The value of the mentor

Your experience as an entrepreneur is an extremely valuable resource for the new generation of businesses. POLLYANNA LENKIC

Pollyanna Lenkic

By Pollyanna Lenkic

Being a mentor is a rewarding experience for both mentee and mentor – certainly the mentoring relationships that I have been privileged to be involved in have given me so much more than I could have imagined.

That wasn’t always the case! I remember being asked to be a mentor to one of our consultants years ago when I had my recruitment company. It was a waste of time for both of us, and here’s why?

  • We were both unclear about what each of us wanted from the relationship.
  • I didn’t understand that for a mentoring relationship to be successful a structure with a beginning, middle and end was required.
  • I was unclear how to communicate the relevant experience to the young consultant in a way that benefited his learning.

As you would predict the meetings fizzled and neither of us benefited from the relationship.

Being asked to be a mentor is a privilege and one that requires investment from both parties. Executives and entrepreneurs have long understood the benefit of pairing up with a mentor to help develop careers, businesses and leadership qualities.

So how do you set up a successful mentoring relationship? You may be keen to support someone and step into the role of mentor. But what’s next?

Below are some guidelines to help you once you have agreed to be a mentor.

  • Formalise your mentoring relationship in writing. Ask the mentee to clarify what they want from the relationship, stating the objectives and outcomes they envisage. A good way of framing this is to “future pace them”. Ask the following question: “Think ahead, we are at the end of the mentoring relationship, you are delighted with the outcomes, what has happened? What did you get from the relationship? What have you achieved?”
  • Ask your mentee what they are looking for in a mentor are you the right person for them?
  • Create a questionnaire that captures the information you want to receive from your mentee, get them to fill this in and send it back to you. This will give you insight into what their needs and expectations are.
  • Set a beginning and end date for the mentoring; one of the hardest things can be how to end the relationship. It’s important that you do have an end and a structure to support this.
  • Set up a structure for how often you meet, where you meet and boundaries around how often you contact each other in between meetings.
  • Self manage! It’s important that part of this process is to empower your mentee, to help him/her to develop their confidence and trust in themselves as well as passing on the wisdom of your experience and guidance. Be clear on whose agenda you are running.
  • Talk about your communication style and what your expectations are of your mentee.
  • Agree on your responsibilities to each other and what you commit to.
  • Get agreement from your mentee on how you follow up on actions that have been agreed upon.
  • Create an agreement on how you exit the relationship if it is not working for either of you.
  • Finally, how you are going to celebrate the end of the mentoring relationship? How will you structure the last session to review the successes, challenges and outcomes of the mentoring?

If you want some ideas on what types of questions to put into your questionnaire, drop me an email and I will be delighted to help. There are some fabulous articles on mentoring previously written by SmartCompany writers that will help you choose, find and understand more about the mentoring relationship. See the links below.

The word ‘mentor’ originally comes from Greek mythology. Ulysses, before setting out on an epic voyage, entrusted his son to the care and direction of his old and trusted friend Mentor. (Extract from Everyone Needs a Mentor, Fostering Talent at Work by David Clutterbuck).


Have a great week.


Pollyanna Lenkic is the founder of Perspectives Coaching, an Australian based coaching and training company. She is an experienced facilitator, certified coach and a certified practitioner of NLP. In 1990 she co-founded a specialist IT recruitment consultancy in London, which grew to employ 18 people and turnover £11 million ($27 million). This blog is about the mistakes she made and the lessons she learned building a business the first time round and how to do it better second time round. For more information go to

For more Second Time Around, click here.



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