The perfect balance of being a Mentor vs Mentee.
The balance of being a great mentor and being an eager mentee are vital to professional growth. You become a better leader and become more willing to continue the cycle of cultivating great relationships. I have realized this recently with some great news that I have received from a good friend of mine that I once mentored at a previous company.
Let's understand the balance and some tips that I have learned over the years to acquire great mentor and mentee relationships.
As a Mentee
1. Find the person that is good at what you are interested in learning more about.
Whenever you are employed by a new organization one of the first things you should be doing is understanding who knows what and how to utilize them as a resource. You want to learn from these individuals, soak in everything they have to offer, put yourself in the position to have their job one day. This is key. No, I am not saying that you will take their job, however one day you may want a role like theirs or somewhat similar. I have several mentors that I connect with often from CTOs, to senior consultants, to peers in the same role as myself that I always try to soak some knowledge from. Believe me, they are gaining new insights from you as well.
2. Know exactly what you want.
Your mentor can not help you decide where you want to go. They can only guide you along the path that is already decided. You need to know exactly what you want and create a plan on what you believe you need to get there. Yes, this sounds cliche but MAKE A PLAN. As an Agilist, I thought this to be ludicrous because we all know that defined plans almost always never work out to be as planned. However, your plan can be the building blocks to the road you may have to travel give or take some changes from the guidance of your mentor. Again, in the true fashion of agility if the changes that you have are not exactly playing out the results that you want, then pivot and adjust as needed.
3. Attack your goals.
My high school basketball coach would tell us to "Attack the basket. Attack the basket!" This same principle applies with your goals. Your mentor will (and should) push you to be the best you that you can be. Tell your mentor what your goals are and ask them "Can you help me with *fill in the blank*? If they are not the right resource at this time they would gladly point you in the right direction. Remember, your mentor would not have ALL the answers but they should have the experience on where to connect within their network or where to find those answers.
As a Mentor
4. Say "Hi" to the quietest person in the room.
This is important because the quietest person in the room is probably the one that needs or wants to be embraced with a warming relationship. Or they are some type of governmental organization spying on someone. However, warm and budding relationships can be developed into long lasting friendships by taking the time to get to know someone that does not seem to warm up as easily as others. I have done this and continue to try to do so whenever I do a speaking engagement. Many people tend to flock to the most popular person or the keynote speaker. I prefer to sit back and talk to folks that are observing the scene, like myself. If they allow, I engage in conversation with them and build new relationships that way. The popular person or keynote will eventually make their rounds with the general crowd so no rush to meet them. You may miss out on a jewel of a relationship trying to meet someone else. This may not work best for you but just a great way that I have learned how to build my network.
5. Share the wealth.
Sharing is caring. There is nothing more humbling than a person asking you to help guide them in a profession, topic, or career journey. Whenever, I am requested to be a mentor I am honored. However, it is sometimes taxing to my time and energy. I try always be a great mentor and available to my mentee's needs. If you are being chose as a mentor remember, they chose you because you are doing something they have interest in, you have a quality that they like, or you are just the first person they felt comfortable with to strike the nerve to say something. Whatever the case may be, share the wealth of knowledge that was once bestowed upon you. If you are able to mentor this person at the time direct your potential mentee to someone you trust, that has the bandwidth, knowledge, and experience to be able to assist your mentee with the goals they are trying to achieve. You do not want to seem as if you are pawning them off to the next person.
6. Celebrate their achievements.
Many mentors forget to let their mentees know that the hard work they put in was absolutely worth it. If you are a mentor that has a mentee who has accomplished their goals write a professional recommendation, let them know of roles that fit their career goals, or become a reference that they can use in the future. More importantly, create new goals to start and continue to guide them. The finish line is not yet reached with one goal attained. It is more so a bench mark with a long experience filled journey ahead.
Continue to reach out for great mentors in whatever space you are in, or if you are an individual mentoring someone please continue to guide, challenge, and motivate your mentee to be the best they could. If you are both mentor and mentee, then continue on your grind, continue to obtain your goals, and remember to bring someone up along the way.