While being a mentor to someone can help shape not only their life, but your own, it is not all sugar, spice and everything nice. Believe it or not, mentoring challenges do exist during training and development. What starts out as a well intentioned mentoring relationship can quickly turn into challenges that will work against forward progress.
So how can you avoid being held up by the bumps in the road ahead? If you make yourself aware of the following mentoring challenges and weigh them against your mentoring relationship, you will be certain to pass on to your protégé the best of you there is to give.
Challenge #1: Co-dependency
In any relationship, dependency can develop. While not all dependency is negative, it is what is done with that dependency that can make or break a relationship. Mentoring relationships do not escape this snare. It can become very comfortable and easy for a mentor and protégé to slip into this type of relationship where both can become co-dependent on one another and not realize it.
A mentor’s primary purpose is to work themselves out of a job, bringing the protégé to a place where they can fly on their own. By keeping this goal at the forefront of their minds, it will prevent co-dependency from taking over the mentoring relationship.
Challenge #2: Giving advice & feedback
One of the toughest things for any person to do is confront another person. People usually go out of their way to avoid confrontation. In order for your mentoring relationship to be able to work effectively, there will need to be a place for giving advice and feedback on a regular basis. The mentor will need to be open and honest about things he sees in his protégé that need tweaking and the protégé will need to give the mentor feedback regarding what is working and what is not. The best way to go about this is by keeping any advice offered in the first person. For instance, ask the protégé how they think they are doing. This puts the ball in their court and gives them the platform to speak their mind, as long as the relationship has been built on a foundation of trust. Also, ask them if you can give them suggestions about what has worked for you in the past. This opens up the door for you to offer advice in a non-threatening, non-confrontational type of way.
Challenge #3: Motivating force
It can be a very slippery slope between mentoring to mentor and mentoring for recognition and affirmation. Often a mentor does not realize they have created this scenario until they are sliding head first down the slope with nothing to slow them down or stop them as their protégé moves on without them.
Mentors need to constantly check their motivations and intentions in the mentoring relationship. If they are depending upon their protégé to fulfill their own recognition needs, the mentoring relationship needs to be re-evaluated. Continually ask yourself the tough questions about what the protégé means to you personally. How would you react if your protégé moved on? Would you be upset? Why? The answers to these questions will reveal your true motives and keep your mentoring relationship on track.
Challenge #4: Building for Success
A mentor’s greatest fulfillment should be when their protégé succeeds.
As Dr. Donald M. Carmont says, “Those who need the limelight and applause are unlikely to be effective mentors to others. The making of a mentor often occurs in learning the lost art of humility and in finding fulfillment and joy in the success of others.” A mentor’s sole purpose is to invest their time, skills, knowledge, and passion into their protégé to prepare them to succeed. The protégé will glean all they can from their mentor, combine it with their own talents to pursue their future. Ultimately a mentor’s success will be his protege’s success.
Life throws us many challenges. But it is what we do with those challenges that will cause us to stand still or surge forward into the future. Mentoring challenges work the same way. Embrace the challenges that lead to success and know which ones to avoid in your mentoring relationships. This is the key to healthy mentoring.