Quality feedback between mentor and mentee is the foundation of a successful mentoring relationship. Strategy and goal setting is great, but inevitably there are going to be times in which mistakes arise or things don’t quite go according to plan.
Retrospective evaluation of the mentee’s success and failures provides invaluable opportunities for practical feedback that will allow for growth, provide encouragement, establish boundaries, and build trust between the mentor and mentee.
As a mentee, it’s crucial to be open to feedback, and to understand how and why it can be so transformative. Let’s break it down:
We talk a lot about getting out of your comfort zone. This is what mentoring is all about. In order to grow, we must be prepared to have our preconceptions and existing habits challenged.
Feedback is the most effective way for a mentee to identify what they might be doing wrong, and how to change it. To get the most out of mentoring, the mentee should expect constructive criticism, and be open to it.
It may feel nice to have our egos gently massaged, but if we are to really work out the knots, it’s going to take some tough love.
On the flip side, there will be times when the purpose of feedback is to offer validation and encouragement. Just as the mentee’s weak spots need to be identified, their successes should also be celebrated.
A great mentor will know that integrating quality feedback into a mentoring program means striking up a delicate balance between criticism and praise.
Too much of one or the other will devaluate the feedback altogether as the mentee will begin to feel like they can’t get anything right, or that they are just being told what they want to hear.
As a mentee, you don’t have to take a passive role in the mentoring relationship. It’s important to communicate with you mentor and let them know when you need to hear more of what you are doing well or not-so-well.
Perhaps the most important thing about quality feedback is that it be honest. As a mentee, you will benefit from feeling that your mentor is being frank and straightforward with you.
Welcome open and dynamic discussion about your progression throughout the sessions, and be prepared for candid, unbiased feedback. You will be able to spot a great mentor by evaluating whether or not you believe what they are telling you.
If you sense that your mentor may be beating around the bush when it comes to feedback, either for an easy life or through fear of upsetting you, they might not be right for you.
The best thing you can do for yourself as a mentee, is make it clear to the mentor that you are keen to hear their honest opinions. It is down to both of you to facilitate an environment in which healthy debates and discussions are frequent and fruitful.
Mentoring is most definitely a two-way street, and this is what makes it such a great tool for personal and professional development. However, this does mean that there is a risk of blurring the boundaries, especially if the relationship becomes long-term.
This is not to say that the mentor-mentee relationship should be devoid of sentiment and a genuine investment in each other’s best interests. But social politics have the potential to hinder motives or create hidden agendas.
Maintaining a consistent feedback programme sets boundaries. Regular, honest and constructive feedback will ensure that the mentor-mentee relationship remains unbiased and objective when it counts, even if you have become friends outside of the sessions.