Mentorship

Relationship guidelines for mentors and mentees

It may not always be clear what is required from each individual, but there are some basic guidelines that can help move the mentoring relationship forward.

Ryan Carruthers

July 5, 2022

It is ideal to set some guidelines for your mentor-mentee relationship. Every relationship should have rules that keep participants within their limits and effective in their roles. 

Here is an article that provides mentorship program admins and mentors/mentees with tips on structuring their relationship. 

Guidelines in a mentoring relationship are like guardrails

Guidelines are expectations that both mentors and mentees agree upon during ‌their relationship. Mentors and mentees have roles and expectations to manage.

Guidelines are like guardrails, preventing you from falling into confusion, unmet expectations and worse, an unfulfilling relationship. 

Take your time to set ground rules, boundaries, and expectations to avoid misunderstandings and frustrations. Also, your mentorship program has a better chance of becoming a success when there are guidelines.  

Why is it important to have guidelines in a mentor-mentee relationship?

Without proper boundaries or ground rules, mentoring relationships can slowly lose accountability or become invasive. 

Guidelines help mentors, and mentees align their interests. It helps them establish mutual respect, personal connection, realistic expectations by effectively communicating their rules and following them.

The role of mentors in the workplace

Essentially, the mentor’s role is both a teacher and a guide. They are responsible for shaping the mentee’s professional development. It’s important that they acknowledge the expectation to be a positive role model. By demonstrating to the mentee how to adhere to the corporate policies and requirements, they will help enhance the mentoring relationship. 

From a management perspective, a mentee who has been well-trained in the requirements and expectations of the workplace is less likely to cost the company down the road. Employees who are aware of company policies and have a history of following them are far more valuable than those who lack this knowledge.

A mentee can find that their professional connections and networking opportunities are enhanced through a mentoring connection. This can, in turn, be beneficial to the employer as the mentee may be able to attract new talent to the company. In the same way, a mentor may also be in a better position to access the mentee’s talents and skills that aren’t directly related to their current position with the company. Through this process, a mentor will be able to see how these capacities could be useful to the company in the future.

Goals for mentor mentee relationship

While the primary objective for the mentorship program will be to help the mentee develop professionally, a secondary goal should be to have a positive impact on the organization. Training a mentee in workplace procedures, policies and expectations allows a mentor to help build a more productive organization. Therefore, new hires should always be encouraged to take advantage of any workplace mentoring program.

In addition, for the mentor, the opportunity can help develop leadership skills, enhance coaching, counselling and listening capabilities. In some cases, mentors can also find a mentoring situation to be a learning opportunity. 

Younger workers may have differing experiences or innovative ideas that could benefit the workplace, particularly when it comes to incorporating technology, resulting in a more efficient workplace.

Examples of guidelines in mentoring relationships

Every relationship is unique and depends mainly on what the participants agree upon. Here are some ideas for setting guidelines in mentoring relationships.

Define what areas of the mentee’s life they want mentorship

This is the moment you both discuss what the mentee wants out of the relationship. They could want a mentor just for their career development, or maybe they want it to include personal relationships, too. Either way, you both need to communicate and establish if you are a good fit for what they want out of mentorship.

Decide when you’ll meet but be flexible

It's overwhelming to say “every single Tuesday at 10 am for the next six months!”. Instead, be consistent “during the first week of each month.” Choose a time that is comfortable for both of you and be flexible if there is a need for it.  

Who will drive the meetings?

Mentees should be in the driver’s seat of the relationship. They should therefore go to meetings with mentoring agendas and topics for discussion. They are the ones with questions they want to be answered and need to be met.

Agree that the meetings are confidential unless otherwise agreed on

Confidentiality is very important in mentoring relationships. It helps to build trust and rapport. If there is a situation where you can ensure confidentiality, be sure to discuss it with your mentee first. Keep all records of your dealings securely. 

Mentors should listen first to understand, then respond

Mentors should actively listen to the needs of their mentees and respond according. It is important to be less instructive in your approach to responding to questions. Give examples and ask for clarification if you don’t understand your mentee. 

Feedback should go both ways

Feedbacks allow mentees to take action thereby avoiding mistakes and saving time. However, it shouldn’t be one-sided with mentors giving all the feedback. Mentees should feel empowered to speak up if they want something to change.  

How will your meetings be structured?

Are you going to schedule regular face-to-face and video meetings? What specific activities will you do during the meeting? We’ve outlined in this article, over a dozen ideas for mentoring activities.

The values to structure a mentoring relationship

According to Harvard’s School of Public Health, a successful mentoring relationship has been defined as one in which there is engagement, flexibility, authenticity, and reciprocity.

For the mentee, meeting their goals, developing company knowledge and expanding their talents will help them be more self-assured of their contributions to the company. A mentor can offer valuable leadership skills and experience, which will assist mentees in their future endeavours.

For the mentor, the opportunity can help them develop leadership skills, and enhance coaching, counselling and listening capabilities. In some cases, mentors can also find a mentoring situation to be a learning opportunity. Younger workers may have different experiences or innovative ideas that could benefit the workplace, particularly when it comes to incorporating technology, resulting in a more efficient workplace.

To continue learning, check out how to build a successful mentor relationship

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