How and Why to Work Mentoring into your Educational Repertoire

Iterative learning is the process in building on learning constructs from the ground up through experience, while regularly adding experiential knowledge into the learning cycle. 

Just like when we started to learn when we were young, we still start the learning process as adults with small pieces and apply or practice those to inform on future learning.  It got me to thinking about how professional learning occurs nowadays, when time away from family or the job is at a premium. Due to this constraint, we are somewhat forced to regularly pay large sums for intensive courses or workshops in order to obtain a certificate that describes new found expertise. We’re in and we’re out; and, while there are definitely situations that produce great results through this type of learning, it’s not always the most appropriate option. For instance, taking a deep-dive course on how to become a professional in something is very different than taking a deep-dive course in specializing in certain aspects of that same profession after several years work. The former inundates potential practitioners with everything they need to know without the context. The latter brings years of experiential learning as contextual input into the specialization process. As I’ve mentored many individuals, I’ve heard over and over about courses and classes that promise certification, resume experience updates, new skills, etc., but deliver only fractions of the total promise. 

The other thing that can be problematic for some students is that courses are built for mass delivery to a an audience that possesses a fairly consistent level of knowledge. It’s a simple business decision in controlling costs, as it’s not reasonable to customize a course for every student. Those that fall below the knowledge bell curve get lost while those who know too much get bored. The average class population benefits though. 

Where Can Mentoring Replace Traditional Education?

In short, it can’t; except in very specific circumstances. Mentoring should be viewed as a compliment (see below) to standard methods of education, e.g., college, post-graduate and/or professional courses, certification courses, etc. through enhancement of the learning process via additional professional dialog and guidance. Situations in which professionals are not learning specific skills but rather seeking to work though obstacles or handle specific situational factors, mentoring may provide the most direct and rapid results.

Where Can Mentoring Compliment Traditional Education?

Mentoring sessions are built around dialog and practical application of learnings. Students that find it difficult to make sense of large volumes of information disseminated in a short time frame or lacking experiential context can normally find benefit to mentoring. The mentee is able to deconstruct the learnings with the mentor and obtain experience-guided context and advice for practical application from the mentor. This serves to bolster the knowledge already obtained and make it more useful and easier to apply. Typically, short-term mentoring is used to manage immediate needs.

However, this scenario presents itself also for those entering a profession anew. These individuals are students to both skill building courses and tangential learning through mentoring, but it occurs over a longer period of time in order to weave both types of learning together. So, mentoring may take the form of long-standing, regular sessions or short bursts of standing sessions.

Money vs Value When it Comes to Education Decisions

Just like anything else, we each assess what we are going to get when we pay for something. When making decisions about how you wish to spend your education dollars, consider some things with the following sample models. 

The Pay Up-Front Model

  • Non-Financial Considerations
    • Immediate and intense knowledge gain with early high value
    • Course content is created for the average student, not targeted toward individual needs 
    • Content becomes increasingly obsolete over time (esp technology)
    • Limited use of learned information produces minimal benefit and can even degrade value as information is not retained as a result of practice
    • Minimal utilization of learned information almost immediately degrades value as information is not retained as a result of practice
  • Financial Considerations
    • An initial investment to take a course costing $2000 produces high immediate knowledge gained
      • Regular use of learned information reinforces and expands knowledge obtained
        • ROI peaks early, then diminishes over time as environmental changes can degrade value (esp. technology)
      • An increase in time OR a decrease in utilization yields LOWER ROI

The Pay-as-You-Learn Model

  • Non-Financial Considerations
    • Low to moderate immediate knowledge with early high value. Knowledge builds, value remains moderate to high
    • No content is created for the average student, everything is targeted toward individual needs 
    • Learnings, if practiced and applied, build over time
    • Learnings are reinforced with experiences and expert guidance to accelerate new lessons
    • Value is obtained through application and applies to tangible skill and behavioral gains
    • Limited use of learned information produces minimal benefit and can even degrade both non-financial and financial value as information is not retained as a result of practice
    • Minimal utilization of learned information almost immediately degrades financial value, and slowly for non-financial value) as information is not retained as a result of practice
  • Financial Considerations
    • An initial investment to engage a mentor costs @$100. Subsequent monthly costs also equal @$100, for a total investment of @$1200.  
    • Produces foundational knowledge that is built upon over time
      • Regular use of learned information reinforces and expands knowledge obtained
        • Value against investment may be measure ROI incrementally 
        • ROI Peaks early, plateaus, and then increases proportionally to effort
      • An increase in time ONLY decreases ROI if lessons are not utilized, typically
        • There is a much lower level of technical learning and higher level of behavioral learning

