional/Planned/Formal Mentoring Relationships
This relationship is a high priority for both of you. You consider finding mentors and being a responsible mentee as one of the most important growth steps you can take. You and your mentor are clear on why you’re together and the reasons you’re meeting. You’ve discussed and agreed upon what you’ll work on, and you’ll recognize when you’ve met your purpose. You feel good about the focus of your relationship and what you’re doing in it. From time to time you check in to see if you should change your purpose or focus in some way. When you’ve accomplished the goal or goals of your relationship, you’re willing to see the partnership shift focus or perhaps end for the time being.
You communicate in the ways (in person, phone, text messaging, email, mail) you both prefer. You get back to your mentor in the timeframe you’ve agreed upon. Your mentor generally does the same. The communication between you adds up to at least one or two hours a month and is frequent enough for both of you. You’re an effective listener, and you remember what your mentor tells you. You ask appropriate questions, and your mentor responds. You share information about yourself. You monitor your nonverbal language to be sure it's conveying what you want it to. You invite your mentor to give you suggestions for how you can communicate better, and you try these out in a timely manner.
You also respect your mentor's time and boundaries. You arrive on time for meetings and are prepared with any materials or questions you may have. You understand that your mentor may have other commitments and responsibilities, so you give them ample notice if you need to reschedule a meeting. You also respect your mentor's privacy and confidentiality, and only share information with others if you have their permission. By being a respectful and reliable mentee, you are setting a positive tone for the mentoring relationship and showing your gratitude for your mentor's time and guidance.
The trust between you is growing. You welcome and keep in confidence the information your mentor shares with you. Your mentor knows he/she can count on you to be honest and to follow through on your promises. You avoid any trust-breaking behaviors such as canceling appointments without compelling reasons, talking negatively about others, or making excuses about why you can’t follow through on commitments. You’re increasingly sharing more of yourself and are becoming less guarded than when this mentoring partnership started.
Your meetings and other interactions are moving along at the right pace. You meet often enough to suit you both, and those sessions are usually the right length. You both like where you’re meeting. You enjoy the 2-4 hours of effort you devote to follow through on agreements between your mentoring sessions. You’re aware of the four stages of formal mentoring (planning, building relationship/negotiating agreement, developing the mentee/maintaining momentum, and ending the formal mentoring part of the relationship) and are carefully moving through them. You like how you operate as a mentoring pair and check in with each other to see if you’re both satisfied.
You’ve made it easy for your mentor to help you identify appropriate life goals and build competencies to reach those goals. You take the lead on identifying interesting learning experiences and report the results of these to your mentor. You’ve made significant progress toward your goals since starting to meet with your mentor. You’re also making notable progress in your ability to be mentored.
You told your mentor how you wanted positive and corrective feedback. When you receive positive feedback, you express your thanks and use the information to reinforce your efforts. When you receive corrective feedback, you’re non-defensive and take immediate steps to apply it. You remember to give your mentor positive feedback about his/her mentoring and other things he/she has shared. If agreed upon, you give your mentor suggestions for improvement.
For more learning on these critical factors, check Tip for Mentors. You’ll see that your mentor has corresponding responsibilities to make your relationship a success.
Part II. Mentee Role Assessment
Now that you’ve learned about the six key ingredients of effective relationships and your mentee role in each of them, it’s time to assess yourself on these factors.
Take a few minutes to print out these pages and write your answers. Try to rate yourself as you actually are, not as you’d like to be. A similar self-check is available for your mentor. (See Tip for Mentors.) If it feels comfortable, invite him or her to complete or at least look over the mentor version, and discuss your findings in your next mentoring meeting.
Directions: For each item, rate yourself as follows:
1 = Strongly disagree
3 = Agree
2 = Disagree
4 = Strongly agree
___ This mentoring relationship is a high priority for me.
___ Finding mentors
___ Being a responsible mentee is similarly strategic for me.
___ I’ve been clear with my mentor on why I want to meet with him/her.
___ I’ve proposed one or more goals to work on with the help of my mentor.
___ I’ll recognize when I’ve reached my goal(s).
___ I feel good about the focus of this relationship and what I’m doing in it.
___ This relationship is a good use of my time.
___ From time to time I check in to see if we should change our focus in some way.
___ Once I’ve accomplished my goal(s), I’m willing to see the relationship refocus or
perhaps end for the time being.
