Avoid These Business Mentoring Mistakes

Mentoring Program Managers (MPMs)

Not providing any training to mentors AND mentorees on how mentoring relationships work. Frequently, MPMs will train mentors but not mentorees, which means both partners will not be on the same page.

Solution: The best defense, in this case, is information. Make sure you provide your mentors and mentorees with all the resources they'll need to be successful. We recommend checking out our e-learning course "Maximizing Success: Creating Effective Mentoring Relationships," which will train your mentors and mentorees on all the things they'll need to know to have a successful relationship.

Mistake: Not having a "matches are not guaranteed" policy as a way of weeding out those who are not properly motivated to participate. This is often the case at the upper levels of the organization when a mentor might participate simply for political gain as opposed to wanting to do it.

Solution: Creating the policy is straightforward, but being able to identify people who will make good mentors takes some practice and training. Becoming a certified MPM can go a long way in helping you gain this important skill.

Mistake: Having few or vague guidelines that fail to provide a framework that pairs can use to build successful relationships: e.g. frequency of contact, length of contact, role of the mentoree, program manager, and the mentor, etc.

Solution: Again, information is your friend. You can easily cull everything you'll need to create your official guidelines from the resources on our website.

Mistake: Being "too hands off." One of the biggest mistakes you can make as a mentoring program manager is assuming pairs no longer need any further guidance or accountability once they're matched. This often leads to pairs floundering and not establishing good relationships.

Solution: Develop regular check-in policies with your mentoring pairs: it could be a quick phone call or email asking the mentor and mentoree how the relationship is going. And we recommend making phone calls 50 percent of the time since it's easier to glean subtext from the tone of a person's voice and off-hand comments than it is from email.


Focusing too much on the mentor's experience rather than on the mentoree's development.

Solution: Remember, this is about the mentoree, not you. Sure, your experiences will come up, but make sure you spend a good portion of your time actively listening to what the mentoree needs.

Mistake: Trying to solve the mentoree's problems instead of facilitating a solution with the mentoree as a partner in the process.

Solution: Questions that begin with "how" and "what" will be your friend: "How do you think you should approach this challenge?" or "What's the strategy you're envisioning for reaching this goal?"

Mistake: Putting all the responsibility on the mentoree so that if meetings aren't occurring, the mentor doesn't follow through to inquire as to why.

Solution: One of your jobs is to hold the mentoree accountable. Be sure to speak up, probe, and ask questions if the mentoree keeps canceling meetings. If you don't get an answer, reach out to your mentoring program manager (that's what he or she is there for!).


Inadequately preparing for a mentoring session. Winging it will not work. Your meetings should always have a focus, and you should come prepared to discuss issues of importance with your mentor.

Solution: One of the simplest ways to include your mentoring work in your schedule is by doing just that: scheduling blocks of time in your calendar that you devote to getting items done.

Mistake: Not being honest with your mentor about what isn't working in your relationship. This is why it's important to discuss ahead of time how to give each other feedback so that you can share whatever concerns you have at any time.

Solution: This can be one of the toughest things a mentoree deals with, especially since it's most people's inclination to be polite and not complain. Sometimes writing down your thoughts can help -- bring this with you to your meeting and read from it. Still having trouble? Talk to your mentoring program manager and ask for his or her guidance.

Mistake: Missing appointments and expecting your mentor to reschedule. You are in the driver's seat and if you have to cancel, you should take the initiative to offer alternative dates/times.

Solution: Whenever you need to cancel, immediately offer a couple of other options. If you use a calendar planner in a program like Outlook, this can be done at the time you cancel the meeting.

Have you encountered any other mistakes that you've seen MPMs, mentors, or mentorees make? Share your thoughts on our Facebook wall or email me and we'll update this article.

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