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Whether you’re a first-time mentor or have guided your fair share of mentees through career milestones, understanding the impact of the role is important. From providing career guidance to teaching them the skills they need to progress in their career within the association industry, your relationship can have a lasting impact. 

However, despite the best intentions, there are mistakes that can derail even the best mentor and mentee relationships. 

Related: Everything You Need to Know About Mentorship Learn More >

The Major Mentoring Pitfalls

While there are plenty of ingredients that make for a good mentor, shortcomings are what often derail a mentorship relationship. So what are mentor mistakes, and how can you overcome them? 

1. Forgetting to Set Clear Expectations

While some mentors are ready to commit to weekly meetings and 24/7 availability, that might only work for some. And that’s fine, so long as your mentee understands that ahead of time.

Some of the things you should agree on within the first few meetings are:

  • How often and when you’ll meet. 
  • How a mentee can reach a mentor should they need something.
  • How long the mentorship relationship should last. 
  • A few goals mentees are looking to accomplish.
  • Any issues mentees are struggling with today. 

The better you understand a mentee’s current situation, needs and aspirations, the better you can work to serve them. Also, both parties should understand this is a commitment on both ends – know your availability, and if you don’t have the time, be upfront from the start. 

2. Acting as a Coach, Not a Mentor

While you want to be able to help your mentee, you can’t stand in the way of their progress and growth either. 

Although coaching and mentorship have overlaps, there are also significant differences. For starters, as a mentor, you’re often looking at holistic and overarching challenges for your mentees, like their skills growth and career trajectory, whereas a coach focuses on one specific task, like preparing for a presentation.  

Similarly, while you may want to tell your mentee precisely what to do, the reality is they need to learn. You may have the blueprint to solve a particular problem, but it’s your blueprint. A mentor’s responsibility is to help mentees find their path to a solution, not stunt their growth by providing all the answers. 

3. Avoiding Vulnerability

A mentoring relationship is only as good as the personal connection that’s made. Your mentee has to be comfortable enough to come to you with the issues they’re facing. So, if you put up a facade that you know everything and have never had a struggle in the world, chances are they won’t feel comfortable talking about their problems. 

The reality is you’ve faced failures at some point in your career, and you’ve learned from them. Being open about your trajectory, challenges and even failures can be a tool to connect with your mentee and ensure an open and honest relationship. 

4. Forgetting Your Limitations

For many, a mentoring relationship is focused on growing and gaining particular skills for career advancement. Although you may have the right experience to help your mentees with their specific needs and situations, understand that you won’t always have the answers. Don’t be afraid to tell your mentee you don’t know the answer to a problem. 

But don’t stop there: Look to your network and see if there’s an opportunity to connect them with someone who can help. And remember, being able to connect your mentee with others is just as important as the lessons you offer. 

Of course, if you’re in a leadership role within an association, use these as learning opportunities. Organizations still carry the responsibility of providing professional development for their staff, and your mentoring relationships can be a great way to empower staff and members. 

Related: 6 Keys to Implementing Effective Professional Development in Your Organization Learn More >

Finding the Balance in Mentorship

Mentorship requires a lot of give and take. Not only do you need to be committed to the process, but you also need to know how to avoid getting in the way. By setting clear expectations, avoiding coaching and allowing for vulnerability, you can avoid those common mentor mistakes and give back to your association community.

Jose Triana
Post by Jose Triana
October 20, 2022
Jose Triana is a writer and creative focused on helping purpose-driven organizations learn and find value online. When he isn't working on content, you can catch him going for a run or resting with a good book.