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Giving AND Receiving Through Mentoring

July 27th, 2016

By: Karen Colligan

Ask any successful senior leader, executive, or entrepreneur and chances are they’ll attribute at least part of their success to one or more mentors they had along the way. Ask any of their mentors who got more out of the experience, and chances are they’ll tell you that as mentors they got back as much or more than they gave.  That has certainly been my experience.

Years ago I joined an organization, Mentoring Circles, to mentor women entrepreneurs around developing processes, business acumen, and leadership.  I was invited to join the Board of Directors – which I did – and continued to mentor.  I got so much out of it. Not only was it thrilling to “give back” by helping other women identify, plan for, and achieve their goals,  it was an incredible learning experience.  Through mentoring I gained more insight into people, learned from different perspectives, and built a number of cherished, long-term relationships.

In my last blog I talked about some ways to achieve wellness. Giving back is one of those ways. And mentoring is a way to give back. Is there someone who has reached out to you for advice? Or someone you’ve noticed who has great potential yet needs some guidance on how to navigate the organization to get the recognition and opportunities they deserve? Consider volunteering to be their mentor.

Now don’t get me wrong. Good mentoring relationships don’t just happen instantaneously.  There needs to be mutual trust, willingness to learn (in both directions), and commitment to the partnership (meeting on a regular basis, open and honest communication, follow through, etc.) As a mentor, you need to be:

- Available and accessible

- A coach and advisor

- An effective listener

- A confidant and sounding board

- A role model

- A friend and ally

- Willing to learn from your mentee

To get the most out of the mentoring relationship, your mentee needs to be:

- Committed to the mentoring process

- Clear about goals and objectives

- Proactive in scheduling meetings

- Prepared and accountable

- Receptive to feedback/advice

- Open and honest

- Willing to learn from you

It’s important to have some structure around the partnership. I recommend that you commit to a 12-month partnership and then reassess. That will give you time to really get to know each another. Also, establish goals and timelines at the outset.  Regular meetings are essential – schedule them several months in advance and commit. If you find one or the other of you keeps missing or rescheduling, it’s time to have a serious conversation about the level of commitment. It’s also very important to be open and honest when things aren’t working. Sometimes they don’t. If this is the case, a growth exercise – for both of you – is to figure out how to end the partnership in a positive way.

Does your organization have a mentoring program? Or have you been a mentor? If so, I’d love to hear about your experience. Please comment.

"We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give." - Winston Churchill

Till next time,







Communication, Development, Mentoring, wellness