*Numerical data is for illustrative purposes only


Learning Series: What Happens When You Have EI Awareness

“Many times we are our worst enemy. If we could learn to conquer ourselves, then we will have a much easier time overcoming the obstacles that are in front of us.” 
― Stephan Labossiere

In the last article in this series, I wrote about the tie-in of emotion to the ability to learn. The point-of-view that emotional obstacles block growth and learning is interesting. They don’t actually stop us from trying to learn; we can still go through the motions of going to a class and listening to discourse and trying to use that information for a particular need.


So, what happens to those students of themselves who learn to become more self-aware? What effect does it have on them and what effect does it have on their ability to learn?

Those who have had, or taken, the opportunity to recognize how they feel about different experiences have also been able to essentially evaluate whether each experience is valuable…either positively or negatively. For example, a person might work up the courage to ask her boss for a raise or promotion, only to be shot down. The rejection of the request and the emotional dejection from the failure to get the promotion is obviously negative. However, there are positive consequences that not everyone can recognize nor attain. Those more attuned to their emotions may be able to walk away with a feeling of pride after conquering the fear to work up enough courage to even ask for the promotion. That success also builds lasting confidence and can lead to larger and great feats to accomplishment. In effect, a negative and positive experience was used to produce a value statement for this person, in order to determine whether the result of the experience was worth the struggle. At this point, the brain has attached actual value to the experience.

“Through the experience of emotions, [we] come to recognize what is cognitively and affectively of value,” helping determine how and why we respond to the world around us
–(Dirkx, 2006)

Continue reading “Learning Series: What Happens When You Have EI Awareness”

How Do I Learn to Become More Aware of Emotion?

As I alluded to in the last article, the learning environment is important and must provide a “safe zone” to allow emotional content to be brought out when the moment is right. At this point trust has ensued and the walls start to come down. The student steps aside and gets out of his or her own way, so solid learning can occur. When you become aware of your awareness, it can truly be an awakening of sorts. It’s at this point, conscious or not, you begin to think about and process things differently. This leads to a different in your approaches with others and with yourself.

Mentoring can help this occur, because it is a different learning platform that provides specific benefits for specific circumstances. It is an alternative learning experience that promotes emotional intelligence improvements (one of many). It is very different than the traditional learning model we’ve all become accustomed to.

  • Individualized, customized, private vs. group classrooms and mass-audience
  • Focused on iterative assessment trust and value vs course completion certificate
  • Life-long behavioral lesson shelf-life vs. diminished value as course version or content changes
  • Transferrable skill into every facet of life and work vs. direct applicability to specific purpose
  • Pay-as-you-go and assess for value attainment vs. pay-up-front for single event

“If people are anxious, uncomfortable, or fearful, they do not learn”
–(Perry, 2006)

I’ve Got My Emotional Awareness…Now What?

Building this type of awareness is a journey, so if you’re holding your hand out for a certificate of completion, don’t bother. The good news is that when you’ve started to build this awareness, it can become a great cycle. A little struggle, a little growth. As it repeats, you as the student start to look at others differently with more recognition of what they are going through based on your own experiences. You are more attuned to their reactions to words and actions, keener to how to best approach a problem or a conversation, more prone to let or help a situation defuse before attempting to “fix” it. This is empathy in action.

If you haven’t read between the lines of the previous paragraphs to recognize what’s happening, here is my perspective on how you are transforming…

  1. You learned about yourself, and you developed an awareness that you did this.
  2. You continued the process, achieving additional awareness, regardless of the presence of negative consequences…thus a net-positive experience.
  3. Your perspectives of others changed as a result of your own growth.

“Experiencing one’s self in a conscious manner–that is, gaining self-knowledge–is an integral part of learning.”
— Joshua M. Freedman

  1. Your change in perspective led to changes in how you work with others, bringing a certain non-intimate closeness to your interactions.
  2. Your closer exchanges brought forth empathy and shared experiences developed
  3. The shared experiences formed bonds that built stronger working relationships.
  4. Those around you received benefit; comfort in your approach and success in results as you worked with them.
  5. Your thought process maturation has accelerated. You’re asking questions that you wouldn’t have thought to ask, factoring in complexities and concerns that never occurred to you before, recognizing potential obstacles before they appear to surprise you and seeking out answers that have new importance.


