By Corbette Doyle and Bill Krueger

In the last column, we discussed the role of different kinds of mentors. This time, let’s focus on how to manage a longer term mentoring relationship, whether it is an informal one or a formal one where you are assigned a mentor.

She Wrote (Corbette):
Approach a mentoring relationship, particularly a formal one, the same way you would a project you were responsible for. Ideally, establish a longer-term development goal and share it with your mentor. Then, prepare for each meeting or conversation in advance. Share a topical agenda with your mentor, particularly if you will be connecting virtually rather than in person. If your mentor makes suggestions about things you should do or people you should reach out to, follow through and let the mentor know you have done so.

The best mentoring relationships are mutually beneficial. What can you bring to the table for the mentor that will make them glad they invested in you? Part of the payback will come from your success, but try to offer them a perspective they don’t have easy access to (e.g. generational, gender, or culture), skills they may be lacking (e.g. social media), or acknowledgement of their support (privately and, if appropriate, more broadly). And always pay it forward by mentoring others.

Mentees should also acknowledge when a relationship has run its course or isn’t working. Many formal mentoring programs have an expiration date. Consider suggesting one up front when you engage with a mentor so that both of you have a polite way to disengage.

He Wrote (Bill):
In the next column we will discuss how to be an effective mentor—and how to politely decline a request to be a mentor.

About the Authors:
Corbette Doyle launched her dream career as a lecturer at Vanderbilt University after corporate careers as both an intrapreneur and a Fortune 500 global chief diversity officer. William (“Bill”) Krueger is a senior executive with almost 30 years of experience in the automotive industry and a life-long student of leadership practice.