How to have a mentor/mentee relationship

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With Mim Haysom, Managing Partner at M&C Saatchi

Mim Haysom 2
Photography: Lucinda Hayden


There’s a lot of advice out there for mentees seeking a mentor: Where to find one? What to ask them? How often to be in touch?

But it’s just as important to have guidelines on the other side, if you’re a mentor seeking a mentee. After all, with great power comes great responsibility.

As a highly respected executive with a smorgasbord of global brands under her belt,  Mim Haysom, Managing Partner at M&C Saatchi Sydney, has a few to share…

 

FIND A MENTEE ORGANICALLY 

I don’t go looking for mentees. The best mentoring relationships in my experience aren’t those where there has been a formal agreement to mentor, rather it’s been a more organic progression of an existing working relationship. When people trust and respect you, they start to come to you in confidence looking for advice and guidance. That’s the starting point for a good mentoring relationship.

 

BUT DON’T BE AFRAID TO GO FORMAL

Industry bodies and formal programs are a great place to start if you don’t have the confidence to build a relationship on your own, or you don’t feel you currently have anyone you can relate to or would regard as a mentee. There are some great formal mentoring programs. In my industry [creative and marketing businesses] there’s a program called SheSays, which is run through the Communications Council.

 

LET YOUR MENTEE COME TO YOU

To be a good mentor, your role is to give guidance and an experienced point of view, as and when it is needed. It’s not a formal schedule of meetings that create a great mentoring relationship, but an openness of the mentor to be accessible and to discuss and share a point of view when it’s needed. My approach is to empower those I mentor to own the relationship. It’s up to them how often they engage with me, and how they use their time with me.

 

LOOK FOR THE RIGHT MENTEE 

Great mentees are resourceful in and of themselves. They are ambitious, they have an inner confidence, they’re curious, they’re proactive and they understand and want to leverage the value that comes with experience. All personal resources, but ingredients for a successful mentoring relationship.

 

DON’T SET AN AGENDA

A mentor should hand the keys of the relationship over to the mentee. They’re the ones who are looking for the guidance, advice and learning from [the] experience, so empower them to set the agenda.

 

KNOW THE LIMITS OF YOUR ROLE

For mentors, your role is not to make decisions for your mentees, but to provide them with an experienced point of view to help them shape and make their own decisions. Don’t make decisions for them; decision-making is part of their learning process. Success is when you’re having a positive impact on someone’s career progression and decision-making.

 

BE HONEST

Great mentoring relationships are based on trust and openness, so as a mentor you need to be comfortable to share your own point of view and past experiences. Trust, respect and chemistry is critical to a great mentoring relationship and it takes time to build those foundations.

 

REALISE THERE’S NO END DATE 

I don’t think there’s an expiry date or timeline for mentoring. Like any relationship, it will change over time depending on the circumstances of those involved in the relationship. In my experience: once a mentor, always a mentor. I have a long-standing mentor who has had a great influence on me professionally. I worked with him early in my career, and he taught me so much about how to run a business and how to think beyond the status quo to have a competitive edge. We are still very close, and I still call on him for business counsel and to be my trusted sounding board. I don’t have a scheduled arrangement with my mentor, but whenever I need a sounding board I know I can pick up the phone (or email) and he’ll be there with great advice when I need it.

 

Whether you’re a potential mentor or mentee, you might just meet your counterpart at Kick. Start. Smart. Learn more about the specific people and networks needed to support your career during the event’s ‘Company You Keep’ session. 

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