How to use this Handbook
Congratulations! You've begun your mentorship program. Mentorship has been around for a long time, and it's proven to be one of the best ways to achieve personal and professional growth whether you're a mentor or mentee.
We designed this Handbook to break down the different areas of your role as a mentor and the best practices that will help you drive a successful mentoring relationship. It's designed to be easy to skim but also provide depth if you want to learn more about a particular area. In addition, at the end of each section, we've provided a further reading list for you to explore if you want to go even further in your learning.
By using this Handbook along with the agendas provided, you'll be well prepared to help your mentee grow.
What is The Purpose of Mentorship?
A mentor is someone who helps a mentee grow, develop, make decisions, and receive guidance for their careers or future. For the mentor, it serves as a way to give back and is an important development and learning experience.
The mentor acts as a role model for their mentee. In that way, they both benefit from the relationship.
Benefits to a mentor
It may feel that a mentor has to give value to another person and not receive some in return. However, that’s not the case. You can think of the relationship between you, the mentor, and your mentee as an exchange.
Yes, your role is to help your mentee grow and learn, but this is a great opportunity for you to learn as well. Being a mentor:
- Drive self awareness
- Expands the mentor’s professional network
- Improves leadership skills
- Increases awareness of available talent throughout the organization
- Increases likelihood of receiving a promotion
- Increases visibility throughout the organization
Do you see that there’s a lot for you to learn through this relationship?
Benefits to a mentee
There are also many benefits to a mentee. They include:
Learn the workplace culture
Employees who are involved in a mentorship program are more aware of workplace routines, policies, and expectations than those who do not. Having a mentor is an important factor in helping a mentee to feel more a part of the organization.
Enhance skill development
Most mentees are looking for someone to help them advance their career prospects. Through advice and guidance, a mentor can help them develop their full potential in the workplace.
A workplace mentoring program is a great way to boost employee networking opportunities. For many new hires, it can take months and sometimes years to get to know key co-workers. Through a mentoring program, a mentee can gain access to important career contacts sooner. This is especially true in remote work environments.
Problem - solving
A mentor can be a sounding board when mentees come up against a situation or problem that they aren't familiar with or can’t see a solution.
A mentor will have a thorough knowledge of the organization and programs or training that's available. A mentor can also impart wisdom developed on the job over time, information and workplace expectations or policies that will be invaluable their mentee.
What to Know Before You Start
Your Mentoring Relationship
Your role as a mentor
Mentorships exist to be a positive experience for both the mentor and mentee.
Challenges can become opportunities when you have someone who can reveal a different perspective.
At the beginning of the relationship, spending time clarifying what you can legitimately expect to give and get through mentoring is essential.
It is especially beneficial to discuss, negotiate, and agree upon expectations. We'll go over expectations in its own section later on but, for now, let’s establish what mentorship is and is not.
What mentorship is and is not
It is essential that both you and your mentee understand
what does and does not constitute a mentoring relationship,
as detailed below:
It is a development program that grows knowledge, networks, and careers. For example, the process allows more experienced employees to support and develop high potential employees to become future leaders.
Knowledge Sharing Opportunity:
Mentoring is a process that improves cross-functional knowledge sharing and facilitates the flow of information and ideas throughout the organization.
Organizational Culture Enhancer:
Having a mentor will help their mentee better understand the organization’s operations, policies, and culture.
Candid and Specific:
A good mentoring relationship provides honest and specific feedback and a route to growth.
Mentoring is not
Guarantee of Promotion:
A mentoring relationship does not assure promotion or an increase in salary. However, both parties may develop competencies and skills that improve overall job performance.
Replacement for Formal Development:
Mentoring cannot take the place of formal training but rather should augment formal development activities.
The mentor should not take on
the responsibilities of a
It is best to seek help on personal
issues from a life coach or mental
health professional rather than a mentor.
Difference between a mentor and a coach
• Helps facilitate a culture of growth and development within the organization
For example, a mentor can help mentees see new opportunities within their organization that they could laterally transition to. If this is multiped across dozens of mentors in an organization, more employees would be experts in more than one organization area.
• Concentrates on the individual’s development needs and goals based on their career aspirations
For example, a mentor doesn’t have a direct motive to increase the mentee's performance. Instead, the mentor can determine what their mentee’s individual goals are for their career and help them work towards them without thinking about their current position and KPIs.
• Mutually benefits both the mentor and mentee
The mentor also benefits from their relationship with the mentee. For example, the mentee can provide feedback that helps the mentor listen better before they jump to problem solving.