Total points for Purpose: ______
___ I communicate in the ways (in person, phone, text message, email, mail) we agreed.
___ I get back to my mentor in the timeframe we agreed.
___ The communication between us adds up to at least one or two hours a month.
___ I don’t communicate more often than we agreed unless it’s a special circumstance.
___ I’m an effective listener and remember what my mentor tells me.
___ I ask appropriate questions.
___ I share adequate information about myself.
___ I monitor my nonverbal language to be sure it’s conveying what I want it to.
___ I invite my mentor to give me suggestions for how I can communicate better.
___ As soon as possible, I try out my mentor’s suggestions on communication.
Total points for Communication: ______
___ I’ve talked about the topics of trust and confidentiality with my mentor.
___ I’m beginning to trust my mentor more and more.
___ I’m becoming less guarded than when we first got together.
___ I share important information about myself with my mentor.
___ My mentor seems to be trusting me more and more.
___ I welcome and keep in confidence the information he/she shares with me.
___ My mentor can count on me to be honest.
___ He/She can count on me to follow through on my promises.
___ I avoid any trust-breaking behaviors such as canceling appointments without
compelling reasons, talking negatively about others, or making excuses about why I
don’t follow through.
___ I’m willing to forgive some mistakes my mentor makes because my trust in him/her
Total points for Trust: ______
___ I take responsibility for scheduling our meetings.
___ I like all or most of our meeting locations.
___ I’ve checked to be sure my mentor likes our meeting locations.
___ I like the length of our get-togethers.
___ I’ve checked to be sure my mentor likes the length of our get-togethers.
___ I’m satisfied with the way we conduct our meetings.
___ I’ve checked to be sure my mentor is satisfied with how we conduct our meetings.
___ I’m aware of the four stages of formal mentoring.
___ I’m helping us move through those four stages.
___ I’ve checked to see if my mentor likes the style and frequency of our emails.
Total points for Process: _____
___ I’m working on one or more measurable goals with the help of my mentor.
___ I make it easy for my mentor to help me develop.
___ I take the lead on identifying interesting learning experiences I can try.
___ I welcome my mentor’s suggestions of learning experiences for me.
___ I do at least one learning activity in between our mentoring meetings even if that
takes me 2-4 hours
___ I report the results of my learning to my mentor.
___ I’ve made significant progress toward my goal(s) since starting to meet with my
___ I’m making notable progress in my ability to be mentored.
___ My mentor knows and is satisfied with my progress.
___ I celebrate my progress.
Total points for Progress: _____
___ I told my mentor how and how often I want positive feedback.
___ I receive the right amount of positive feedback from my mentor.
___ I told my mentor the way I’d like to receive corrective feedback.
___ I continue to ask my mentor for corrective feedback.
___ When I receive positive feedback, I express my thanks.
___ When I receive positive feedback, I use the information to reinforce my habits.
___ When I receive corrective feedback, I’m usually non-defensive.
___ When I receive corrective feedback, I take immediate steps to apply it.
___ I remember to give my mentor positive feedback about his/her mentoring and other
___ (If agreed upon) I give my mentor suggestions for improvement.
Total points for Feedback: _____
Scoring: Add up your points for each factor, and then total all your points.
Total points for all six factors: ______
161-240 points: You seem to be a committed, effective mentee. Check this out with your mentor to be sure your assessment is accurate in his/her eyes. Continue to enjoy mentoring and continue to polish your skills.
81-160 points: You’re doing many things right as a mentee. Talk with your mentor to see if your assessment is accurate and if he/she has suggestions for improvement. Try to supplement or otherwise improve your performance on any items that you rated low.
80 or fewer points: It’s admirable that you took this assessment and want to improve as a mentee. You may be harder on yourself than you need to be. Talk with your mentor to see if he/she will give you honest feedback on what you’re doing right and what you could improve. Try to add a few new effective behaviors over the coming months.