How to Build a Robust Mentoring Relationship Using These Ingredients Mentors should not impose any decision on the mentee, as often mentees feel obliged to accept the decision even though they feel otherwise

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Mentoring is dynamic and an ever-evolving relationship based on interests, circumstances and requirements. The goal of mentoring is to provide guidance and support to the mentee. This requires considerable emotional investment by the mentor in mentee's growth and development. It takes time to establish a collaborative relationship, where both mentor and mentee can learn from each other and chart out a plan for reaching desired goals with the aid of these key ingredients.

Trust: Building Block or a Block?

Trust is the key element to build a robust mentoring relationship. Trust does not build overnight, it is a process and takes a lot of time, effort and patience. It requires openness from both ends, mutual reliance, respect, willingness to be vulnerable in some way, allowing the mentee to share his thoughts and opinions freely without the fear of getting lectured or judged, all this put together sets a tone for a positive relationship.

Only after mentor and mentee have established a sense of trust, it shows that two are mutually dependable and that is the beginning of growth a building block. When there is lack of mutual trust and respect between the parties, the relationship turns out to be superficial and neither of the two are benefitting from the engagement. It hinders the growth of both the parties and acts like a block.

Advice: Wise or Vice?

Mentoring entails a lot of advising, guiding, supporting and feedback providing. Mentors share their learning, thoughts and inputs from their rich experience, which provides mentees a sense of direction and clarity in moving forward. There is fine line between telling a mentee what to do and advising him on how to figure it out. Mentors should not impose any decision on the mentee, as often mentees feel obliged to accept the decision even though they feel otherwise. It is important for the mentor to kindle mentees thoughts and leave them on a path of discovery where the final solution or the decision comes from the mentee. They say giving a man a fish will feed him for the day but teaching him how to fish feeds him for a lifetime, similarly this exercise will hone the mentee's decision-making skills, making them wise after taking good advice.

Motivation: Happy or Sad?

Mentoring approach cannot only be an information-sharing and knowledge-sharing approach, it should also entail psychological aspects and interpersonal relations. A mentor is a part counsellor, coach, advisor, master, teacher, therapist, all rolled into one. And a good mentor can seamlessly changeover from one role to another based on a mentee's needs at the time. The mentee may experience a range of emotional events from extreme elation during success to depression on lost opportunities and failure in completing tasks. It is important for the mentor to identify the interests and factors that motivate the mentee beyond external rewards and compensation to keep the mentee constantly motivated. Likewise, even the mentor must be motivated by the mentee for his time and effort. This can be done by having gratitude and appreciating the mentor's efforts.

Alternatives: New Feed or Feedback?

As a mentor, it is critical to allow the mentee to share his ideas comfortably without any inhibitions. This builds a good culture for exploring new alternatives and options. While solving a certain problem or challenge, it is crucial that both the parties keep an open mind to new ideas, concepts and suggestions as this widens the viewpoint. This exercise of throwing new ideas in the pit also sometimes leads to solving problems in an innovative and effective manner. At the same time, it is also essential to provide a feedback in a way that works for the mentee otherwise an opportunity for a constructive conversation will most likely be lost.

Challenges: Winning or Losing?

Mentor and mentee face multiple challenges during their mentoring journey like compatibility issues, conflicts, difference in operational style etc. Normally, there is considerable age gap between the mentors and the mentee therefore difference of opinion and compatibility issues are likely to crop up. Both the parties need to take a step back and understand the value created by each other instead of playing the blame gameand giving it a chance to grow. Also, the mentee may not immediately be grateful to mentor for the energy, time and kindness showered on him but in time as the mentee sees some positive changes he will realise the value created. Several conflicts may arise due to the difference in opinion and the style of working, in such situations mentor should be patient and resolve these conflicts in a way the mentee would understand.

Initiatives: New or Old

Initiative from both parties is essential, as mentoring is a two-way street. Both mentor and mentee should commit themselves to initiate the engagement. Investment of self and time is a major challenge for mentors, the mentor should try to make time for the mentee on a regular basis and in case of pressing situations. At the same time, failing to follow through with a relationship, by cancelling or not showing up for a meeting or by just not demonstrating enough attention and support to someone who depends on and looks up to you sets a wrong tone.

These six ingredients add flavour to a good mentoring relationship, however there may be additional ingredients that complete the dish but like a good chef a good mentor will need to fish that out while mentoring.

In conclusion, it must be stressed that the mentoring process would only work if both sides take enough effort to make it work.

Muthu Singaram and Prathistha Jain

CEO, IIT Madras HTIC Incubator and Director at Vibazone Private Limited

Muthu Singaram is the CEO of IIT Madras HTIC Incubator. And, Prathistha Jain is the Director at Vibazone Pvt. Ltd. 

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