The Road to Mentor RelationshipsRecently, I attended a conference on leadership development and the focus was on mentoring the next generation. I was really impressed by this panel of senior leaders and how they defined mentor relationships. I also enjoyed their explanations of techniques to mentor the next generation of leaders.

The wheels in my mind started turning and I realized there are so many ideas targeted toward what a mentor should do for their mentee … but what about the mentee? And what they should be looking for in this relationship? As a member of the “next generation” I wanted to know what my expectations should be for a mentor so that we each get the fullest experience possible. A relationship is about the exchange between two people, not just one-way communication.

So I went through my conference notes, did a bit of additional online research and found a wealth of information to share! Here are five excellent ways to build meaningful mentor relationships.

1. Mentoring is not just knowledge, it is a relationship

Mentoring is mutually beneficial. Both parties benefit from the lasting professional relationship being built. It is not only fulfilling for a mentor to cultivate success through his/her mentee, it’s also an opportunity for the mentor to learn from the mentee the new changes and challenges occurring in the current professional landscape.  There can be a significant disconnect in the hierarchy of an organization, and having a solid relationship between mentor and mentee can help bridge that gap.

2. Learn from each other – and show what you’ve learned

“Recognize the skills and traits you don't possess, and hire the people who have them.1 " Warren Bennis stated this to his mentee Howard Schultz, the former CEO of Starbucks. To be able to cultivate not only the skills you have, but those you want to gain is the epitome of why mentor relationships are mutually beneficial. That which may come naturally and fluently to one generation, such as technology, may be more difficult, even foreign, to older generations. This shows the symbiotic nature of a great mentor relationship.

3. Don’t give out every answer, challenge your mentee to find it

During the conference I attended, one of the speakers used the phrase, “Don’t be their Google.” It stuck with me because so much today can be found if one just takes the time to look. If someone searches for an answer or solution, they are more apt to retain it rather than if it’s given to them. The same concept applies to two-way mentoring. You can help your mentee work through failures and successes by allowing him/her to learn from them. We can’t grow without reaching beyond our comfort zones.

4. Introduce new ideas and experiences to mentor relationships

Speaking as a millennial, we are known for being shaped by trying out different ideas and experiences on our own. For mentors looking to mold the next generation, there must be an openness to dive in with your mentee and find new ways to expose him/her to people, systems, places, abilities and opportunities. This opens both parties up to learning, and as a lifelong learner myself, you are never too old or too young to learn something new and to expand your horizons to consider opportunities you may have thought to be beyond your reach.

5. Decide who you are and who you want to be

This is important for both sides of the relationship. To be a successful mentor, you need to know what you stand for, and what you want to accomplish. As a mentee who may be exploring these concepts for the first time, it is beneficial for the mentor to understand how to determine these conclusions. Understanding questions such as, “What type of employee do you want to be?” and “What type of leader do you want to be?” are vital in these professional relationships.

Now that I shared my findings with you, I encourage you to dig deeper and challenge yourself, be your own mentor. Consider the next step in your career and learn additional skills to help you grow.


Hallie RogersAbout Hallie Rogers

Hallie Rogers, Communications Associate, is part of Grantham's editorial board. She earned her Bachelor's degree in Political Science and Government from Kansas State University and her MBA from Grantham. With experiences like interning with the Kansas Legislature and holding the office of Symposium Co-Chair for the Council of College and Military Educators, Rogers knows a thing or two about building solid mentor relationships.