When is Enough Enough with Mentoring?? Finding the Right Balance.

Each time a mentor engages with a mentee, there exists a delicate balance between several factors that occur in the mentoring relationship. It’s important for the health of the parties involved that the mentor find and adjust to these balances as the situation dictates at any given time. Let’s take a look at a few….

Balance of Session Delivery

Usually in mentoring, the mentee is in the driver’s seat as to what to bring to the session for discussion or discovery.  Once provided with direction based on need, the mentor can begin the process of coaxing the mentee through the topic at hand. It’s important that the session remained a balanced approach all the way through. What I mean by that is that in all aspects, there should be equal participation. The mentor should not talk or listen any more than the mentee; nor should the mentor provide answers any more than the mentee should be able to arrive at the solution as a result of individual effort. Since, the goal of mentoring in many ways is to strengthen the mentee, allowing the mentee to work through dialog, thought processes and solution assessment is critical. The mentor MUST allow this to occur by forcing balance into the interaction. Providing moments of silence between conversation points, asking leading questions to provoke thought, and other methods help to keep the balance of energy so the mentee walks away with the ability to take learned lessons forward.

Balance of Boundary and Tone

There are times when the mentee may begin to shy away from the uncomfortable zone that is not a common part of daily professional life. We all have areas that we are less confident in than others, and there is a natural tendency to avoid ideas, issues or obstacles in which resolution would involve having to deal with things that one perceives as a weakness. Part of the obligation of the mentor is to guide the mentee down a path that will lead to growth. Often, that involves a gentle shove toward the outer edge of the mentee’s personal comfort zone. This is where a good relationship between mentor and mentee helps the mentor gauge just how much to push the mentee without blatant violation of boundaries. There has to be just enough urging and coaxing to illustrate that the problem at hand is not insurmountable, yet not so much to violate trust. Much of this comes not just in action or suggestion as the sessions proceed, but also in the tone of delivery offered by the mentor during this process. There is no one correct way to speak to any group of people, but each individual relationship has its own dynamics that the mentor must be aware of in order to guide the mentee.

Balance of Value

In my view, this is the biggest one of the three balance objectives mentioned in this article. To put it bluntly, a mentor can talk, ramble, blather, pontificate and even get an equal amount of the same in return from the mentee; but if there is no value in the end for the mentee….than what is the point? The mentee must have something to walk away with that results in a value added offering. This doesn’t mean that every time mentor and mentee speak that there is big epiphany moment, but it does mean that there MUST be little nuggets of useful and valuable information. These can range from new personal realizations to self enlightenment and awareness to learning how to perform a new technique to personal and professional validation of efforts. If the mentee is not obtaining something that directly or indirectly contributes to the growth and development that the relationship is based on, then it is time to evaluate again the purpose of continuing the sessions.

To wind things up, a good mentor is conscious of how to deliver the balance that the mentee needs in different ways. This speaks to where the importance of the mentoring relationship lies….with the mentee. This, in turn, speaks to why mentors do what they do. A good mentor is one who wants to help others succeed, and there is no way for that to happen if the mentor is focused internally on himself or herself.


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About douggoldberg

5 Responses to “When is Enough Enough with Mentoring?? Finding the Right Balance.”

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  1. Thanks for this insight to finding the mentoring balance Doug. It’s a great piece and your point about violation of boundaries but still being able to push enough is very insightful. I’ll certainly be thinking about it from this perspective both when mentoring and being mentored.

    Cheers Matt

  2. Doug Goldberg says:

    There ya go folks!!!! I honestly didn't pay him to say that. Sean your new learjet should strive by the end of the week. I don't make enough for the rush delivery charges.

    • alextpapworth says:

      It's good to see all the good feeling being spread around.
      Thanks again Doug for drilling into the nature of a good mentoring relationship.
      I'm going to start gathering these posts together and turn them into 'get started with mentoring' guide.
      Not such a bad idea…

    • Star says:

      You’ve really helped me unedrstand the issues. Thanks.

  3. @IntegralBA says:

    Great article Doug. All of these points have manifested themselves in the mentoring sessions we have shared in. I also appreciated reading about how you as a mentor are approaching and measuring the overall value of the mentor / mentee partnership.

    – Sean.

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