open and honest relationship is key for powerful mentoring.
Elaine Robbins Harris
course of the mentoring relationship, you and your protege can expect
to go through three phases. First, if you are both new to mentoring, you
will experience a period of anxiety and uncertainty, not knowing what
to expect from the relationship. Next is the honeymoon phase, during which
you and your protege enjoy the excitement of endless possibilities and
new opportunities. The final phase is about testing the limits of the
relationship. In this phase, both you and your protege will feel tempted
to push the boundaries to see how candid and straightforward you can be
in the mentoring relationship. As a mentor, there are some things you
can do to move beyond these initial phases and into a deeper, more comfortable
relationship with your protege.
a safe environment.
Provide an environment where your protege can feel free to be honest.
The key to creating such an environment is to openly acknowledge your
own struggles. By disclosing something personal about yourself-even your
failures-you take the initial step toward creating trust. Your own honesty
and vulnerability will help your protege open up and share. Emphasize
that the information shared between you will remain in the strictest confidence.
Listen without judgment.
While sharing your own experiences is vital to the mentoring relationship,
you must also learn when to set your thoughts aside and focus on what
your protege has to say. Learn to listen without an agenda by resisting
the temptation to make a point, teach a lesson, or offer some caution.
When you abandon trying to come up with all the answers, your protege
will begin to feel heard and valued.
As a mentor, you can gain knowledge from your protege and the mentoring
experience by bringing a learning attitude to the relationship. Let your
protege know that you may not have all the answers and that you can learn
from each other. If your protege sees you as a fellow learner, there is
a greater potential for a partnership. Find out what your protege can
teach you that you would like to learn. Or together, investigate an area
you both would like to learn more about.
on objectives, not approaches.
A true mentoring mind-set focuses on the learning objective, not the process.
Your role as a mentor is to open up possibilities for your protege, not
to provide proven techniques for a given list of problems. It is important
to adopt a style in which you offer options to your protege as a way to
encourage him or her to try new approaches. Telling your protege what
to do or how to do it can deprive him or her of a valuable learning opportunity.
You and your protege have entered the mentoring relationship with different
experiences and different points of view. Recognize those differences
while respecting your common needs and objectives. And remember, the more
differences between you and your protege, the more learning that occurs
for you both.
a deeper mentoring relationship, you expand the depth and breadth of your
protege's growth as well as your own. To sustain the energy in your relationship,
continue to share your experiences, remain interested in each other, and
celebrate one another's successes.
Biernat DeJovine is a principal and practice leader and Elaine Robbins
Harris is a senior consultant at Perrone-Ambrose Assoicates, Inc., an
organizational development consulting firm that helps organizations create
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Executive, July/August 2001