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Posted: August 7, 2013
Ted Kinni

Theodore Kinni is senior editor for books at strategy+business. He also blogs at Reading, Writing re: Management

 


 
 

How You Can Be a Great Mentor, and a Great Protégé

Revised editions of books don’t often pique my interest, even when they are best-selling business books, such as Chip Bell’s Managers as Mentors: Building Partnerships for Learning, which Berrett-Koehler originally published in 1996. But there is something unusual about the newly published third edition: Bell has taken on Marshall Goldsmith as a coauthor. When I asked Bell why he decided to share the author credit on such a well-regarded book, he said, “No one on the planet has more expertise and is better known in the coaching field than Marshall.” No argument here.

Accordingly, there’s lots of new content in the book, such as interviews with a number of notable corporate leaders and a mentoring toolbox. The latter features, among other things, the following “quick tips” list for mentors and their protégés (reprinted with the authors’ permission):

Tips for Being a Great Mentor

• Mentoring is about establishing a partnership that helps your protégé learn. It is not about your being an expert or the authority.

• Great mentors foster discovery, they don’t instruct; thought-provoking questions are much more powerful than smart answers.

• Your protégé will learn more if you create a relationship that is safe and comfortable. Be authentic, open, and sincere.

• Your rank or position is your greatest liability—act more like a friend than a boss.

• Great listening comes from genuine curiosity and obvious attentiveness.

• Give feedback with a strong focus on the future, not a heavy rehash of the past.

• Mentoring is not just about what you say in a mentoring session; it is also about how you support your protégé after the session. Focus on helping your protégé transfer learning back to the workplace.

• If your mentoring relationship is not working like you hoped it would, clearly communicate your concerns to your protégé.

• Mentoring relationships are designed to be temporary. When your protégé has met his or her mentoring goals, be willing to let the relationship end.

Tips for Being a Great Protégé

• Select a mentor who can help you be the best you can be, not one you think can help you get a promotion.

• Remember, you can sometimes learn more from people who are different than from people who are “just like you.”

• Get crystal clear on your goals and expectations for a mentoring relationship.

• Communicate your goals and expectations in your first meeting.

• Mentoring is about learning, not looking good in front of your mentor. Be yourself and be willing to take risks and experiment with new skills and ideas.

• When your mentor gives you advice or feedback, work hard to hear it as a gift. Just because it may be painful does not mean it is not beneficial.

• If your mentoring relationship is not working like you hoped it would, clearly communicate your concerns to your mentor.

• Great mentoring relationships take two people—a partnership. Look in the mirror before you conclude a poor mentoring relationship is all about your mentor.

• Mentoring relationships are designed to be temporary. When you have met your mentoring goals, be willing to let the relationship end.
 

 
 
 
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