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skip level meeting Mentoring Tips – Beware of The Awe Factor

Our Mentoring Tips series starts with a look at a hidden barrier which we call The Awe Factor. Most of us believe that the best mentoring is when the mentee takes responsibility for its success. The Awe Factor can prevent this.

Its roots lie in the fact that mentors are frequently senior to their mentee. Research tells us that, when the Awe Factor occurs, mentees struggle to feel confident in the mentoring relationship. This, potentially, limits its success. The research suggests that some mentees

  • Feel reluctant to take ownership and lead the meetings
  • Have trouble viewing their mentors as partners
  • Are afraid to admit mistakes to their mentors in case it influences perceptions
  • Are reluctant to challenge robustly or disagree with viewpoints

This issue can, unwittingly, be exacerbated by the mentors. Natural leaders, they will find it easy and instinctive to get into the driving seat. This, of course, compounds the problem.

In such circumstances, it takes much longer than necessary for mentees to take ownership for the relationship. It also reduces the amount of learning that takes place.

What’s worse, the research suggests that mentors, when working with these mentees, make judgments about their performance and potential.

What mentoring tips can help a mentee do if they are falling victim to the Awe Factor?

  • Feel pleased that they have recognised it!
  • Make time to find out more about your mentor and discover the human side
  • Take the lead early and set the agenda for discussions
  • Discuss the issue with someone; their boss, scheme manager or a colleague
  • Take a deep breath and discuss it with their mentor

Organisations and scheme managers can do a lot to minimise the impact of the Awe Factor:

  • Mentor training should highlight the risk and help mentors to recognise it
  • Mentee training should discuss it, reassure mentees and suggest ways to minimise it
  • Set clear expectations about roles and responsibilities and set up effective contracting
  • Ensure a good matching process is in place
  • Organise a social or informal event for them to meet each other before mentoring starts

Our next Mentoring Tips article discusses mentoring conversations and how to maximise their power and learning potential.

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