Skip to main content

Working With Your Mentoring Partner

At Project Thrive, we like to think of there being a ‘secret sauce’ to a successful tech mentoring relationship. If you play along with the metaphor, we’ve picked out four key ingredients that make up this secret sauce to mentoring success, all of which are important for mentors and mentees to use.

1. Collaboration 🤝

A mentoring relationship is a bidirectional relationship. No one person should be the owner of the relationship. A mentor isn’t a teacher in the traditional sense and should never be expected to have all the answers. They should also not be the only one setting the agenda. Mentees should bring a clear idea of what they want to learn from their mentors and play an equal role in setting the agenda.

On the other hand, a mentor also needs to know that a mentee shouldn’t be the only one with a growth mindset; there’s a lot they can learn from their mentees. By asking questions, mentees may even challenge any 'fixed' assumptions and narrow approaches to problems that their mentors might be holding onto.

2. Communication 💬

Communication between you and your mentoring partner should always be open and clearBoth of you should feel as though you can discuss anything relevant that’s on your mind while being open to constructive feedback. If you get into the habit of holding back, it can be difficult to return to a place of transparency. Communication is not only something that takes place within meetings but also between meetings. When beginning a mentoring relationship, it’s important to make clear what kind of communication is okay and what communication channels are best to use. For example, it should be decided from the get-go if asking questions or sharing resources is okay outside of meeting hours, if weekends are a ‘zero-comms’ period, or what the process is if one of you forgets any of the boundaries you decided on! If you’re looking for a handy template, check out our mentoring agreement template.

To be sure, we’re all human and sometimes things can happen that lead to slow or unclear communication. But it’s always good to remind yourself that there are two people involved in a mentoring relationship. Even sending a small “Hey, I’ve seen your message but can’t get to it right now” can go a long way in keeping the other person the loop (and nobody likes to be ghosted 👻).

3. Curiosity 🐱

Curiosity is all about asking questions. It’s the kind of ingredient that enables you to be open to learning something you might have otherwise missed. Curiosity can also sometimes save you from making incorrect assumptions. For example, imagine if a mentoring partner doesn’t manage to get around to completing a task that you both og you agreed on in your previous meetup. Instead of approaching the situation with immediate disapproval, opt for curiosity and ask a question: “Is everything okay? How’s your week going? What do you feel prevented you from getting around to this task? Have we overestimated something in our agenda?”. Asking questions gets you closer to identifying why something didn’t go as planned and gives you more to consider when trying to move forward.

Did You Know...

Curiosity isn’t only something that can be directed outward towards others; it can also be a useful introspective tool. For example, curiosity in the form of asking yourself questions is essential to setting clear and relevant goals.

4. Proactivity ⚓️

Being able to self-initiate behaviour underlies many of the above ingredients for success, and is especially important when building your relationship with your mentoring partner. Collaboration, communication, and curiosity all involve a healthy dose of self-initiation and forethought. Don’t wait around for the other person in the relationship to reach out or suggest doing something new—you reach out (this applies to both mentors and mentees by the way). In many ways, the act of goal-setting is in itself proactive. But the steps taken towards those goals also require you to be proactive: What do you need to do now to get closer to those goals you set out for yourself?