The First Roadblock in Mentoring is You

It seems like the hardest part of doing anything is starting. As humans, we have several biological processes that were originally designed to help keep us safe but tend to get in the way now that we live in civilized societies. We fear the unknown and we fear it because it is unknown, our brains are unable to make a decision on whether what we are doing will harm us, so biology takes over (in an attempt to do what it thinks will keep us safe) and we avoid it all together.

As you begin your mentoring journey, these biological process will be evident and may take total control. Some thoughts you may have are will the mentee like me, will this work, will I look like a fool, and inevitably you will experience the Imposter Syndrome. One thing to remember is that this is all normal! You should and will experience these emotions and expecting these emotions is the first step to getting over them. I’m willing to bet you may already be experiencing some of these emotions, so let talk about them.

Will my Mentee Like Me?

The first thing you as the Mentor need to understand is that you are not here to be the mentee’s friend. You are here to make a considerable, positive, difference in their life and sometimes that takes a little tough love. You need to set this expectation upfront and let your mentee know where the boundaries are.  Once your mentee starts to see the change and how it is positively affecting them, they will no doubt have a favorable opinion of you.

Let’s think about it this way: When you were a child, I’m sure there were many times where you hated your parents, to only find out later in life they were right. We all hate to admit it, but it happened, and it will happen with your mentee as well.

Will this Work?

The only way it will is if you as the mentor believe it will! You will not be able to make the positive change your mentee needs if you don’t believe in it yourself. To believe in the process you need to ensure the following are true:

  1. Your mentee is a good fit for you and vice versa
  2. You are prepared at each scheduled meeting
  3. You are prepared and able to have some unscheduled mentor time as needed by your mentee
  4. You set your expectations and the mentee’s expectations the first time you meet
  5. You mentor a person who is ready to grow and has the potential to grow
  6. You take the necessary time to grow as a mentor and do whatever it takes to ensure you are giving your mentee proper advice. (This means you may need to take a few online classes and/or do some research from time to time)

Will I Look Like a Fool?

You bet you will! There will be times where it just happens and you can’t avoid it. Just like in everyday life, not everything goes as planned, not everything in your mentorship will go as planned. You need to prepare for the unexpected and have the flexibility to continue on when it happens, and one of the best ways to have that flexibility is to expect the unexpected!

The Imposter Syndrome

We ALL experience this from time to time in life and it is normal. The Imposter Syndrome is described as “phoniness in people who believe that they are not intelligent, capable or creative despite evidence of high achievement.” It is all in your head! There is no such thing as a perfect mentor, so you can’t be an imposter. This Fast Company article has great information about the different types of the Imposter Syndrome and how to overcome them, but my advice is to remember that there will always be room for you to learn more. You will never know everything about whatever you are mentoring your mentee about and from time to time you may have to say “I’m not sure” and do some research to find an answer. Guess what, so does everyone else from Guru’s to Experts to CEOs! You just need to do the best you can and when you don’t know the answer, you need to go find it like everyone else. No one is ever born a certain way, they are who they are because they took the time to make themselves who they are and if they can do it so can you!

Check out this short quiz to gauge your level of Imposter Syndrome (The quiz is not a scientific analysis, but can give you a general idea).

Let’s Recap

The first roadblock in the mentoring process is you. To overcome this roadblock, you need to ensure you set expectations of your relationship in the beginning, ensure you take the necessary steps to make the mentorship work, and ensure you keep the imposter syndrome at bay. There will be biological processes that try to take over, you need to be expecting them and ready to defeat them!

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Are you ready to take your mentoring to the next level? Check out the Harvard Business Review’s Coaching and Mentoring: How to Develop Top Talent and Achieve Stronger Performance