The last item in the list of benefits is REALLY important. It’s integral and directly aligned to points when people are able to make mental jumps in their lives and careers. It’s also integral to the message this website brings, which is that when you grow in your thought process and the way in which you approach it, you afford yourself the ability to grow in your ability to learn and build personal capability. That is the difference between business analysis and business architecture.


Dirkx, J. (2006). Engaging emotions in adult learning: A Jungian perspective on emotion and transformative learning. New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education, 109, 15-26. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass

Shuck, et al., (2013). Emotions and Their Effect on Adult Learning: A Constructivist Perspective




You’ll KNOW Mentoring is Right for You When….

  1. You realize you are completing coursework and getting certified, but not fulfilled. Academic and even crash courses are built for classrooms, not individuals. You take courses that are worthwhile at the time for a specific skill and as the course is developed for the masses.

Mentoring is training customized to the individual and is equal parts listening/learning and dialog/application. It deals with emotions, emotional intelligence, personal obstacles and capabilities and personal goals and aspirations.

  1. You are ready to squirm in your chair. It is extremely uncomfortable in the early days, because you have decided to bare your soul for the benefit of very targeted guidance. This is not an easy decision, but your thought process has matured to the point that you have self-awareness and realization that you’ve probably blocked yourself unnecessarily. Way to go!

Mentoring is only productive and transformative when built on trust. You MUST be able to trust your mentor to tell he or she the things that make you vulnerable. Until you do, you cannot have the conversation about which of those items are irrational fears and which are real and need some work.

  1. You are ready to slay your dragons! You WILL meet the things in life that bring you fear, shame, embarrassment and angst. It will start as a professional conversation, but you’ll soon realize there is not a work YOU and a NOT WORK YOU, just a YOU.

Only when you are ready to talk about those things can you quantify them, add color to them, see them for what they are, understand what triggers them, understand how you typically react….and realize there is a better way.

  1. You are thoroughly engaged in the mentoring session, and constantly applying the lessons in new situations to grow away from the session. The mentoring session is great and invigorating, but it’s not where you learn. Business analysis and life lessons are learned by experience.

Mentoring provides the framework of the lessons in the sessions, but the time between session is where repetitive application in real life occurs. THAT’s where the light clicks on! You have to be ready to do some offline work reading, writing, thinking and doing.

  1. Your thought process and maturity has evolved to seek long-lasting lessons that pay dividends based on your efforts. You have realized that you are your greatest advocate and “ace-in-the-hole”.

You know now that there is a way through the most difficult obstacles that you have encountered and are able to lay out a plan of attack that is predicated on your own dedication, which builds the learning experience to position you for goal attainment. You realize that this enhanced perspective is key to learning things in different ways and applying them toward harder problems.

Is this YOU? Have you arrived? Then I want YOU to join me in applying mentoring to help achieve your success! Sign Up Now!


LEARNING SERIES: Emotional Intelligence and its Impact on Your Ability to Learn

This is Post 2 in a series about how we learn and how it’s related to mentoring. The first installment is here:

Renowned experts in Emotional Intelligence, Daniel Goleman, Travis Bradberry and others that indicate there is a strong link between emotional intelligence and our ability to learn. Emotional intelligence employs self-awareness and introspection to allow us fully retain the learning experience, because there is a real connection to our minds through the effects we feel with our emotions. Not to mention it, through the employment of empathy, we learn to connect ourselves with others connect with them socially and learn from them.  “WHA?!” you say. “What does emotion have to do with learning? Can’t we just enable the firewall and let our nearest mobile communication device do all that..that…mushy stuff?!”

“Afterwards there was less cynicism – people had gained an understanding of colleagues differences.”  – FIT Emotional Intelligence

Let’s say that you are someone who is essentially very positive, an always glass-is-half-full kind of person. You might approach a situation in which you don’t know something as a great opportunity to learn something new, to grow or to gain awareness. Your coworker or friend, on the other hand, struggles. He or she feels overwhelmed not only with what is not known, but also how much there is to know. There is a sense of dread and a never-ending fear of falling further behind. If you each take on a learning task, there is an immediate point in which your mental state sets the stage, in part, on your ability to absorb information and actively put it to good use.

