Mentor Magic: 18 Secrets to Unlocking a Powerful Partnership

If you're struggling to connect mentors and mentees or need help getting better results from a mentoring program, check out these 18 top tips or secrets to getting the most from your mentoring programs.
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01
Choose Your Champion: An icon of a magnifying glass looking at a person.
Both Mentor and Mentee: An icon of two heads overlapping. The left has an icon of a key in it. The right has an icon of a keyhole in it.

Choose Your Champion: Self-Select Your Mentor

The best mentoring relationships can come from self-identified pairs. Find opportunities for prospective pairs to meet and self-select. Already have a designated mentor or mentee? Who said you can only have one?

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Prioritization: An icon of a clipboard with some items checked off.
Mentee: An icon of two heads overlapping. The left has an icon of a key in it. The right has an icon of a keyhole in it. The right head, symbolizing the mentee, is highlighted in bright blue.

Goal Evolution: Adapt as You Grow

Most mentees don’t have fully defined goals at the start. It’s okay if your goals begin with something simple. Then, evolve your goals to be more specific as you strengthen the relationship.

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Welcome Icon for Personal Ambitions: Hands extended, palms up, gesturing to a person.
Both Mentor and Mentee: An icon of two heads overlapping. The left has an icon of a key in it. The right has an icon of a keyhole in it.

Beyond Business: Share Personal Ambitions

Don’t be so formal. Mentoring relationships, like financial advisor relationships, are more effective when we have the full picture. You can help most with professional advice, when you know each other as whole persons.

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Systems Icon for Personality Assessment - a hand with finger pointing hovers over a screen with data on it.
Both Mentor and Mentee: An icon of two heads overlapping. The left has an icon of a key in it. The right has an icon of a keyhole in it.

Personality Power: Understand Each Other

Have you taken a personality assessment? Share it with each other. Understanding how you both think and act in different situations will help you construct and receive feedback for maximum impact. 

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Clock Icon: A clock in the background with a "24h" label in front.
Both Mentor and Mentee: An icon of two heads overlapping. The left has an icon of a key in it. The right has an icon of a keyhole in it.

Clock In: Value Each Other’s Time

Your time is valuable. So is their time. Don’t be late and don’t change plans last minute, if at all possible. Doing so, especially repeatedly, suggests you do not value the relationship.

06
Notepad and Pen Icon for Planning topics icon.
Mentee: An icon of two heads overlapping. The left has an icon of a key in it. The right has an icon of a keyhole in it. The right head, symbolizing the mentee, is highlighted in bright blue.

Plan Topics: Preparedness Pays Off

Come prepared with topics. This should be the responsibility of the mentee. However, the best mentors have backup topics prepared. This is especially true with newer, less experienced, and introverted mentees.

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Collection of notes held together by paperclip,
Mentee: An icon of two heads overlapping. The left has an icon of a key in it. The right has an icon of a keyhole in it. The right head, symbolizing the mentee, is highlighted in bright blue.

Reflections: Revisit Past Conversations

Before each meeting, take a few minutes to read through the suggestions you received or offered last time. Did the mentee take actions based on them? If not, why not and how does that impact the discussion this time?

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Choose a Path Icon - A person stands in front of three arrows, each pointing a different direction.
Mentor: An icon of two heads overlapping. The left has an icon of a key in it. The right has an icon of a keyhole in it. The left head, symbolizing the mentor, is highlighted in bright blue.

Get Out: Change the Scene

Meeting at the workplace is convenient. It’s also boring and formal. Change the setting by going out for coffee or lunch. Getting out of the workplace environment can relax many people and encourage more open dialogue.

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Action Icon: A person stands beside a flag planted in the ground.
Mentee: An icon of two heads overlapping. The left has an icon of a key in it. The right has an icon of a keyhole in it. The right head, symbolizing the mentee, is highlighted in bright blue.

Action Speaks: Apply Advice

You don’t have to do everything you were taught or told, but if you routinely ignore insights and advice, why are you both committing time to the relationship? Make sure to take action based on what you share and learn.

