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Managing Mentoring Challenges

No matter how long you've been a mentor, there will be challenges and situations that are new to you. Consider the following tips on how to manage these situations.

Mentoring across differences: race, culture, gender, and generation:

  • Make no assumptions:
    • Resist viewing each other as part of a category based on gender, race, age, or other characteristics.
  • Have an open discussion about cultural differences:
    • Have a basic level of respect for differences and the value of understanding and appreciating differences.
    • After time, there may be sufficient comfort to discuss differences in gender, culture, and generation.
  • Understand culturally different values:
    • Be willing to learn about your mentee's world and be open to his/her perspective.
  • Publicly support the mentee:
    • Invite mentee as a colleague to meetings and events.
    • Introduce mentee to colleagues and peers.
    • Coach mentee in graceful self-promotion.

Maintaining effective communication and giving constructive feedback is key to establishing a good relationship with your mentee.

  • Ask clear questions to understand the mentee's experience, assessment of the situation, and point of view.
  • Use specific, non-judgmental, descriptive language:
    • Use "I" statements. Give examples from your experience.
    • Focuses on specific behaviors, areas for growth, development and enhancement.
  • Acknowledge outside factors that may contribute.
  • Reassure mentee strengths and assets.
  • Ensure understanding by summarizing.
  • Give the other person an opportunity to ask questions or share their viewpoint.
  • Allow time and privacy for feedback.
  • Avoid or minimize distractions, set aside an uninterrupted time for your feedback session.
  • Try not to interrupt when the other person is responding.
  • Ask questions that will lead to self-reflection:
    • What is a step you can take to reach your desired outcome?
    • What are some ways you can address this challenge?
    • What resources are available to you?
    • What can I do to help you?

Problem-solving strategies are useful in any situation. When the mentoring relationship needs improvement, both mentor and mentee have the responsibility to have an open conversation regarding this.

Remember:

  • Early intervention is important.
  • Identify an appropriate space and time for discussion.
  • Specify needs clearly.
  • Be flexible in ways of handling the problem.
  • Develop a solution that works for both the mentor and the mentee.
  • Transparency on both sides is important.

Questions about the HSR&D website? Email the Web Team.

Any health information on this website is strictly for informational purposes and is not intended as medical advice. It should not be used to diagnose or treat any condition.