Pain, fear, happiness all play a part in our ability to learn. Think about those self-deprecating blockades we install in our way, “I’m never going to be able to figure this out,” or “This is way over my head,” or “I’ve never done this before.” Those voices are in almost everyone and have effect in the ability we have to learn. Many of us don’t even recognize the devil on shoulder, because the little gnome has been there for so long, self-sabotaging our progress and ability to change.

It stands to reason that before we can remove the negative obstacle to our own learning, we have to become aware of its presence. Emotional intelligence may help us to hear that voice as an alien or unwanted presence, because it essentially disrupts the normal state of self-awareness. Just like the fact that some of us see or hear better than others, there are some people more attuned to self-awareness of emotions more than others. Fear not, though. Emotional intelligence is something that can be improved upon with attention and some repetition. While, I’m not going to discuss that part here, you can read a fantastic article that I’ve found produces great results with some practice. The important take-away is that we can set a healthier stage for learning by being mindful and aware of ourselves and our tendencies. This helps us connect with others, because our social walls come down some to allow other experiences (and other people) in.

“Knowing others and knowing oneself, in one hundred battles no danger. Not knowing the other and knowing oneself, one victory for one loss. Not knowing the other and not knowing oneself, in every battle certain defeat.” 

–Sun Tzu, The Art of War  

When I mentor someone, I invariably work with someone who is a highly-skilled professional, or a highly-capable individual. In both instances, I have found that the individual is perfectly capable of successfully completing a specific activity that has come up in a session, and that the mentee believes that it is a “blocking” item to their growth. These people are fully competent and capable and smart as whips, yet they ask for help in struggles that prevent them from realizing success. How is this possible?

I’m not an expert on emotional intelligence, and in fact am still in the “WOW!” phase of learning it. It amazes me that this is just recently gaining so much traction, because it is so important to understanding how to get the hell out of our own way. When I mentor others, I have found that the learning we do in a mentoring session is electrically charged with things that aren’t on any agenda. Investigation into handling a difficult customer, managing up to a supervisor, tackling new domains or achieving vision goals are all able to be achieved by the person writing the agenda. The struggle is the person’s emotion tied to the item, which effectively either halts a person in their tracks or clouds their judgment of their own ability. Something trigger an emotional response. Bringing it up in the mentoring further re-triggers it, so it’s not uncommon to set the written objective aside, while we speak about why achieving it is perceived as unreachable. This can be tough stuff to discuss, most especially when it wasn’t planned for and two people are treading on “trust boundaries” in talking about it with one another.

“The greatest discovery of my generation is that human beings can alter their lives by altering their attitudes of mind.”
— William James

This is one of the reasons mentoring is such a special learning experience, as well as extremely powerful. We spend thousands upon thousands of dollars on academic and corporate education that provides knowledge and certificates to indicate we have accomplished something.

Few of us, though, invest in learning about why we struggle to do the things we really have a hard time with. The mentoring environment provides a safe haven, or “safe zone”, as I have referred to in other writings. This is critical to allowing the mentee to get some raw emotion out onto the table so it can be dealt with.

“Emotion, which is suffering, ceases to be suffering as soon as we have a clear picture of it.”
— Benedict Spinoza

Only when there is trust between mentee and mentor can this occur, because there is recognition that great damage can occur without it. The experience that comes of this can be a huge leap forward in personal growth, and that is when the door opens wide to learning.

I’ve learned, too, that I am a student of my own recommendations. As a mentor, I learn by teaching and actually have to stop in the middle of doing so to remind myself of the need to listen and absorb.

Next post, I’m going to hit you with another stage gate of emotional intelligence and learning. What Happens When Strong Emotional Intelligence Encounters a Watershed Moment in Self-Awareness?

1 How to Increase Your Emotional Intelligence ― 6 Essentials
Preston Ni M.S.B.A. Psychology Today. October 2014.


LEARNING SERIES: How We Learn…and Unlearn…is a Complicated Matter

We have all learned to execute tasks in specific ways from training, from education or from experience. The amalgamation of those methods has provided us a core routine to do each thing in life (personal and work) that we frequently perform.