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Unique and Strategic Thinking Icon: A woman's head with a chess piece (the King) in it.
Mentee: An icon of two heads overlapping. The left has an icon of a key in it. The right has an icon of a keyhole in it. The right head, symbolizing the mentee, is highlighted in bright blue.

Unique Paths: Share More Than You Advise

They are not you. Don’t say, “If I were you….”. Instead offer, “here’s a similar situation I experienced and how I approached the matter”. Provide experiences more than direction.

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Decisions Icon: A person holds a large question mark in each outstretched hand.
Mentor: An icon of two heads overlapping. The left has an icon of a key in it. The right has an icon of a keyhole in it. The left head, symbolizing the mentor, is highlighted in bright blue.

Critical Thinking: Inquire, Don’t Impose

Frame guidance in the form of questions. Don’t say, “That was a bad decision.” Instead, ask, “What do you think of that decision?” Questions encourage the other person to think critically rather than shutdown dialogue.

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Storytelling Icon: A book with a bookmarkl hanging out and a large plus sign on it.
Mentor: An icon of two heads overlapping. The left has an icon of a key in it. The right has an icon of a keyhole in it. The left head, symbolizing the mentor, is highlighted in bright blue.

Fable Teaching: Tell Stories

We remember stories more than advice. The best mentors teach through fables. Try to do the same and let your mentees extract their own lessons from your stories. The lesson will last longer with greater impact.

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Networking Icon: Three people are connected by lines.
Mentor: An icon of two heads overlapping. The left has an icon of a key in it. The right has an icon of a keyhole in it. The left head, symbolizing the mentor, is highlighted in bright blue.

Network Nudge: Extend Your Reach

Mentors are great people. They are not gods. They won’t have all the answers. Find someone who can help if you can not. If your mentor doesn’t know, ask them if they know someone who can help.

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Humility Icon: A person in front of the world with a large question mark on their face
Both Mentor and Mentee: An icon of two heads overlapping. The left has an icon of a key in it. The right has an icon of a keyhole in it.

Ego Check: Learn More with Humility

You may both bring ego into a mentoring relationship. Stop it. Yes, you are both amazing people. No, neither of you are superhuman. The less ego you have in a mentoring relationship the more you will both benefit from it.

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Consultant Icon: 2 People sit at a table with a 3rd person standing at the end of the table
Both Mentor and Mentee: An icon of two heads overlapping. The left has an icon of a key in it. The right has an icon of a keyhole in it.

Outside Insight: Seek External Guidance

If you struggle to connect in a mentoring relationship, ask a third party for advice. Some organizations specialize in leadership development and mentoring programs. Or, ask someone else whose opinion you respect.

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Quantification Icon: A chart with counters on it and a stack of coins in front of it.
Mentor: An icon of two heads overlapping. The left has an icon of a key in it. The right has an icon of a keyhole in it. The left head, symbolizing the mentor, is highlighted in bright blue.

Survey Says: Quantify Success

Mentoring benefits are mostly qualitative. This makes tracking benefits of mentoring programs difficult. To close this gap, survey participants. Well structured questions will also help participants build stronger connections.

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Authentic Icon: A person with a big checkmark in front of them.
Both Mentor and Mentee: An icon of two heads overlapping. The left has an icon of a key in it. The right has an icon of a keyhole in it.

Be True: Practice Authenticity

Pretending to be something you’re not will only produce the wrong guidance. There are 8 Billion people in the world. There is only one you. You are who you are and where you are for a reason. Be you.

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Patience Icon: A woman stands with a stopwatch in front of her and speech box above her
Both Mentor and Mentee: An icon of two heads overlapping. The left has an icon of a key in it. The right has an icon of a keyhole in it.

Patience Matters: Value the Journey

Mentoring is an amazing opportunity for both parties. So, we can be anxious to quickly impress each other and extract all possible value. Don’t. The best mentoring relationships take time. Take your time. You’ll be glad you did.

BONUS

Bonus: Have Fun!

Workplace mentoring programs focus on professional development. That doesn’t mean you have to be stuffy or formal. My best mentors and mentees became lifelong friends, because we had fun.

Smiley Face with Shades icon: A big blue smiley face with bright orange sunglasses on

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