Young professionals and service members often put a lot of thought into whom they want to have as a mentor. While establishing a good match is essential for ongoing mentoring success, it's just as important for mentees and mentors to take steps to sustain successful relationships long after the mentoring has started.
For mentors to provide the best possible support — whether it's advice on pursuing an MBA degree program or choosing between civilian career options — mentors and mentees should follow these steps to maintain a healthy and productive mentoring relationship over the long-term.
Make It a Priority
If your mentoring relationship isn't facilitated by your employer or an outside organization, it can be tempting to cancel or postpone meetings, especially if those meetings are set to occur via video chat or email.
To ward off the temptation to reschedule a mentoring session, mentors and mentees should agree to hold each other accountable for sticking to their commitments. In addition to prioritizing meetings, mentors and mentees should develop a list of clear goals along with timelines for accomplishing them.
Maintain Regular Communication
At the start of a mentoring relationship, both parties should determine what form or forms or communication work best for them, whether it means all their conversations will take place by phone or that they'll have in-person meetings with email check-ins.
Whichever communication method is used, official mentoring sessions should occur at least once per month, with meetings lasting between one and two hours to give participants time to cover a number of topics, concerns and opportunities.
Keep It Confidential
Mentors can provide more personalized guidance when their mentees are open and honest about their doubts, struggles and weaknesses. But because traditional mentorships typically involve a senior or high-ranking individual, some mentees aren't comfortable sharing this type of information.
While complete confidentiality isn't realistic for every situation, mentors and mentees should work to establish an environment of trust. If mentors can't promise full confidentiality they should be clear about which topics are not private. Professionals and service members who are particularly concerned about establishing trust should look into different forms of mentorship — such as a peer mentoring group — that allows them to be mentored by others at a similar rank or level.
Move It Along
It can be all too easy for professionals to become sidetracked during meetings, especially as the relationship between mentors and mentees progresses and they have more to discuss. Ensure that you're making good progress at each meeting by setting an agenda, sticking to it and keeping your mentor or mentee accountable for moving along at a pace that allows you both to accomplish more.
Both mentors and mentees should remember to prioritize their short-term and long-term. Any changes to the goals should be put in writing so all parties understand the new targets. If a mentee isn't making sufficient progress, mentors and mentees should work together to tweak their strategies or recalibrate their goals.
To maintain an open and functional mentoring relationship, professionals need to provide one another with performance feedback. Mentors and mentees should set aside time every few sessions to deliver honest, constructive criticism and praise.
A mentoring relationship can yield great opportunities for advancement, but only if participants work to develop the mentorship. The strategies detailed above deliver an excellent blueprint for building and strengthening mentoring relationships, setting up mentors and mentees for long-term success.