• Builds a long-term relationship
Many mentoring programs don’t end when the sessions do. Many continue to check in with one another to support them and keep them accountable to their long-term goals. For example, a mentor could check-in at the end of each quarter with their mentee and check in on their progress.
• Assesses and improves an individual’s performance in a particular area
For example, a coach could focus specifically on speaking skills and how to improve them. They may not question why they want to get better at speaking, but the tactics that lead to stronger presentations. A mentor would go further in helping them understand how their speaking skills will help them advance in their careers in the long run.
• Disproportionately benefits the person being coached
For example, the coach isn’t there to get feedback on how they can be a better coach. Instead, they are expected to be experienced in their domain and transfer that knowledge. In contrast, mentoring relationships help both parties learn.
• Time-bound relationship
The coaching relationship usually has a timeline on what improvement is expected to be seen. For example, a coach may decide that within six weeks, the mentee needs to be meeting specific KPls or objectives within their role to demonstrate improvement. Mentors can take a similar approach but may focus on more holistic improvements.
A key difference between coaching and mentorship is the place of evaluation. Mentoring is non-evaluative, while coaching is based on measuring performance change.
Evaluation can be through company performance reviews or tests. For this reason, mentors shouldn't be direct supervisors or managers of the mentee.
Who drives the relationship?
The mentee drives the mentoring relationship; coaching is the opposite. The mentee sets the relationships goals and comes to their mentor with the problems they want to solve.
In coaching, the coach or supervisor is driving the agenda for the relationship. The relationship is about performance. The coach is helping the mentee reach a specific goal or develop a particular skill.
Mentoring is highly personalized; coaching is repeatable
In mentoring, a mentee has specific needs and needs to discuss challenges that are not necessarily tied to company-wide, top-down performance initiatives. Mentoring also carries the benefit of building the mentee's network network by meeting multiple mentors and making new connections. Mentoring in this way is particularly helpful when onboarding new employees.
In coaching, the organization identified a specific skill gap, and one or more coaches are selected to provide a generalized program to make improvements. Thus, content is reused and generalized, and a coach wouldn’t typically be a networking opportunity for a coachee.
If you want to go deeper on the topics discussed above, we have resources on our website that unpack them further.
What Type of Mentor Are You?
Mentorship can take different forms. As a mentor, you may feel that you are more active in problem-solving issues with your mentees. Other mentors may be better listeners who provide the guidance needed for their mentees to conclude themselves.
Here are eight different types of mentors. Which one best describes you?
Here’s where advisors are effective and ineffective:
Here’s where protectors are effective and ineffective:
Here’s where developers are effective and ineffective:
Here’s where brokers are effective and ineffective:
Here’s where challengers are effective and ineffective:
Here’s where clarifiers are effective and ineffective:
Here’s where sponsors are effective and ineffective:
Here’s where affirmers are effective and ineffective:
If you want to go deeper on the topics discussed above, we have resources on our website that unpack them further.
How to Be a Great Mentor
Skills and qualities of great mentors
There are several characteristics that are common in great mentors:
How to Spot A Great Mentor - Do You Fit?
Skilled and experienced in the field and industry
Mentors who have worked in their area of expertise for some time and who have gained experience with the company will be a good fit for mentees wanting to follow their same path. A mentor can share what they know about their job, how they fit into the organization and share insights about their industry. In addition, they’ll have the unique ability to groom their successor or prepare a new manager in their department. That being said mentors do not guarantee promotions (see section on what mentoring is and isn't)
Desire or motivated to share wisdom
Good mentors are those that not only have gained lots of knowledge and experience but are also motivated to share what they know with others. In particular, they must understand and respect the mentor-mentee relationship and take the workplace mentoring program seriously.
Commitment to extra responsibility
Being a mentor can take time and energy. To be an effective mentor, they'll need to be committed to putting in the extra time and effort required.
Good mentors are positive people. Would you feel comfortable opening up about your goals and challenges to a mentor who doesn't seem to care? It’s beneficial that you see the glass as half full and have an optimistic view of what the relationship can provide.
One of the most critical factors in a mentoring relationship is good communication. Therefore, someone who has proven they can communicate positively and effectively will be a good mentor. This will be proven in how they provide guidance and constructive feedback to their mentee.
Are fulfilled in their job
If your mentor isn't interested in their own position they're not going to have enthusiasm to grow with their mentee.
Mentors that enjoy learning and are well-informed about their field will make the best mentors. These are those individuals who continuously learn about the changes and innovations happening in the industry. They read journals and attend workshops and other training sessions to stay ahead of the game. A person who is up-to-date about the field will pass along that information to their mentee.
