Mentor and Mentee: Roles and Expectations

Mentor and mentee relationships need to have clear roles and expectations. Here are several expectations to agree upon in your mentoring relationship.

Ryan Carruthers

Published on 

February 23, 2022

Updated on 

April 12, 2024

Time to Read

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Mentoring programs play a key role in accelerating learning and development within organizations. While informal mentoring relationships have taken root in the corporate world for many years, companies are beginning to realize that formal mentorships give employees a structure for career growth and continuous learning.

All successful mentoring programs have one thing in common –  trained and engaged mentors and mentees. It’s no secret that the people who drive the program towards success have qualities that make them great mentors and mentees. Whether it’s active listening and communication skills or a collaborative and helpful attitude, mentors and mentees both need to have – or develop – skills that lead the mentoring relationship to success. 

The importance of mentors and mentees in the workplace

The significance of mentors and mentees has evolved significantly from the informal arrangements of the past. Earlier, employees often benefited from mentorship by industry experts, but modern mentorship programs emphasize structured relationships for skill development and career advancement. 

Today, mentors and mentees are recognized as key figures in fostering a culture of continuous learning and professional development within organizations.

The most successful people have mentors

For instance, back in the 70s, Oprah Winfrey met Maya Angelou. At the beginning of her career, Winfrey looked up to Angelou’s advice as someone already established in her career. 

Another famous mentor and mentee relationship is between Warren Buffett and Bill Gates. Upon meeting Gates, Buffett challenged him with questions that made him think differently about his business. Additionally, Buffett also mentored Gates in philanthropy. Buffett helped Gates as he began building solutions that helped the world, which led to the Gates Foundation.

Mentorship spurs learning and development

Mentorships are important because they allow employees to learn and grow within the company. Not only does the mentee learn new skills, but the mentor also discovers a new perspective, such as how to better communicate with junior employees.

Employees with mentors stay at companies longer 

The impact of mentors in the workplace can be tremendous. Mentorship programs lead to higher retention rates among employees. For instance, Randstad, a multinational human resource consulting firm in the Netherlands, has run several mentoring programs using the Together mentorship platform

They found that employees in a mentorship program were 49 percent less likely to leave the company. 

Mentors increase engagement

Mentorships also propel employee engagement. This is because mentoring programs are a hyper-relevant form of employee development. Every employee has a leader focused on identifying their goals and overcoming barriers that are holding them back.

Mentoring programs also:

Crystal Black, Sr. L&D Specialist at AAA, talks about the strategies they employed in recruiting and engaging mentors and mentees and the success that followed. Watch the full webinar.

What is the role of a mentor?

A mentor is not just someone who knows a lot about the company because of their experience throughout the years of working there. 

A mentor needs to have a variety of other qualities to help the mentee truly learn and grow. A mentor must be passionate about teaching younger employees. Without that passion, the experience will be poor and the mentorship program will be seen as ineffective. Passion cannot be taught, but other qualities needed in a mentor can. 

Here are 5 qualities that mentors should bring to their relationship.

Listen to understand their mentee’s goals

The most important characteristic to have when mentoring is to be a good listener. The mentee needs to be able to talk through their issues and doubts, and the mentor needs to be able to ask questions to understand the issues further and offer advice on how to fix them. 

A good rule of thumb is to listen 80 percent of the time, spend 10 percent of the time asking questions, and the other 10 percent offering advice. The mentee must be the main focus in the mentorship program since they are the one who needs to learn.

🧠 35 Questions mentors should ask their mentees

Consider how to be most helpful for their mentee

Each employee may learn best through specific methods. A good mentor can scan the mentee and ask the right questions to understand the best way to guide them through the learning process. 

When listening to your mentee, it is important that you can understand between the lines of what they are facing and guide them to the best solution.

Communicate advice and guidance to their mentees

Good mentoring relationships are rooted in great communication. A mentee needs to understand what the mentor is saying, which allows them to learn the topic at hand. Additionally, the mentor needs to be able to scan for any issues that the mentee may have and work around them. 

A mentor needs to be able to understand the best way for a mentee to learn and understand the topic. These communication skills are also important when a mentor needs to communicate that a mentee is not performing well. 

A great communicator can find the right words and timing to give bad news while also developing a solution that will help the mentee stay engaged and productive.

Take note of progress and follow up

The mentor must build a relationship with the mentee that allows for constructive criticism. 

The mentee needs to feel comfortable to understand that any feedback that the mentor gives them is coming from a good place that is aiming at their professional growth. 

Additionally, the mentee needs to also feel comfortable giving the mentor feedback if they are having difficulties with a certain aspect of the teaching or if they are unhappy with something in the company.

Encourage reflection and highlight growth of the mentee

While a mentor needs to be prepared to give constructive criticism and possibly bad news to a mentee, the mentor must focus on the mentee’s growth.

 At the end of a program, for instance, the mentor must reflect with the mentee on how much they have grown. This will allow the mentee to actively understand what they have learned and how much they have grown throughout the mentorship.

This leads to a more engaged and encouraged employee who added new skills to their belt.  

Handbook Actionable Tips To Become An Effective Mentor 

What is the role of a mentee?

A mentorship program’s success depends a lot on the mentee. A good mentee needs to be willing to work with the mentor and communicate well what they want out of the program. Additionally, it is important that mentees ask questions to reap the benefits of the mentor’s expertise and knowledge.

