As we grow professionally, it is beneficial to pursue both informal and formal mentor/mentee relationships, The world is changing rapidly, and how we grow, respond, evolve, succeed and thrive will continue to change. Having trusting relationships with others in order to discuss key issues, exchange ideas, challenge thought processes and just be ourselves is critical to forward momentum in our careers and the success of the organizations where we work and lead.
Ask 10 different people what the definition of a mentor is, and you will likely get 10 different answers. However, positive mentoring relationships all have one common component: a trusting relationship between the mentor and the mentee.
Unfortunately, mentoring is becoming more challenging in today’s world. A recent survey done by the Business Record (3.29.2019) indicated 81% of the respondents believe men are less likely to mentor a woman since #MeToo. While I fully support the increased awareness and transparency that is happening due to #MeToo and other similar movements, we have to be vigilant that opportunities for mentoring relationships do not diminish because of concerns raised about trust.
Not only can men and women collaborate to create workplace environments where we have equality in all aspects, we can also work to ensure we have mentoring relationships that foster the development of all employees, both men and women.
So what steps can we take to ensure mentoring relationships are positive experiences in today’s world? Consider these simple tips to increase the professionalism (and trustworthiness) of any current or future mentoring relationship.
1. Always have a recommendation from someone you trust before meeting with a potential mentor. Ask that person to perform a virtual introduction between you and the potential mentor, whether it is for one meeting or an ongoing relationship.
2. When you connect, plan to meet in public or in an office or conference room with a window or glass door.
3. Personal contact such as hugs, a hand on the arm, or other seemingly casual gestures should be rare. Everyone has a different opinion on this, but if in doubt, don’t do it. If this naturally evolves over time, it would be with the trusting agreement of both parties.
4. If you are uncomfortable meeting one on one, consider setting up a mentoring small group, allowing one or more mentors to work with one or more mentees on a variety of topics.
Mentoring can and should continue to be a part of one’s professional development plan. It is up to all of us to ensure those opportunities continue to exist for men and women alike. We truly are better together.
Ashley Hunt specializes in public affairs, social and digital media, and event management. Ashley also serves on several community and local boards and commissions. She serves on the Iowa Civil Rights Commission and is a board member for 50-50 in 2020, a nonprofit, nonpartisan, issue-neutral organization dedicated to achieving political equity for women in Iowa. Additionally, she currently serves on the Downtown Des Moines Chamber of Commerce’s LEAP Series Advisory Council.