Making Mentor Relationships Work

Mentor relationships begin with plenty of promise. Often however they don’t deliver because the mentor and mentee don’t know how to make the most of the relationship. As a professional business mentor, and mentor to UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business Global Social Venture Competition for the past few years I’ve been asked to share my thoughts on what makes a mentoring relationship successful and my tips for this year’s teams and mentors as they start out

Three keys to creating a successful mentoring relationship

Don’t believe everything the other person has to say.

If you find yourself nodding along to what the other person is saying – even when you don’t necessarily agree – then you’re not participating fully. Challenge the assumptions the other person is making. Especially challenge what they consider the “facts.” Engage in very candid conversations as part of the mentoring relationship. It will get to the results you both want and create the foundation for a lasting and effective relationship.

Be willing to be dumb

If you’re human, there’s a natural desire to look good to the other person in a mentoring relationship. However, this is a trap that saps a lot of effectiveness from the relationship. Neither mentee nor mentor has to know all the answers. The best questions are simple and may even feel silly to ask. Simplicity cuts to the heart of the matter quicker and more deeply than the 14-part question, which often includes a lot of posturing.

Break Miss Manners’ rules

Don’t wait to be invited to have a conversation. Follow your muse by calling when you have a question or emailing when you have an idea. Unless this becomes a stream-of-consciousness barrage, you’re bothering the other person less than you think you are. There’s inspiration in the moment, embrace it and more your mentoring relationship forward dramatically.

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