11 Roles and Responsibilities for You to Build a Better Mentor and Mentee Relationship

June 30, 2022

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Define one responsibility for a mentor and a mentee? What makes this a key for a successful relationship?

To help you understand the many roles of mentors and mentees, we asked business leaders and experienced mentors/mentees this question for their best insights. From fostering confidentiality in the relationship to sharing core values, there are several responsibilities that both mentors and mentees should take on to cultivate a successful and mutually beneficial relationship.

Here are 11 roles and responsibilities of both mentors and mentees:

  • Foster Confidentiality
  • Recap, Recap, Update
  • Cultivate a Teacher and Pupil Relationship
  • Be Laser-Focused and Create Structure
  • Accomplish Goals
  • Build Trust Through Engagement
  • Challenge Each Other With Open-Ended and Curious Questions
  • Facilitate Learning Opportunities
  • Provide Feedback Going Both Ways
  • Follow-through and Avoid Generic Tips
  • Share Core Values

Foster Confidentiality

A mentor should provide guidance and support, while a mentee should be coachable and willing to learn. Additionally, a mentee should have an open mind, be respectful and be able to take feedback positively. Most importantly, both the mentor and mentee should maintain confidentiality. A good mentor-mentee relationship is built on trust, mutual respect and a shared commitment to learning. The best relationships are those in which both parties are equally invested in the success of the mentee.

Rick Elmore ‘19 MBA, CEO and Founder of Simply Noted

Recap, Recap, Update

Mentees should look to end a mentor session by recapping the main takeaways from the conversation. This shows the mentor that the mentee was listening, but also allows the mentor and mentee to establish an action plan to establish momentum into their next meeting. A mentee should then send a recap email to the mentor with a thank you, a summary of the session and the next steps that the mentee will take. These email recaps are again a way to show a mentor that a mentee was listening, and to establish a log of activity that can be referenced if necessary at a later date. Finally, the next mentor session should begin with an update on progress on the action items. This again shows the mentor that the mentee was listening and took action on any advice. Mentee and mentor relationships are successful when there's great communication and progress. To ensure communication and progress is made, share the recap, send the recap, and follow back with an update.

Brett Farmiloe ‘06 BSBA (Accounting), CEO and Founder of Terkel

Cultivate a Teacher and Pupil Relationship

A mentor must be a skilled teacher and a mentee must be a skilled pupil. By this I mean a mentor should not only serve as a positive role model, but should know how to offer guidance in an effective way. Likewise, a mentee should crave this guidance and be teachable. The mentor's advice shouldn't just go in one ear and out the other. The mentee needs to let the shared wisdom sink in and then go apply it. Having these attributes or defined roles makes the mentor/mentee relationship successful because it's all about give and take.

Katie Lyon, Allegiance Flag Supply

Be Laser-Focused and Create Structure

It is important for the mentee to approach a mentor based upon a very specific skill set that they would like to acquire. For example, it is not enough to have a business mentor in general. As a mentee, you want to be laser-focused (i.e. if you want to grow your negotiation skills, approach a mentor who has strong negotiation skills within your industry).

For the mentor, it is important to define the relationship. Make sure that there are actionable items that you share with the mentee based upon what they need to learn. Lastly, ensure that the meetings are regular (i.e. once a month) to ensure continuity in the relationship.

Mogale Modisane, Power Tools Blog

Accomplish Goals

When you want to become a mentor, or if you're looking for a person to mentor you, the first thing in a mentor's mind is to help their mentees accomplish their goals. There are several responsibilities that mentors have, but the end goal is always to help their mentee accomplish their objectives. Some of the responsibilities of mentors are: to provide guidance, advice, feedback and support to the mentee. As well as serving as their role model, teacher, counselor, advisor, sponsor, advocate and ally. You will provide them with all their tools to be able to become a better version of themselves.

Rich Rudzinski, Oversight

Build Trust Through Engagement

A mentor should teach by example and a mentee should always be willing to listen. The mentor/mentee relationship is all about engagement. A mentee wants to learn not only how but why and a mentor has the responsibility to unlock the creative instinct of their mentee. At the same time, the mentee should be open to listening to and exploring new creative ideas. This builds a level of trust between mentor and mentee and ultimately they can both learn something from the experience.

Stephen Skeel, 7 Wonders

Challenge Each Other With Open-Ended and Curious Questions

Among many things, mentors should play the role of devil’s advocate while mentees should be consistently questioning and challenging the mentor with open-ended and curious questions—all respectfully, of course. For example, when the mentee comes to the mentor with an idea or concept, mentors should do their best to present counterarguments or new approaches. This helps the mentee to grow more rapidly as they’re forced to think about not only the things that they think will work, but also what others might say to devalue their ideas. At the same time, the mentee should be trying to understand every angle of a mentor’s wisdom, no matter the subject, so that they may reach the point where they’ll play devil’s advocate for themselves. Ironically, this helps both parties to grow in their own respective ways, enriching the relationship and the knowledge they may bring to others.

Reece Kresser, Zizi

Facilitate Learning Opportunities

Mentorship is a transference of knowledge, so it's vital that the mentor is familiar with and adept at creating learning opportunities that correspond to the mentee's learning style. In order for the learning to take place, the mentee-centered approach is crucial, i.e. getting to know your mentee beyond the learning style; mentors should foster a relaxed, yet productive atmosphere and utilize active listening skills. Not only does this serve the goal of the mentorship, it also builds rapport and trust, which further contribute to the overall quality of relationship between the mentor and the mentee.

Ruben Gamez, SignWell

Provide Feedback Going Both Ways

Both the mentor and the mentee have a responsibility to each other to share feedback. The mentor needs to know if the guidance they are supplying is being absorbed by the mentee and if it is useful to furthering the mentee's understanding and knowledge base. At the same time, the mentor should be offering feedback to the mentee with regard to their understanding of the progress being made and if the guidance being provided is being followed as expected. By sharing honest opinions on how the relationship is developing, both parties are able to plan for the next stage of development and open up new avenues to explore.

Jonathan Zacks, GoReminders

Follow-through and Avoid Generic Tips 

One responsibility for a mentee is follow-through. No matter how fabulous the mentor’s advice, if it isn’t put into practice, it’s moot! By the same token, it’s imperative that a mentor cater said advice to each client. It may seem easier to proffer generic tips but a wise mentor will take the time to get to know each mentee in order to understand how best to adjust her guidance.

Erin Banta, Pepper

Share Core Values 

I would highlight "core values sharing" among several responsibilities of a mentor and a mentee. Once both sides share core values, there is a great development in their relationship. Otherwise, when one of the sides has incompatible values, it virtually turns that development impossible.

Ricardo von Groll, Talentify

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