Maximum Mentoring: How To Get The Most From The Relationship

by drjim on July 29, 2010

It Takes Work To Get The Most Out Of A Mentoring Relationship

It Takes Work To Get The Most Out Of A Mentoring Relationship

Finding a mentor can be a real challenge for any IT Leader – they seem to be few and far between these days. However, if you think that when you get someone to agree to show you the ropes that the hard part is over, you’ve got another thing coming…

Get A Backup (Mentor)

The one thing that none of us seem to have enough of these days is time. The same is going to be true of anyone that you find who is willing to act as a mentor for you.

Since you know going in to the relationship that they may not always have enough time to work with you, it makes sense that you’d pick out (or have them recommend) a backup mentor. Having multiple mentors means that the load on any one given mentor will be less and yet you’ll still get the guidance that you are looking to get out of the relationship.

Be Careful Who You Pick

Just to make sure that you get off on the right foot, you need to be careful who you pick to be your mentor. It’s a two-way street, but it needs to be a good thing for both of you.

One of the biggest pitfalls seems to be those situations where you “get assigned” a mentor. That’s never a good idea – you may not want them to be your mentor and they may not want to be your mentor. Whenever possible, make sure that both parties are willing to enter into the mentoring relationship of their own free will.

Lay Out Some Ground Rules

The key to any good relationship is for both sides to both agree to a set of ground rules. We’re not talking about a legal document that you have to sign, but rather a set of agreements that you can both live with. No lawyers need be involved.

Key agreements that you need to work out in the beginning include such things as what you are looking for, what your mentor has to offer, and such mundane things as how often you are going to meet.

It’s All About Feedback

The question that will keep coming up over and over again is “how am I doing?” Both the mentor and the person being mentored are going to be looking for answers to this question.

One important feedback channel needs to be from the mentor to the person being mentored’s boss. This type of communication allows any issues that show up to be identified early on and a solution created quickly.

What All Of This Means For You

A mentoring relationship could be the “secret sauce” that could move your career to the next level. However, once set up you can’t let your mentoring relationship run on autopilot.

In order to make your mentoring relationship successful, you need to know what you have to do. Make sure that you have a backup to your primary mentor, pick the right mentor in the first place, have ground rules, and create ways so that both of you can provide feedback.

A good mentoring relationship will save your career a great deal of time. Yes, you’ll have to make an effort to get the most out of relationship, but if you do then you’ll find that a good mentoring relationship will allow your career to move along much faster than it is today…

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Management Skills™

Question For You: How many backup mentors do you think that you should have – is just one enough?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

If you’ve been reading any of the trade press over the last couple of years, you have undoubtedly run across story after story that talked about the next big thing in IT: on-demand computing. I’m willing to bet that members of your IT team may be clambering to take your next project “into the cloud”. Sure it sounds sexy, but should you do it…?

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