Mentoring – The Good, Bad & Ugly

A reminder why mentoring should be more purposeful

Scary, refreshing, challenging and liberating. These are just a few terms that can be attributed to mentoring. It is not for the faint of heart.

Mentoring - The Good, Bad & Ugly

I thought crossing a road in Nairobi was dangerous. Most drivers consider traffic lights to be a suggestion. That was until I encountered the Romans! After a long day at a workshop, I was ready to hit the streets and discover Rome. At a pedestrian crossing, I started to cross the road when the pedestrian light went green.

However, my sixth sense screamed at me to stop. I heeded. A split second later, I heard a whining rumble. Vroom! A mean-looking Ducati motorbike whooshed past me. This was a different part of Europe! A week later, I felt like a bad case of whiplash had afflicted me. My neck hurt from the rapid side-to-side confirmation that every crossing was clear.

This is exactly how mentoring can feel like. Just when you think you have everything figured out, a curve ball blind-sides you. And so the mentoring journey can become. Just like the desert sands shift with the winds

Yet, mentoring is at the heart of leadership. You can’t grow other leaders if you aren’t ready to foster a mentoring partnership. It is a long-term investment.

My approach is from a lifestyle perspective. It isn’t enough to work on behavior and skills. For mentoring to have the desired effect, it has to be a relationship.

“The greater our sphere of leadership influence, the higher our impact on the world around us. And the more people we lead , the greater the potential damage caused through our poor decisions and actions. This is one of the sobering realities we must face when we accept the mantle of leadership.” ~ Hans Finzel

Here are some thoughts on the good, the bad and the ugly of mentoring.

The Good

Here, everything is working like clock-work. You have clear objectives, goals and expectations that both parties respect. It is an experience that gives me absolute joy. I get to learn from mentoring someone I mentor not only due to their responsiveness, but also because they are accountable for their growth.

This is the ideal space for mentoring to take place. It is not necessarily easy. Both parties have to work hard at staying accountable for the mentoring objectives, goals and expectations. They remain resolute to the vision and desired outcomes.

The Bad

When mentoring enters a comfort zone, you invade is a minefield. The person being mentored may take advantage of the rapport you have created over time. They have transitioned into a buddy mentality, that you are equals. “You can’t call it off,” they rationalize to themselves.

Why? Perhaps they rationalize that you are too significantly invested in the relationship. This is true but far from the truth. The caution here is to tread very carefully.

It is time for both parties to re-visit your objectives, goals and expectations. Agree on what is or isn’t working. Identify remedial measures and re-state the expectations if there is a violation of the same.

The Ugly

There is a fine line between the bad and the ugly of mentoring. A person being mentored may get to a point where they feel entitled to your mentoring. Or the flip side, the mentor may not be pulling their weight in the relationship. One or both parties are in denial that there is a problem.

This is a slippery slope. If your mentoring situation gets to this stage, it is time to seriously consider an exit strategy. It is only right that both parties spend their time and energy on other pursuits.

Always remember. You can’t lead what isn’t growing.

This framework is in my mind when I am mentoring others. It helps me to figure out the why and with whom I invest my resources on. Designing how it will happen becomes clear and is better executed for lasting results.

Q: What has your mentoring experience been like? Have your say by clicking here.

photo: Joanna Kosinska

Leadership Coach, Communication Specialist & Author

I help motivated but overwhelmed individuals and organizations regain their purpose to lead so they can focus on what matters most to build a transformational legacy.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Great words about mentoring Kimunya. There are good days, bad days, and those days you really want to forget. Thanks for the reminder.

    • My pleasure @jmlalonde:disqus. I keep on reminding myself this every so often. And how are you doing?

      • I’m doing well. Working on a couple of projects and recently released the Answers From Leadership podcast. You?

        • I’m well too. Been working at getting Leadership Safari http://www.iweza.com/safari/ into the market. At the same time, I am working on building my client base for communication and branding.

          • Awesome! I love the title of the project. It evokes feelings of excitement and uncertainty. Is there anything I can do to help you with this?

          • Thanks Joe. And yes, I’d appreciate some help. I need to get word about the course. Ideas are welcome. I’ll shoot you an email with some additional details and thoughts.

          • Yeah, hit me up and we can discuss this