LMA Communication

Getting the Most from Your Mentoring Relationship: Avoiding Three Critical Mistakes

It’s not surprising that mentoring has become a popular means of professional development.  The benefits are numerous and significant, but unfortunately, many well-intentioned mentoring initiatives fizzle or fail because the mentee fails to execute the basics of a successful relationship.

If you are lucky enough to have a mentor, either in a formal corporate initiative or a more informal arrangement, make sure that you avoid three critical mistakes that mentees often make.  Remember that mentoring isn’t magic.  The fact that you have a mentor, although that sounds very hip and trendy, doesn’t guarantee success.

First of all, be clear about what mentoring is and what it isn’t. Mentoring isn’t magic.  In fact many mentoring relationships either fizzle or fail because of a misunderstanding of the process (on both sides) which often includes having unrealistic expectations.

Mistake Number 1:  Asking your mentor for general rather than specific help.  “I just want to be a better manager.”  “I want to get ahead in the organization.”

Take the time to develop a couple of specific goals on which you want to work and about which your mentor can be helpful.

Mistake Number 2:  Wasting your mentor’s time.  When someone shows up unprepared for a mentoring session or, worse, cancels appointments frequently, you will lose momentum and diminish your mentor’s enthusiasm.  Have you followed through on last meeting’s assignments?  Have you read the article that your mentor suggested?  Are you relating everyday activities to the topics about which you and your mentor are discussing?

Mistake Number 3:  Focusing solely on overcoming weaknesses.  Although we all have weak spots to address, in many cases, we would be better served to identify strengths that could use enhanced development.  For example, you may be great in relating to people one on one, but you need some help in addressing colleagues in a more formal environment—for example, speaking up in a meeting or delivering a presentation.  Seek your mentor’s advice on leveraging your strengths.

A mentoring relationship can be a huge boost to your career, but avoiding subtle traps can go a long way toward making the time with your mentor a productive and enjoyable experience.


Beverly Y. Langford is President of LMA Communication, Inc.® a consulting, training, and coaching firm that works with organizations and individuals on strategic communication, message development, effective interpersonal communication skills, team building, and leadership development.