Mentorship: Ten Tips for a Successful Relationship

By Kristen Harris

Recently I participated in a Business First panel discussion about mentorship.

Here are Ten Tips for a successful mentor/mentee relationship:

  1. Take charge. If you’re the mentee (the person being mentored), you need to take charge of the relationship. Your mentor has agreed to share their time, experience and ideas with you–it’s your job to coordinate meetings and do all of the follow up.

  2. Be flexible. While it’s your job to coordinate, be as flexible as possible. Meet at the best time and location for your mentor, even if it’s less convenient for you. Also be flexible in the content of your meetings. You should have some questions or topics in mind, but if they head off in another direction go along for the ride. You never know what you’ll learn!

  3. Be receptive. Mentors can help you identify issues, problem-solve, brainstorm ideas, make introductions, and so much more. They will also challenge you, question assumptions, and suggest alternatives. Listen and be receptive to their ideas, then filter against what is best for you or your business to make a final decision.

  4. Show up. Figuratively and literally. Always show up for your meetings, don’t be late, never cancel especially at the last minute. Also show up mentally. Be awake, charged up, ready to think, ask questions, and listen. Time with your mentor is precious, make the most of it.

  5. Be appreciative. Whether you use their ideas or not, always be appreciative of efforts to help you. Most mentors do this because they genuinely enjoy helping people. Say ‘thank you’ early and often. Always buy if you meet over a meal (or at least offer every single time).

  6. Give feedback. Let your mentor know how an issue turned out or what decision you made with a quick update at your next meeting. It’s helpful for them to know what happened, and they may have more input based on the outcome.

  7. Ask questions. Again, it’s your job to lead this relationship. Come to meetings prepared with questions, listen to what they have to say, and answer any questions they ask you as well.

  8. Be helpful. Even if your mentor is much more experienced or connected than you, there are ways you can be helpful. Introduce them to new people, share technology or an interesting article, talk about their business or career, invite them to an event…just ask how you can help them too!

  9. Be respectful. Sometimes you won’t agree with your mentor, don’t like their idea, or decide not to take their advice. That’s fine. They’re trying to help, but should have no expectation that you’ll do every single thing they suggest. They’re an adviser, not your supervisor. Always be respectful, consider what they’re saying, and thank them for the advice whether you take it or not.

  10. Pay it forward. If you’ve been fortunate enough to have a mentor, pay it forward by mentoring someone else. No matter your age or experience level, there is someone who could use your advice. Offer to mentor a student, a budding entrepreneur or a more junior person in your company. Giving advice and helping your mentee can be equally as rewarding as getting help from your mentor.

Applying these simple principles to any mentor/mentee interaction will help build trust and mutual respect, leading to a more successful and rewarding relationship.