Do something long enough and you eventually learn something more than when you started day one. Over time and repetition, we might figure out natural ways to streamline for effectiveness The result may or may not be the best way with regard to quality, but we did wander from the original method toward learning a different way to accomplish the same goal. Generally, only with strong enforcement and repetitive training do we maintain protocol, because there is stated reason not to deviate from the norm, and even that is not a guarantee.

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Just this week, I read two articles in the news that reported on breaks in protocol that led to disastrous consequences. The was a report from the military that cited human error in the crash of a cargo aircraft that killed 13 people. The pilot of the aircraft, while it was on the ground, jammed an object behind the yoke (steering stick) to keep the wing flaps up so a truck could maneuver underneath for maintenance. When the plane went to take off, the object remained behind the yoke and caused the crash. The second was a mauling of an expert and experienced zookeeper by one of her tigers, because she had neglected to follow the procedural steps designed to keep her safe.

This got me to thinking about how we learn and how we don’t. Learning can be either a passive or active activity. When we have decided to undertake something new or to enhance current understanding through exploring and/or education, that can be considered an active effort. We sit with someone else to observe and ask questions, we sign up for a class, we read a book to bring further enlightenment. However, learning can also be a passive experience, such as when we absorb external input without any purposeful action meant to do so. We, as complex thinkers, can also passively figure out other ways to accomplish tasks by combining elements in our environment. What about how we Unlearn? How is that we as people can have things beat into our heads, often at thousands of dollars at our own expense, only to effectively say, “Screw it! I much prefer this idiotic method that I just thought about!”? We don’t typically go out and take courses to remove knowledge from our brains, but the effect is strikingly similar.

The pilot mentioned in the above story passively combined an aircraft, a flap, spatial constraints, a need to remove the constraints for a period of time, the lack of intent to be burdened with constraint removal over that period of time, and availability of a tool to facilitate accomplishment of that goal. What’s of even more interest is that in seconds, in an environment that is maintains operational and organizational effectiveness based on structured regimen and protocol, the pilot’s thought process simply overrode all that training.

And THIS got me to thinking about the underlying intelligence of learning. In the work place, we encounter both passive and active learning opportunities. Organizational training programs are a great example. We are provided options to seek out training to enhance skill or capability for fulfillment and advancement, but we are often not outright ordered to take those courses. Conversely, when it comes to the obligatory compliance training course, there is no question that we are active ordered to attend. So, what is the difference in thought for a person that attends to the mandated compliance course and walks away with retained knowledge from a person who walks away with a check mark in the course completion box? How come one person falls asleep while another ponders what circumstances led to the need to develop a response that trained resources in advance?

Is it maturity? Is it topical interest? Is it recognized value?

It might be something called Emotional Intelligence (EI).

e·mo·tion·al in·tel·li·gence

the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one's emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically.
"emotional intelligence is the key to both personal and professional success"

In a forthcoming post, I’ll discuss some of the things that hinder and help us learn and how this general topic relates so importantly to mentoring.

In the meantime, here’s some things to keep your brain busy. Keep these questions in the back of your head as you go through your work and home life. What do you come up with at the end of each day?

  1. How does state of mind impact training effectiveness and adoption?
  2. How can a person simply eradicate training or good judgment from thought?
  3. Why does taught knowledge not always “stick”?
  4. What is it in experiential learning that cements the lesson?
  5. How can we empower ourselves to learn, and then again by applying the learning?


Please! Go Screw Something Up!

I was asked this week to provide a statement to the broader community of participants in a mentoring program I am involved in (not mine). In thinking about what I wished to say, I accidentally reminded myself of a thought I haven't uttered in some time, yet it's ingrained in the mentoring I do....and it happens to be the title of this post.

We're terrified to fail, you know, and it's a shame.

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Failing is one of the best learning mechanisms we can have, yet we do everything we can to avoid it like the plague. Often, we learn best when fall the hardest, because those situations have the most vivid, longest lasting memories.

Atychiphobia is the abnormal, unwarranted, and persistent fear of failure, a type of specific phobia. As with many phobias, atychiphobia often leads to a constricted lifestyle, and is particularly devastating for its effects on a person's willingness to attempt certain activities.

What about fear of trying?

Neophobia, cainotophobia or cainophobia is the fear of anything new, especially a persistent and abnormal fear. In its milder form, it can manifest as the unwillingness to try new things or break from routine.

I would just like to reiterate our thought for the day. Our Edict! I give you permission to...

