Ground Rules for the mentor/mentee relationship
Regardless of whether you find a mentor or mentee by yourself, or sign up for a formal mentoring programme, it is important that there is a set of guidelines for the mentoring collaboration. In the following, Kirsten M. Poulsen talks about 4 things to consider before entering a mentoring relationship.
Mentor and mentee preferably should not be colleagues or employee/manager, as this can negatively influence the neutral approach that is needed in the relationship. Mentor and mentee should not be from competing companies, as this can cause problems in relation to confidentiality and competing agendas. Mentor and mentee should not be too similar – or too different from each other: the more similar you are, the more you will just confirm each other in all the assumptions and opinions that you already have. The more different, the longer it may take to achieve a close connection, but there is much more potential for learning.
2. Alignment of Expectations
How many meetings will we have? What exactly do I want to learn from you? How will we collaborate? This is about establishing the mentoring agreement between mentor and mentee, so that both parties are in agreement of how to work together. Remember: a mentoring process is not a recruitment channel. Don’t expect the mentor to provide the mentee with a new job in the mentor’s company. Mentors can help and support in clarifying competences, identifying relevant job and defining a career strategy. Confidentiality is an essential part of the mentoring agreement. If the mentoring relationship is to make a difference, we need to be able to speak freely – and that requires trust and confidentiality both ways.
3. The Mentoring Process
The length of a mentoring relationship varies. Usually, the programmes last 6-18 months. In the 6 months programmes, participants tend to feel it is too short. An 18 months programme may feel too long. Most mentor/mentee relationships reach an “expiration date” after 10-12 months. At the beginning, it will take some time to connect well and really get to the important topics that will make a difference for the learning. Halfway through a programme, you may experience a feeling of “whoa, now we've talked about everything I wanted to talk about, what should we talk about next? – and then you need to dig deeper, use your mentoring tools and you may find topics that matter even more.
4. Ending the relationship
A mentoring relationship typically runs over a predetermined period. This does not necessarily mean that you completely break the connection. You may still continue the relationship, but make sure that you make a formal evaluation of your collaboration, say thank you to each other, and agree on how to continue the relationship, so that everything is clear. Should we simply stop seeing each other? Do we want to keep meeting? Do we want to network? Should we just call when we would like to have a chat, or should we continue the mentoring relationship for a few more conversations? It's pretty much up to the mentor and mentee to decide, and all options are just fine. However, it is important that the formal ending time for the collaboration is clearly agreed upon at the beginning of the mentoring relationship