Organize the meetings and prepare the agenda

The mentee must make time to work with the mentor. Therefore, a good mentee should be proactive and schedule meetings with the mentor when starting the mentorship program. 

Additionally, mentees should come prepared with questions they may have for the mentor. This will allow both to get working on what matters most to the mentee and continue to improve their skills.

Be clear about what they want to learn from their mentor

As mentioned, it is important that the mentee communicates the goal of the mentorship.That is, what they want to gain from the relationship. This can change as time goes on since you will be learning a lot from your mentor. 

However, it is important that you can clearly explain what you want out of this partnership to your mentor. This will allow the mentor to gear their teachings and advice towards your final goal.

Be teachable

It is extremely important that you, as a mentee, want to learn from your mentor. Be respectful, proactive, and open to learning. While the mentor is supposed to teach you skills that they are experts in, a mentee who is unwilling to learn won’t get anything out of the relationship. 

A good way to show that you are willing to learn is to take the initiative and be proactive. The program needs to be something enjoyable for both the mentee and mentor so you can both build a trusting relationship at work.

Actively listen and act on it when relevant

Not only is it important that a mentee be good communicators, but they also need to be good listeners. As a mentee, you should be able to listen to everything your mentor is telling you and communicate if you need clarification. Essentially, both mentors and mentees need to be able to communicate and listen to each other effectively for this partnership to work.

Manage time effectively

Time management is essential for being a good mentee as it enables the maximization of time to achieve productivity. A mentee who possesses efficient time management skills is capable of showing up on time, a key aspect of being a responsible learner.

 By effectively managing their time, mentees can not only excel in their business ventures but also enhance their overall lifestyle. Proficient time management skills allow mentees to make the most out of their available time, enabling them to utilize it productively. Ultimately, the ability to manage time effectively is crucial for mentees to thrive in their professional and personal lives.

Share their progress and reflect on learnings

At the end of the day, it is nice to work hard towards learning something new and seeing that you can do it. Therefore, it is important that you can meet with your mentor and talk through your progress after the program ends. This will allow you both to see that your goal was accomplished and that you have grown as a professional.

6 Steps to enhance your mentee definition

A mentee can follow several steps to become forward-thinking and make the most of the mentoring relationship.   

1. Establish clear goals: Begin by defining your goals and what you aim to achieve through the guidance of your mentor. Having a clear vision will help you focus on the necessary areas of improvement. 

🎯 7 Most common goals for mentees [plus 5 tips for setting and achieving them]

2. Take ownership of your learning: While mentors provide guidance, it is important to recognize that the responsibility for learning ultimately rests with the mentee. Take initiative in seeking knowledge and actively engage in self-directed learning opportunities

3. Respect your mentor's time: Acknowledge that mentors are generous with their time, knowledge, and expertise. Show appreciation for their commitment by valuing their time and being punctual for scheduled meetings. 

4. Prepare an agenda for each session: Enhance the effectiveness of your mentorship meetings by coming prepared with a carefully structured agenda. This will help ensure a productive and efficient discussion, allowing you to cover all the essential topics and make the most of your mentor's expertise.

 5. Seek mentors' guidance through questions: Take full advantage of the mentorship relationship by asking thoughtful and relevant questions. Maximize your learning by actively engaging in conversations and seeking clarification when needed. 

6. Request feedback: Regularly ask your mentors for feedback on your progress. This will provide valuable insights into areas where you can further improve and refine your mentee skills. Accepting and implementing constructive feedback fosters continuous growth and development. 

By following these steps, a mentee can elevate their mentee definition, establish a mutually beneficial mentorship relationship, and maximize their learning and development opportunities.

Handbook Best Practices on How To Be a Great Mentee

Should mentorship be informal or formal?

Mentorships have been around for many years. Nowadays, more than 70 percent of Fortune 500 companies have a formal mentorship program. This type of mentorship program is when the company starts a program where junior and senior employees can become a part. 

Once employees sign up for it, the program administrator pairs the best matches together. Informal mentorships occur when the leader and peer employees get together to share their experiences.

While you can have both types of mentorship programs in your company, the formal is much better organized. In informal mentorships, you can have one-on-one sessions, peer-to-peer, group mentorships, and even workshops where several leaders mentor a group of employees. 

With formal mentorship programs, everyone who chooses to do it is guaranteed a mentor. This allows for employees who tend to stay on the sidelines to feel more included, such as women and underrepresented employees.  

  • For instance, a study mentions that 76% of people believe mentorships are important; however, only 37 percent have a mentor. 
  • Additionally, mentorships help mentees find their strengths and work on their weaknesses, which leads to more productivity. In our 2022 State of Coaching and Mentoring Report, we found a clear link between mentoring and higher productivity as well as employee development.

Build a mentor and mentee program in the workplace

If you want to incorporate a formal mentorship program in your company, it is simple to start with Together. We have a guide that outlines how you can start a mentoring program. Following it will help your employees to grow and continue to be productive in the company. 

The bigger the scale of your mentorship program, the more important it is to consider Together. We can help you manage registrations, pairing, and the content of the programs. Together’s mentor matching software makes it easier to pair participants, schedule meetings, track relationship progress, and generate reports.

Book a free demo to see how Together can help you launch a world-class mentoring program.

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