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Building an authentic connection when mentoring

November 9, 2020

Mentoring is about connecting and relationship building. It revolves around trust and connection. Yet, it is not always easy to build an authentic connection. In fact, creating such a bond in a workplace mentorship may seem like a challenge. But there are some steps that can help cultivate a positive connection between mentors and mentees. 

From having ground rules in place to investing time and energy, mentors and mentees can help create a strong bond and experience that will make a difference in the long run. 

Tips for building an authentic connection

Developing a good mentorship is similar to building a trusted friendship. It is cultivated over time and on the back of positive interactions with each other. There are some things that mentors and mentees can try in an attempt to build an authentic connection with each other, including:

Create a good match. While it is not a guarantee of a successful mentorship, creating a good mentor-mentee match is an essential part of the mentoring process. Yet, this may not always be in the hands of mentors or mentees. Often workplace mentoring program managers are in charge of making the match. So, it is a good idea for a program manager to spend a little extra time and effort ensuring they are matching participants who will work well together. Mentoring software such as Together can help by using an algorithm to find the best matches from program applications. Mentees can help at this stage by being clear what they are looking for but also staying open to a mentor that may be different from them. 

Set ground rules. At the beginning of a new mentorship, participants should define the boundaries of their relationship. This should involve setting some ground rules about what will be discussed, how and when to contact each other, and what the meeting schedule will be. Having these guides in place will ensure that mentors and mentees can make the most of their time together. It can also lay the foundation for a relationship based on trust and respect. 

Be proactive. To develop a bond, mentors, and mentees need to be proactive. Mentorships should not be a passive pastime. Rather, participants should work at it. This means taking it seriously and showing up to 

meetings. It also means being prepared. If a mentor has given the mentee an assignment or task to do, the mentee should do everything they can to complete it. Participants should seek to connect and understand one another so they can work together better. These are the types of mentorships that can be life-changing. 

Build on the benefits. Mentoring has benefits for both a mentee and a mentor. When participants understand the benefits to each party and work to build on those, the connection becomes stronger. That means that mentees should ensure that they are giving back to the relationship and not just taking. Genuinely seeking good things for each other can cultivate deeper trust between a mentor and mentee. 

Invest your time and energy. Half-hearted mentorships will only produce half-hearted results. To really get the most out of mentoring, participants have to invest their time and energy. This means dedicating ample time to in-person meetings so that all the issues can be discussed. It may also mean doing some extra things to help the meeting and mentorship go well. For a mentor, this may mean researching some networking opportunities for a mentee. While, for a mentee, this may mean doing the steps to achieve a goal. Remember that it may look different for each mentorship, but investing time and energy into the relationship will lead to a deeper connection. 

Get to know the person. Mentors and mentees should strive to know each other beyond their working connection. Mentorships can be enhanced when participants have things in common and also when they show genuine care and concern for each other. This can create a more authentic connection between mentors and their mentees. 

Show appreciation. Building a good connection also includes showing appreciation for the other individual. This can look different for each participant but things like

  • sending a thank you card
  • writing a quick email to stay connected 
  • remembering anniversaries or important dates
  • buying a special gift or treat

Any extra action that shows some appreciation of the time and energy that the participant dedicates to the mentorship will go a long way to building an authentic connection for mentors and mentees. 

Creating an authentic connection in a mentoring situation can help take that experience to a new level. By having some ground rules in place, striving to make sure everyone gains something from the experience, investing time and energy, and showing appreciation are some of the best ways to help build an authentic connection in a mentorship.


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