5 Myths About Mentoring

January 24, 2013

If you are considering looking for or becoming a mentor and you have some doubts, read on to put your mind at rest.  These are some of the more common myths about mentoring.

1. Mentoring Has To Be A Formal Long-Term Relationship

Whilst some mentoring programmes are formally set up by forward-thinking organisations, this is not a pre-requisite.  Many mentoring relationships develop naturally and informally through relatives, friends of the family or people we meet at work.  In fact these relationships work really well as there tends to be a mutual respect or connection between you.  There is also little obligation on either side which has advantages and disadvantages.

2. Mentoring Takes Too Much Time

Depending upon how the relationship is created will affect the amount of time spent.  In many instances having a quick ‘catch up’ is enough to help the mentee feel supported and able to share what is on their mind.  Some mentors are good at reading the signs that maybe the mentee needs some help and may suggest a meeting.  In other situations it is the mentee who will ask for help and timings can be agreed dependent upon availability.  An attitude of flexibility and creativity on both sides will certainly help to address the issue of time.

3. Mentoring Is For Junior People

The traditional view of mentoring is that a grey-haired senior manager takes the young novice under their wing because of the potential they see in them.  Whilst many older and more senior people might themselves seek a formal coach to help them, there is also an argument for a mentoring relationship.  We are never too old to have a mentor as nobody has all the answers.  We all have something to give and it doesn’t matter where our experience has been gained.

4. Mentor & Mentee Have To Be In The Same Industry

In a work place scenario mentoring is often about getting ahead is our professional career.  There are many senior and successful managers and leaders who have moved from one industry to another without having experience in that particular industry.  The same can work for mentoring and in fact speaking to somebody outside of the mentee’s industry may help them to gain a more balanced view.  Obviously if the mentee needs to have specific advice about their own niche career then a separate mentor can be sought accordingly.

5. Mentors Always Have The Answers

Some mentors and mentees may approach the mentoring relationship in the wrong way.  A mentee may be tempted to seek a mentor to guarantee them a fast track up the promotion ladder by relying upon the advice given to them be a mentor.  This is dangerous and all mentees will need to take ownership of their own actions whilst listening and considering whether or not to take the advice.

Mentors can feel comfortable entering a mentoring relationship knowing that they are there to share thoughts, experiences and ideas without the pressure that they have to have the ‘right’ solutions.  In fact this is a vital area to discuss right at the beginning when setting the ground rules for the relationship moving forward.  The mentee is ALWAYS responsible for their own actions and is not obliged to take any advice given.  This is good rule for life in general and helps to stop people becoming victims.

In conclusion, a mentoring relationship is often very useful and fulfilling for all involved and is well worth the effort.  Like anything in life you get out what you put in.  If you feel it is right for you, take the plunge and see what happens.

Many thanks

Chris Gale

Director of Training at MTD


(Image by Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

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