Go screw something up!

By the time you are done screwing something up, you will have tried. I applaud you for trying! You have tested the waters, failed in your endeavor, admonished yourself harder than anyone else could, and learned both the steps to performing the task incorrectly AND potentially the avoidance path for the next time. If you are reading this after making a mistake, you will also by now realize that you are alive and life has NOT ended. Not to minimize the significance of some failures, nor debilitating conditions described above, but we often are so hard on ourselves anticipating the failure that hasn't happened yet, we actually talk ourselves right out of adding to discourse, changing behavior, attempting a new activity or completing a task. We do this so well and so fast that we sometimes don't even realize that we are doing it, and it takes over before we are even close to being aware of it. If you fave failed, you made it through to the other side! Most importantly, if you have failed, you have started the process of conquering your fears. Why am I talking about this? As business analysts, we're on the front line of discovery and engagement with our customers during some of the earliest and toughest stages of projects. As you know, we interact with everyone from helpful SMEs to Type A Executives with lots of power (and they know it). Allowing our fears to manifest can be a huge problem, because we're expected to actively deliver information, analysis, identified risk, and dialog that helps customers make decisions. Any of this sound familiar....? I can't. I shouldn't. What if they don't like what I say? That's stupid. They'd hate that. I'd lose my job. You idiot! I could never...That's not my job. That's his problem. I have no idea. I wouldn't know. She hates me. He thinks I'm a moron. My opinion has no value......and on and on and on....  
  1. 1

Here are a few steps to help turn it around....

  1. Have a conversation....with yourself. If your fears can get the better of you, make it a practice to make you tell yourself what you are afraid of. Say it in your head and out loud. Hear it. Then ask what could happen if your fear becomes a reality. What are the true consequences and are they as severe as those your mind envisions? The internal dialog provides you a forum to safely talk things out and safely validate that you have a fear.
  2. Really listen to yourself respond. Being mindful of your own voice and the emotions that lock you up and out of being able to be your best is extremely powerful and can lead you through resolving anger, calming fears and making hard decisions with confidence. There must be something to all this.....Take a run through the links above, and notice that there is attention to and teachings in this subject from bloggers; journalists; professionals; educators and spiritualists.
  3. Grant permission for your fear and/or to fail. Encourage it. The acknowledgement that you CAN fail and it's OK takes the power away from it. The next step puts you into control.
  4. Make your failure plan in writing. When the time comes that you realize you've screwed something up, plan out what you will say to yourself, what you will say to others who point it out, what steps (generic) you will take to rectify AND how you will capture the learning experience. No matter the outcome, you will have something to take away from the experience.
  5. Finally, take a look around. The rest of us are right there with you with the same fears and struggles to look good and not show weakness. Ugh! It's exhausting, too.
Learning about how to empower yourself to fail and conquer your fears is a great opportunity to grow, but with it comes responsibility and consequences....good and bad. Your new found empowerment isn't an open door to confidently burst into a meeting and point out the fallacies of the company's mission statement or the courage to tell your boss what you think of her. It's a way to allow yourself the confidence and courage to have a voice and opinion that has meaning when used properly and respectfully. Mentoring often highlights situations in which completely competent, capable people/professionals have every means to accomplish what they seek to do, yet they are stuck. We stand in our own way far more than we imagine others standing before us. Move aside! You have places to go! If you are open to sharing your fears and how you conquered them, special advice from others that has stuck, and how you felt when you beat the beast off your would provide great encouragement through your story!  


Unsure about Seeking a Mentor? Read this…

Seeking a mentor can come as advice from a peer or through recognition of need to get assistance in immediate and future career growth. The value of a productive mentoring relationship for the individuals involved cannot be understated for many reasons.

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  • Builds skills and capability
  • Facilitates problem solving on a personal level
  • Builds confidence
  • Provides a learning "safe zone" protected  judgment or far of retribution for failure
  • Promotes failure as a learning and correction opportunity
  • Helps remove self-imposed obstacles
  • Accelerates career growth
  • Exposes the mentee to examples, people, content and knowledge that the mentee has
  • ...and more!

Finding a mentor is not always easy, and finding a really good one even harder. Take a look at this excellent article from Lolly Daskal on finding a mentor that suits your specific needs.

