Mentoring Do’s and Don’ts

  • 3 mins read

As I’ve discussed in my previous blog posts “The Magic of Mentoring“, “Mentoring Vs. Coaching“, and “Mentoring Myths“, mentoring can take many forms, but your goal is to find the right kind of advice, from the right person, at the right time.
Amy Gallo offers the following guidelines in her Harvard Business Review article, “Demystifying Mentoring,” from February 2011:

  • Build a cadre of people you can turn to for advice when you need it
  • Nurture relationships with people whose perspectives you respect
  • Think of mentoring as both a long- and short-term arrangement


  • Assume that your success or experience precludes your need for a mentor
  • Rely on one person to help guide your career
  • Expect to receive mentoring without providing anything in return

“The most powerful yet difficult part of mentoring is being who you are,” write Chip Bell and Marshall Goldsmith, in Managers as Mentors, (Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Third Edition, 2013). “This is not to imply that a mentor must be some kind of super-hero without flaws, doubts or the capacity for making mistakes. Fundamentally, mentoring is about growing – mentors growing with protgs, protgs growing with mentors.”

Encouraging Reciprocity
An effective mentoring relationship can be best described as a mutual search for wisdom. It’s grounded in a true partnership that thrives on reciprocal facilitation of learning.
Such reciprocity requires the mentor to surrender power differences to build rapport and trust. Learning cannot occur with fear in the room.
In Managers as Mentors, authors Bell and Goldsmith encourage the ‘SAGE’ approach to forming the foundation for an effective mentorship:
S = Surrendering. Power, authority and command (or the protgs perception of these traits in a mentor) can doom the dialogue necessary for learning.
A = Accepting. Strive for a safe relationship. The protg must trust the mentor to provide an environment that encourages risk and experimentation.
G = Gifting. A mentor should supply advice, feedback and/or focus. This stage is actually the most delicate. If the mentor has failed to pave the way for Surrendering and Accepting, the protg may ignore, undervalue, resist or reject the gift of knowledge.
E = Extending. A mentor must help the protg apply information to real-life experiences so self-directed learning may occur. Creative teaching tools include role-playing, feedback and storytelling.
There’s a lot that goes into building and nurturing a successful mentoring relationship that truly works to inspire learning. The key is to stay out of the expert guru throne.
In the work I do with my clients, I see some who tend to fall into this trap with their subordinates. Quite frankly, it’s a delicate balance between truly knowing a lot, and trying to teach it to others while allowing them to fail and learn from it.
What’s been your experience with it?

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