Individuals who can work well independently and contribute to a team effort will also be good mentors They are often skilled at sharing with and listening to others. They usually value others and understand the importance of being part of a team in the workplace.
Emotionally intelligent people have a good understanding of their own emotions and know how to be sensitive to others. This skill helps a mentor relate better to their mentee. In addition, they are often empathetic and can see things from another person’s perspective.
If you want to go deeper on the topics discussed above, we have resources on our website that unpack them further.
Your First Meeting:
How to create the foundation for a trusting relationship
Use the following questions to guide your first mentoring conversation, which will help you get to know one another and establish mutual expectations and goals. Then, note both parties’ responses for future reference.
to understand their background:
- What is your educational and professional background (including your current role and how long you have been with the organization)?
- What are your greatest strengths? Greatest weaknesses?
- What are your short-term career goals? Long-term career goals?
- What are your hobbies/interests outside of work?
to get a sense of what your mentee is expecting:
- What do you see as my role as your mentor?
- What ground rules should we set (e.g., confidentiality, openness, honesty)
- What topics are off-limits (e.g., performance reviews, personal lives)?
- What do you think will be challenging about this relationship?
- Are there any topics of urgent interest?
- What topics do you want to cover in our conversations?
- What do you hope to gain from this relationship?
- How do you prefer to communicate between meetings?
- When is the best time for you to meet?
Decide on Expectations
For the relationship to be fruitful, mentors and mentees should define their roles and expectations of one another. What do they expect from one another? Should your sessions be more casual or formal? You should decide beforehand.
Here are some expectations to agree upon:
Core Performance Expectations
Time Commitment Obligations
Mentorship Outside of Sessions - yes or no?
The Do's and Don'ts of Building Mentoring Relationships
The stronger the connection between the mentor and mentee, the more each of you stands to benefit. Knowing some of the do’s and don’ts of mentorship can help keep you both on the right track.
Engage the mentee by listening and goal-setting
You shouldn’t shy away from giving advice. Providing constructive feedback helps bring the mentee closer to their goals. For example, if a mentee shares that their goal is to be a manager of a department one day, a good mentor would take the time to understand why they want that position. That example is different from immediately outlining all the steps the mentee would need to follow to get that position.
Point your mentee in the right direction
You can encourage mentees to take advantage of any advice or opportunities that you provide. These could be opportunities such as helpful workplace programs to advance skills or external opportunities for training. Of course, you can’t know everything, so sometimes it’s better to suggest training for the mentee rather than taking that burden on yourself.
For example, the mentor may encourage a mentee to take a master class in sales to improve their objection handling skills. The mentee would, in turn, report back with their newly developed skills and share them with both their mentor and their team.
Celebrate with the mentee
Another important element of the mentor-mentee relationship is establishing a connection with one another. A mentor can and should celebrate with the mentee when a goal or accomplishment has been achieved. For example, a mentor may remind themselves to congratulate their mentee on applying what they learned in a master class on objection handling during a successful sales call.
Show them the ropes
From a business perspective, one of the most valuable factors of the mentor-mentee relationship is the opportunity to shape another employee and encourage them to develop productive habits. In addition, by educating the mentee on workplace expectations, the mentor can positively impact not just the relationship but also the organization long-term.
For example, a mentor may have their mentee shadow them as they meet with other teams so they can understand the team culture.
Be a teacher and a guide
Essentially, your role as a mentor is both a teacher and a guide. You are responsible for shaping your mentee’s professional development. You should acknowledge the expectation to be a positive role model. By demonstrating to your mentee how to adhere to the corporate policies and requirements, you will help enhance the mentoring relationship.
For example, you could guide your mentee through how to address workplace violations constructively.
Talk more than you listen (within reason)
Having a mentor isn't an opportunity to vent all of your frustrations. Communication is key to working together, and if you cannot communicate well with your mentor, it could be a bad sign. Their role is as a teacher and a guide. So share your struggles and challenges but then take note of their answers. They may have more experience than you in that area.
Discredit their goals and ambitions
A great mentor will know how to balance providing critical feedback and supporting a mentees goals. Your role is not to approve or deny their decisions but to help them make sure they have confidence in those decisions after discussing them with you.
For example, a mentor could discredit their mentee’s goals by saying that they’re not good enough and that they should have different goals instead, possibly goals more in line with the mentor’s career trajectory.
Provide vague or unactionable feedback
Few things are as frustrating as getting negative feedback that is unclear and doesn’t provide actionable ways to improve. If you become aware of a way of thinking, a behavior, or anything else that could have negative ramifications on your mentee, make sure you acknowledge it.
