Mentoring Basics: Part 3(b)

In our last post on Mentoring Basics, we examined the first of three steps in ‘how to start a mentoring relationship’. Critical here, was gathering information that would help us as potential mentors make a decision to mentor or not to mentor someone.

Now, we’re going to take that information and dive in to the analysis and decision making step, which we’ve termed Honest Assessment.

If you’re joining us at this mid-point in the series, you can start at the beginning by clicking here.

Honesty is critical. Not only in the way that you approach the mentoring of another person, but also in your assessment of the whether or not you are the right person to mentor an individual. Just because someone asks you to be their mentor doesn’t mean that you are the right person for the job.

It is very important that you examine the information you have collected carefully and run it through your honest assessment filter to make a good determination.

Let me give you a work place example.

Sue asks Adam to be her mentor. Adam asks Sue, “what would you like to learn?” Sue tells Adam that she thinks Adam is really strong in merchandising skills and would like to learn that from him. Adam knows deep down that his merchandising skills really aren’t that strong.

Should Adam agree to the mentorship based on Sue’s expressed need? Or should he decline and refer Sue to someone else that may possess the knowledge, skill and experience that she is looking for? Personally, I would say that the latter would be more appropriate in this situation.

We all like it when people look up to us for some reason or another, but if that admiration is based upon misperception is it really us that they admire? Or is it some alternate universe version of us that only exists in their mind? Should you burst the perception bubble? Human nature may be telling you no. I say this is a bridge that you will have to cross personally.

You may be thinking if there is no harm is there a foul? Perhaps there isn’t, but I encourage you to “burst the bubble” if the situation involves someone asking you to teach them a skill that they will be basing future action upon and you clearly don’t have the expertise to lead them down the right path.

So, how do you conduct an Honest Assessment? Here are seven things to consider:

  • Do I have enough information? If not, go back and ask clarifying questions. Don’t be afraid to seek out information from others too (e.g., other former mentors, their supervisor, etc.).
  • Are the goals realistic? This is a tricky one. You have to make a judgment as to whether or not the needs and goals are attainable by this individual in the time frame that they expect to reach them. If they aren’t, then this doesn’t mean that the mentorship shouldn’t occur, it just means that you may need to reset the expectations of the goals and time lines (which we will cover some in the next post). However, if they are dead set on achieving that specific goal (and you don’t think it’s realistic), you may have to say no.
  • Does this person display a desire and capacity to learn? This is an important question, because if the mentee’s heart and mind isn’t in it then the mentorship may be a waste of time. The important thing here is attitude and aptitude.
  • Do I have the knowledge, skills, or experiences to help them achieve their goal? The above example of Sue and Adam fits right in to this question. Do you honestly have what it takes to develop someone in a given area?
  • Is this a mutually beneficial relationship? Mentoring is reciprocal and you should be getting as much from it as you are giving.
  • Am I compatible with this person? This is more important than you may think. While we don’t want a bunch of ‘mini-me’s’ running around and you should consider people that are different than you as mentees, there is the fact of whether or not you will get along, which speaks to how receptive they will be of your input. If you think the relationship is going to be abrasive or adversarial, then you may want to pass.
  • Do I have enough time and energy to devote to this person? Now that you have the information, you should be able to determine if you have the time to devote to this specific individual. This isn’t all about the mentee either, this is about you, your priorities, your workload, your energy level, etc. We’ve talked a lot about “time” as a factor, and that’s because this is one of the greatest fatal flaws of mentorships that often dooms them to failure. So make sure you are honest with yourself about what you can “give”.

Notice how all of these questions are “yes or no”? This should make it easy to assess. If you answer “no” to any of them, then you need to take a really close look at this potential relationship. If you dig further for answers and still get a “no” then you are probably leaning towards a “no” for the mentorship in general.

Now, the application for this rigorous of an examination may lend itself more towards the “official” or even “casual” style of mentoring relationships. Note that if you come up with a “no” for the relationship, that still may mean that you can contribute to this person’s development by answering questions from time to time, being an “ear” or allowing them to bounce an idea off of you.

You may be looking at all of this information and analysis and think, “Good grief, it’s just a mentorship. Do I have to go through all of these steps?” The answer is yes. Why? Because mentorships should be taken seriously. They are an investment in one of our most precious resources: time.

The time that it actually takes you to conduct the assessment may vary. Skilled mentors may have this process down pat and can go through all the steps within minutes. More complex situations may require further analysis. Regardless, take the time you need to make the right decision. It’s okay to tell them, “let me think about it” and give yourself the time you need think and assess. Just make sure you don’t leave them hanging too long.

Now that you have all the information you need and you’ve assessed the situation, you should be prepared to make an informed decision.

HOW you deliver that decision and the next step (setting parameters) will be covered in the next post! Stay tuned!




One Response to Mentoring Basics: Part 3(b)

  1. Pingback: Mentoring Basics: Part 3(c) « The Leader's Locker

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