I read the article "Where Mentoring Goes Wrong" by Sue Edwards and Barbara Neumann with interest. In it, they referenced the statistic that up to 80 percent of traditional mentoring relationships fail within the first six months. They talked about the reasons that could be behind that number, and I agreed with every one of them.
Sometimes mentoring is exhausting. It can be irritating and fill us with dread when we see the appointment on the calendar. I remember a particular mentoring relationship (where I was the mentor) that made me often dream of doing something else (like getting my teeth drilled). Let's face it, if things aren't clicking, being in a mentoring relationship can be miserable.
So should we give up on mentoring?
I've had great mentoring relationships that have breathed life into my leadership and inspired me far beyond where I could have gotten on my own. The secret lies in cultivating the right climate, knowing the expectations, and getting really honest.
As a mentor, I've learned to ask four key questions before even agreeing to a mentoring relationship.
1. What do you want?
I've learned to be direct about expectations—what are your expectations, what are mine, and do we each understand them? Do you want a mentor in a particular field of interest, or do you want solely a friend? Both of these are good reasons for wanting a mentor, but they are not necessarily the same.1