7 Important Qualities Your Next Mentor Needs to Have

Part of the equation, though, is the mentee's understanding of and commitment to the mentoring process, which can be ill informed at this stage. The expectations of the mentoring Its-still-puzzling-meexperience cannot be formed for the unititiated, because the hasn't occurred yet, because the initial meeting between mentor and mentee hasn't happened. Unfortunately, there isn't a lot of written and easily accessible information for new potential mentees about what they should expect. The following should help those wondering if mentoring is right for you to make some intelligence decisions on next steps.

Purpose of Mentoring

The purpose of the mentoring relationship, which is closely tied to its actual definition, is to provide a safe ad productive learning capability and forum to a person of less experienced by a person of more experience. This typically occurs around a common element, like a shared profession. Done well, the mentee becomes confidently empowered in his or her ability to tackle difficult problems or perform new tasks. Equally important is understanding what mentoring is not about. Mentoring should not be viewed as staff augmentation, in which the mentor is asked to perform or complete tasks on behalf of the mentee. Nor should there be expectation of surrogate problem solving with customers, peers, or supervisors. The mentor is there to guide and enable new behaviors from the mentee, but it is critical that the mentee have accountability for execution.

Working Relationship vs. Friendship

The mentoring relationship is built on trust and trust is built on both observed action and emotion. Therefore, what emerges is an emotional bond between mentor and mentee that can blur healthy boundaries required to provide separation. The mentor should not be viewed as a friend and should not take this role on. Often, tough truths and decisions must be discovered, discussed and made. It's hard enough emotionally to bridge these topics without friendship-based emotions clouding judgement and ability to accept criticism.

Exposure of Personal Psychological Obstacles

When working through obstacles at work or surrounding overall career issues, it isn't uncommon to stumble into territory that has more to do with personal barriers that are actually the root causes of work issues. For instance, if a business analyst tasked with facilitating elicitation sessions or morning stand-ups has fears of public speaking or conflict resolution, he or she might be prone to steer away from these situations while wondering why there is slow growth in career progression. Confronting fears in a mentoring relationship, and in a safe place, can be an unpleasant and very personal affair.


Few people like to hear the truth about themselves, good or bad. The good stuff can embarrass the modest and the bad stuff is just plain tough to swallow. The mentee who seeks a mentor should take heed that truths will arise and need to be confronted. The willingness to do so is a key sign for a mentor that a mentee is committed to change and progress. It should also serve as a great marker for the mentee that he or she is turning the corner and moving forward. These moments are actually acceleration outings in the mentoring process, in which the mentee can break through obstacles.

The great thing is that mentoring begins to produce benefit for the mentee immediately and in direct proportion to the effort expended. 

Doug Goldberg


The old adage that work isn't easy could not be more true of a mentoring relationship. Beside the difficulty of the personal boundaries that are opened to criticism and the mental effort to protect and repair them, there should be significant tangible exercises that are part of the overall effort. Only so much can be accomplished in the short time the active mentoring session occurs, and this should include the discussion and example instruction. The real learning occurs when the mentee is able to try applying the lessons in between mentoring sessions. This is, and should be, bolstered by homework assignments designed to reinforce the lessons with other information, practical application, mental repetition and reflection. It takes effort on the part of the mentee to add this to the current daily life-load and workload. Expect it to occur and be ready to dig in.

Commitment to Greatness

It sounds like a great thing to many, but when the realization occurs of the emotional impacts and additional work, there is often a tendency to head for the hills. You can avoid this by first know what the mentoring relationship will being to your life and then actively decide whether or not you are in a place to be able to cope with the effects and additional effort. The great thing is that mentoring begins to produce benefit for the mentee immediately and in direct proportion to the effort expended. Unlike a course of study in which the student only obtains the certificate of completion at the end, the mentee is immediately able to begin application of lessons learned to the issue at hand. Better yet, the early lessons build on one another to provide foundation for new obstacles and serve to cement early layers of much needed confidence.

Walk Away with This

Mentoring is not for everyone, because its a very personal experience that has big impact. You have to be in the right place to be ready to accept everything it has to offer. Do your homework about finding your new mentor when you are ready, and be sure to do your homework about what it is really going to bring as an experience.

TIP: The first meeting with a potential mentor is used by both parties to size each other up. Take the opportunity to ask pointed questions about what your mentor thinks you should expect as experiences and benefits.

If you are interested in learning more, contact me at for more information and a free, 30-minute consult.