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January 2020
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4 Ways to Test Mentoring Assumptions
TD Magazine

4 Ways to Test Mentoring Assumptions

When mentoring partners make assumptions about one another or about their mentoring partnership without checking them for accuracy, it can lead to misunderstandings and erosion of trust and communication. Here's how you can start your relationship the right way.

1. Create awareness.

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Checking out assumptions at the beginning of your relationship prevents disappointment and disengagement. Before you jump in, reflect on the assumptions you hold about your role in the relationship, your mentoring partner's role, and about mentoring in general.

2. Share assumptions.

Set aside time to share your assumptions. A mentor may assume that the mentee knows what he wants. However, the mentee may not, especially if mentoring is new to him.

3. Ask questions.

Seek clarity and mutual understanding by asking probing questions. Then discuss the implications of what you learn. For example, a mentee may be looking for answers and solutions while a mentor sees her role as helping the mentee figure out how to find answers on his own.

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4. Establish realistic agreements.

Clarify what you and your mentoring partner are willing and capable of contributing to the relationship. Don't assume that your mentoring partner has the same time availability as you do. Agree on a realistic time commitment.

About the Author

Lois J. Zachary is an internationally recognized expert on mentoring. She has been cited as “one of the top one hundred minds in leadership” today. Her book, The Mentor’s Guide, first published in 2000 and revised in 2012, is the primary resource for organizations interested in promoting mentoring for leadership and learning and for mentors seeking to deepen their mentoring practice. With her bestselling books Creating a Mentoring Culture (2005), The Mentee’s Guide: Making Mentoring Work for You (Jossey-Bass, 2009, with coauthor Lory Fischler), and the The Mentor’s Guide, five Mentoring Excellence Pocket Toolkits, and over one hundred published articles, Dr. Zachary has created a comprehensive set of resources for facilitating the practice of individual and organizational mentoring excellence.. Earlier this year her collection of poetry and reflection My Mother Has the Finest Eyes was released. Dr. Zachary is president of Leadership Development Services, LLC, a Phoenix-based consulting firm that specializes in leadership and mentoring, and director of its Center for Mentoring Excellence. Her innovative mentoring approaches and expertise in coaching leaders and their organizations in designing, implementing, and evaluating learner-centered mentoring programs have been used globally by a wide array of clients, including Fortune 100 companies, government organizations, and educational and other institutions, both profit and nonprofit.

About the Author

Lisa Fain is the Center for Mentoring Excellence’s CEO and a leader in diversity and cross-cultural competency. Her passion for diversity and inclusion fuels her strong conviction that leveraging differences creates a better workplace and drives better business results. As senior director of diversity and inclusion at Outerwall Inc., Lisa spearheaded the development, establishment, and implementation of its diversity initiative. For over a decade, Lisa practiced law in a major multinational firm, where she counselled employers on creating inclusive policies and practices. She is a master facilitator, having trained thousands of employees at a variety of companies on how to create a better workplace and create better leaders through mentoring. Lisa also founded Vista Coaching, now a division of Center for Mentoring Excellence, which provides group coaching for professional women looking to design and live their best lives. She holds a BS in social policy from Northwestern University and a JD from Northwestern University’s School of Law.

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