HOW TO HAVE A MENTOR/ MENTEE RELATIONSHIP

by

With Mim Haysom, Managing Partner at M&C Saatchi
Words Selise McLaggan + Rebecca Hanley

MIM’S ADVICE TO THE MENTEES OUT THERE…

My advice is to use your time wisely. Know what you want to get out of your time and discussions with your mentor. Don’t turn up to a meeting unprepared. Most mentors are busy people who are investing their time and energy into you, so ensure you are respectful of that investment and have objectives and key discussion points for your mentoring time.

AND TO THE MENTORS…

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 ‘She Says’ which is run through the Communications Council.

5 TYPES OF QUESTIONS TO ASK YOUR MENTOR

1) RAPPORT BUILDING
One of the keys to a strong mentor- mentee relationship is a solid base of trust, respect and mutual regard, so ask questions that will develop your bond.

What are your proudest achievements? How do you spend your time off?

2) SITUATIONAL ADVICE
Mine your mentor for tangible tips you can apply to current challenges in your day- to-day work life.

My current boss is micro-managing me, how can I deal with this?

I’m having trouble managing my weekly workload – any advice?

3) PERSONAL AND SKILLS DEVELOPMENT
Once you’ve built up trust, your mentor can deliver constructive personal feedback on your work style, and give advice on specific skills.

How did I perform during last week’s presentation?

What am I doing wrong when managing my team?

How can I learn to be a better communicator?

4) BUSINESS/INDUSTRY KNOWLEDGE
Scoring a mentor is the perfect opportunity to leverage another person’s life and professional experience. Learn from their mistakes so you can make different ones instead – and double the takeaways.

What are the biggest career mistakes you’ve made?

What do you wish you knew at my career stage?

What are the current challenges you’re working with, and what strategies are you using?

5) VALUES AND INSPIRATION
Finding out about their bigger-picture philosophy and why they do what they do will likely uncover a well of passion and inspiration.

Are there any books you’d suggest I read? What is your ‘why’?

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 whenever I need it.

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