So you’ve landed your dream mentor. Maybe things came easy for you. Or you persisted until you won your way into your mentor’s space and time. But space and time aren’t the only components you need from your mentors, you also need their hearts. Hey, I’m not waxing romantic here, okay.
Mentors are human beings too and if they must offer you maximum guidance, then their heart must be in the process, not only their heads. So, how do you move from getting a mentor’s space, time and eventually, heart?
Well, mentorship is a relationship. A relationship of two. Whether it’s a group mentoring arrangement or a one-on-one, the relationship is ultimately between you and your mentor. All relationships take work. The more important a relationship is to you, the more work you must sink in to make it work. This takes understanding.
As a mentor to several young people, I have realised that not all mentees are the same. No, I’m not speaking in terms of their individuality. Else that would simply be a statement of fact. I’m saying, not all mentees position themselves well enough to take full advantage of the relationship.
While you’ve heard so much about mentorship, there is also such thing as menteeship. It is the role a mentee must play to take full advantage of the relationship. In this article I will share with you 3 attributes my “best mentees” possess that makes for an awesome mentor-mentee relationship.
1. They Have Clarity
“I need a mentor” is perhaps the most recurring phrase among young people today. This often comes after reality hits home. They suddenly realise how lost they are and how bleak their chances are without a mentor to guide them along the way. But most people want a mentor for the sake of having a mentor.
As someone who is seeking for a mentor, your first step is to determine what kind of support you need. I’m not talking about a ten-page report of “why I need a mentor” or some super complex storyline.
If you need a means of transportation, then you already have a destination, right? The same goes for mentorship. Before you hop on board, there is a mutual understanding between you the passenger and the cab driver. There are also terms and conditions, roles and responsibilities, rights and obligations. It’s a clearly defined undertaking.
So before you hop on to the next mentoring train, ask, “why do I need a mentor?” This way, you are more likely to get the best out of the relationship.
2. They Have the Learner’s Attitude
Mentors understand what they’re getting into when they take you in. It’s a sacrifice of time, energy, credibility and even money. Therefore, it’s understandable when mentors get choosy. They know what or who they are looking for. They don’t want starters, they want finishers.
As a mentee, it will do you much good to understand the rules that make mentorships work. In my experience, the best mentees have certain qualities in common: They have a contagious enthusiasm. They are bustling with energy. They are organised and focused. Feedback is food for them. They learn with an honest and responsive attitude.
Ideal mentees understand that integrity, hard work and sacrifice are their best toolkit. They are responsive. They understand and practice excellence, always.
Put together, these attributes become the compass for most mentors when deciding on a mentee.
3. They Understand the Value of Time
Great mentors are successful because they understand the value of their time. So mentees who share this attribute become dear to them.
Before every meeting, the best of my mentees define the goals for meetings ahead of time. They are clear about what they want to discuss with me. They know what they want to accomplish during or after the meeting. And may I add that they understand how to frame their questions intelligently. This is what amazes me about them.
While an average mentee would ask a mentor, “how did you achieve this result?” an intelligent mentee would rather ask “how would you go about achieving this, based on what you know now?” The first mentee might get a story. But the second mentee would get a lesson. I share more details about how to ask your mentors the right questions here.
High-performing mentees respect their mentor’s time and they maximise it both in their presence and outside of it.
I must chip in a warning. High-performing mentees understand that their mentors are also human beings like they are. Therefore, they prepare for eventualities.
As a mentee, you must help your mentor guide you. Even the best mentors can get sucked up in the dark shades of their humanity sometimes. Mentees must be ready for incidences like these.
From my experience and that of other mentors, I can tell you that “Mentorship malpractice” is real. It explains a set of—intentional or unintentional—behaviours a mentor exhibits that could jeopardise the success of their mentees.
Your job as a mentee is to recognise these warning signals and know what measures to engage. For example, if your mentor’s behaviour results in delays or becomes a blockage to your progress on a project, you might want to set deadlines and let your mentor understand that you are racing against time.
If your mentor begins to undermine you or your efforts in front of others, then you have a situation. Whatever step you take next, be careful to avoid mistakes that will jeopardize the relationship. Mentor mistakes are real but they are avoidable.
In the end, mentorship is a platform for mutual benefit; with more benefits going to the mentee. When you understand your role, it becomes easy to navigate menteeship the right way.