Mentee Skills Critical for Sustaining Progress


Phase 3: Progression

This phase is core of the relationship as both partners become more comfortable about challenging each other's perceptions, exploring issues more deeply and experiencing mutual learning. In addition, you, the mentee, take an increasing lead in managing the relationship and the mentoring process itself.

The key competency for the mentor to have in this phase is accepting constructive feedback and resolving differences.


Accepting Constructive Feedback

To be effective in working with others we need to become skilled at giving, soliciting, and accepting constructive feedback. It is your mentor's responsibility to give you descriptive rather than evaluative feedback that is specific in nature and is delivered as soon after an event as possible.

In order to fully benefit from the feedback, you must be open to hear it. Here are some suggestions that will prepare you to receive constructive feedback:

•  Focus on what is being said rather than how it is said.
•  Receive the feedback as information rather than as criticism.
•  Concentrate on receiving new information rather than focusing on defending the old.
•  Ask for specifics rather than accepting generalities.
•  Focus on clarifying what has been said by summarizing the main points of the discussion.

Resolving Differences

Even in a relationship that is as important to your career as a mentoring relationship, there can be disagreements or misunderstanding. Because a mentoring relationship is a partnership, you, as the mentee, have a right to express yourself when you want to make adjustments to the mentoring agreement. However, it is important to make sure that you resolve differences appropriately, professionally, and respectfully

Often, when someone has a problem with another person, they tell them so by using a "you-statement," for example, "you weren't on time for our mentoring meeting!” While that statement may be true, by phrasing it that way, the listener is likely to get defensive, and begin to argue. For instance, they might reply, "I couldn't because you didn't call me to remind me until the last minute and I couldn't just drop everything!”

Another approach to the same problem is using an "I-message. “I”-messages or “I”-statements are a way of communicating about a problem to your mentor without accusing them of being the cause of the problem. " For example, the mentee could say, "When you miss or are late for our mentoring meetings, I feel worried that, without your guidance, I will really get behind on my development plan and not meet my goals.”

The mentor's response to this statement is likely to be more conciliatory. For example, she might respond, "I know. I'm sorry. We can still meet today and I will try harder to fulfill my obligations. I had a lot of things piling up at once this week and I forgot, but I'll enter all of our meeting dates in my calendar when I return to the office." While this doesn't completely solve the problem, it retains the good working relationship between the two people, and is more likely to generate more cooperative interactions in the future than the accusatory, "you message" approach. Source: Conflict Research Consortium, University of Colorado, USA

What Would You Do?

Here's a dilemma faced by an actual mentee. Read the facts, put yourself in this situation, and choose your preferred solution…or develop your own! Go here to see how your solution compares to the answer suggested by The Mentoring Group or see the entire scenario in your Mentoring Workbook.

Possible Scenario

After an exhausting day you check your answering machine and are shocked to receive an irritated message from your formal mentor: “I'm pretty tired of this. I've put more than enough work into trying to mentor you and, quite frankly, I've had it! As far as I'm concerned, we're finished.” Your mind races as you try to determine what you did (or didn't do.) In fact, you thought the relationship was going well, and you've certainly received a lot from your sessions. It's Friday night and you've never asked if you could call your mentor on the weekend. What do you do?

A. You decide to sleep on it for the weekend. Monday you'll check with your program's mentoring coordinator to see what to do.

B. You have his/her home phone number and decide to risk the call. Before you call, you practice a number of possible responses on your part.

C. You pretend you never got the message. You hope he/she was just having a bad day. On Monday, you place a cheerful and appreciative call to the mentor suggesting your next get-together.

D. You do nothing and accept this as the end of the partnership. You had a feeling this relationship wouldn't last long and think maybe the mentor was looking for an excuse.

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