Mentoring – A to Z: Expectations

Posted: April 6, 2012 in Finish Strong, Leadership, Mentoring - A to Z
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In the spring of 2010, I was presented with the idea of being a Big Brother volunteer for the Big Brothers Big Sisters organization. Before proceeding through the application process, I wanted to know the expectations. How much of a time commitment was required? What would I be expected to do with my Little? How much money does a volunteer usually shell out for activities? The organization provided me with all the answers to my questions. They understood the need to know what was expected of their volunteers.

Whether you are looking for a mentor or looking for a mentee, it is good to have a well-defined list of expectations. This will help you know what you want to accomplish as well as who will most likely be able to meet those expectations. This also gives you a means to measure the results of your relationship.

Keep your list of expectations flexible. We all have had events occur in our lives that were difficult or very demanding of our time. Unless there is a financial contract for your mentoring relationship, remain flexible enough to work around those unexpected events.

Be reasonable in what you expect from each other as well. A person who becomes too demanding will become a burden and destroy the mentoring relationship. A good mentoring relationship is one where each person is considerate of the other’s time, effort, and energy.

Be sure to communicate your expectations clearly with each other. This cannot be overstated. More problems arise in relationships from a lack of communication than any other cause. When you are in an ongoing mentoring relationship, take time to review your expectations semi-annually or annually to keep it healthy.

Another thing to keep in mind, your mentor may not be your immediate supervisor or manager. Several years ago I had the expectation of the senior minister I was working with to have a mentoring role with me. He did not take up that role, and it frustrated me at first. It was then that I realized that just because someone is in a higher position than me, they may not be willing to mentor or feel obligated to do so. This freed me to find my mentor outside of my organization.

Finally, the one thing you can expect is that your mentor or mentee will fail you. No one is perfect. We may know this intuitively about all relationships; however, when we put someone up on a pedestal, we forget their fallibility. We act shocked and devastated when it happens. If we know that a person will fail us, be it in a tiny way or in some huge ordeal, we can take steps necessary to recover and move on. Don’t let the failures of one person derail your journey to success.


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