For example, a mentor may say that the way a mentee approaches a problem is short-sighted and doesn’t consider long-term consequences. What long-term consequences are they not considering? A good mentor would tell them before it’s too late.
Be overly positive
As a mentor, you will learn how to deliver feedback. Hopefully, you will understand when to be frank and blunt or gentle and sensitive when you provide feedback. One of the downfalls of peer performance reviews is that you have an incentive to remain positive because you’ll have to continue working with them.
For example, a mentor may smooth over negative feedback about their mindset around a particular problem. Doing so would be a disservice to them because it could negatively impact their future. But we all have things we need to work on, and in a mentor-mentee relationship, the mentee’s goal is to grow. That growth may require them to confront some negative mindsets or habits.
This may be obvious, but it is of the utmost importance to respect your mentee’s privacy and respect their trust in you. Use your discretion, but do not share causally private details of your relationship.
For example, don’t share in a team standup what challenges your mentee is facing without their permission. They shared that challenge in confidence. Your relationship with your mentee is built on trust. Respect that fact and don’t do anything to jeopardize the trust your mentee has in you.
During Your Sessions:
How to cultivate a successful mentoring relationship
Mentees and mentors need to be actively involved in the relationship. Mentees need to define goals, seek out advice, attend meetings and ask questions. Mentors are responsible for offering advice, guiding goal achievement and encouraging their mentee to develop their skills and networks. Mentees are responsible to actively respond to the guidance they receive (when applicable.)
Get a good match
Finding a good mentor-mentee match doesn’t mean you should look for someone just like you. Sometimes the best mentorship is between participants who are opposite of one other. The two can challenge each other in new ways and help them gain different perspectives. Refer to the table of different types of mentors above and decide which one best represents you.
Trust is crucial to a mentoring relationship. Yet, it can also take some time to build. Start your mentorship with a getting-to-know-you-style meeting. In this first session, both the mentor and mentee should exchange information about their backgrounds and interests. Slowly, as the relationship progresses, you can share more information, leading to more trust.
Every relationship has a set of “rules” that govern it. For example, a mentorship should have some clear guidelines regarding behavior and responsibility of the participants. Early on in your relationship, both the mentor and mentee need to set some rules about their roles. Share what you both expect from the other person. Also, consider what you bring to the relationship. What can you do to cultivate a successful connection?
A big part of the job for mentees is to define the goals they want to accomplish during the mentorship. By identifying these goals early, it can help clarify the type of mentor you look for. For example, are you looking to network, gain new skills, or get advice on significant career decisions?
The mentor needs to provide constructive criticism rather than harsh judgment. They should be sensitive to their mentee’s feelings. The mentee also needs to be able to express themselves clearly. If they feel that a mentor does not understand something or offering advice that's not applicable, they should say so in a diplomatic way.
Guidelines for Meetings
Prioritizing meetings throughout the relationship is critical for both of you to benefit fully from the relationship. Ensure a productive, successful relationship by implementing the following guidelines:
Prepare a day before the meeting using your agenda
You have access to an agenda in the Together platform, and this will be emailed to you before the meeting. Be sure to come prepared to the meeting by reviewing the Before & During notes to have a more effective mentorship session.
Identify next steps after each meeting
Set next steps at the end of each discussion and clarify who is responsible for each of them. You can leverage the Shared Notes functionality in Together or create an “Action Item” for your partner. If follow-up poses a challenge for either of you, use the opportunity to problem-solve together.
After each meeting, use the Shared Notes functionality to describe how you benefited from the conversation; ask them to share their thoughts too.
Set reminders for yourself to share resources
Set a reminder on your calendar to send an interesting article to each other periodically. Keeping connected in this simple way will build a strong relationship.
Don’t forget important events
Note important personal events in your each others lives, such as their birthday and anniversary date with the organization. In addition, you can use your Personal Notes for any reminders or items you’d like to keep top of mind during your mentorship sessions.
Share with them upcoming educational events
Attend educational events (internal and external) together, such as lectures, talks, and discussions.
Reflect and share what you’ve learned together
One of the best ways to learn is through taking time to reflect on where you’ve come. In the moment challenging feedback can be hard to swallow. It’s only afterward that we realize how helpful it was. In those cases, share with one another how it helped you grow. That’s what the program is all about.
We hope this Handbook has and will continue to help you in your mentoring relationship.
The Handbook's purpose is to provide a starting point for developing strong and fruitful relationships with your mentee.
The tactics and recommendations can all be reduced to clear communication, transparency, and a growth mindset. If you have those qualities when you meet with your mentor, you'll be well-positioned to grow both personally and professionally. If you want to learn more about mentorship check out our blog.