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Avoiding Common Mentoring Pitfalls

Unfortunately, there are many common pitfalls that can derail a mentoring relationship before it has an opportunity to take hold.  Here are some of the most common and what you can do to avoid them:

Being unclear related to a role

It is important to understand the role you are playing in the mentoring relationship, what the expectations are, and what the intended outcome is.


Not investing the time

It is important to be patient with the process and take the time to get to know your mentor or mentee. A mentoring relationship grows with time and effort.  Invest time in getting to know one another and see how the relationship unfolds.


Modeling the mentoring relationship after previous ones

If you are the mentor, you may default to teaching the mentee from the perspective of what you needed at their stage in the career, instead of focusing on what your mentee truly needs (ie, “Back in my day, this is how we did things…”). It is important to focus on the developmental needs of the mentee and not model the mentoring relationship after a previous one. Each relationship is unique, and each mentee has different developmental needs.


Does not keep commitments/meeting times

Continually canceling or rescheduling meeting times sends the unintended message to the other party that the mentoring relationship is not a priority. Be sure to treat a mentoring relationship as a priority. In the rare circumstance that a reschedule is necessary, it is important to communicate to the other party as soon as possible and find a mutually acceptable reschedule time.


Lacking confidence

Confidence comes from clarity in your role, and your competencies as a mentor, and what you hope to learn as a mentee. If in order to grow, whether or not you are new to mentoring, it is important to seek out feedback, regardless of your being the mentor or the mentee in the relationship. As you gain experience in effectively approaching mentoring conversations, your confidence will continue to grow.

Alison Martin

Written by

Alison Martin is the Founder and Chief Learning Officer of Diverse Talent Strategies, a family of brands offering turn-key solutions for mentoring, women’s leadership initiatives, and recruitment. With roughly 15 years in nonprofit work, Alison has a passion for doing work that makes a difference in the lives of others. After serving as Executive Director at two different national nonprofit organizations, her commitment to her passion for developing female talent led her launch Mentoring Women’s Network. In her role, Alison acts as a liaison to a national committee responsible for the leadership development content for the organization and consults with corporations on the development and strategy aligned with initiatives for emerging female leaders. She is also the author of the book, “Landing on My Feet: Learning to Lead Through Mentoring” and speaks regularly on behalf of the organization

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