5 Ways to Foster Connection in Mentoring Relationships
NEW BOOK GIVEAWAY!!
20 copies available!!
Leave a comment on this guest post by Lisa Fain to become eligible for one of 20 complimentary copies of her book, Bridging Differences for Better Mentoring.
(Deadline for eligibility is 2/29/2020. International winners will receive electronic versions.)
We know that people perform better, find more professional satisfaction, and are more engaged at work when they create meaningful relationships with the people with whom they work.
Yet workplace conversations often feel transactional and perfunctory.
Mentorship is a powerful vehicle for connectedness, but only when the relationship is built on trust and connection.
5 tips for building better connection:
(in mentoring and managerial relationships)
#1. Own it.
Too many of us wait for the other person to extend themselves. If you want to create connections in your work relationships, take ownership of that responsibility.
Decide that you will take the initiative to build more trusting work relationships.
#2. Open up.
In any relationship, workplace or otherwise, people will mirror the behavior of the other person. To create real connection, you have to become a bit vulnerable and model the free exchange of information that you wish to see in the relationship.
#3. Ask good questions.
“Small talk” serves a purpose, but it won’t build relationships.
Go deeper with your questions—ask about a recent win, an issue they are struggling with, etc.
#4. Create continuity.
Did your mentor say she was going on vacation? Did your supervisor mention that he had a big presentation? Did you discuss a particular strategy with your mentee in your last meeting?
Continuity is essential for deepening relationships. Follow up on threads from prior conversations.
#5. Keep at it.
Meaningful relationships take time to build, and the willingness to form them varies by individual and culture. Be genuine and consistent, and you will see your relationships transform.
Now that you’ve been armed with the tools for greater connection and better workplace relationships, ask yourself which of these tips you will incorporate.
Lisa Fain is the CEO of the Center for Mentoring Excellence, the author of Bridging Differences for Better Mentoring, and an expert in the intersection of cultural competency and mentoring. Her passion for diversity and inclusion work fuels her strong conviction that leveraging differences creates a better workplace and drives better business results.
Work relationships can be incredibly rewarding! Being able to find the strengths of others and learn from them then also share your own strengths and experiences to make another better is a great way for a team to grow together. This book would be awesome I suspect!
I have always been looking for ways to grow and connect with others in the workplace. From finding a mentor to being a mentor. Always learning and passing it forward to others.
This reminds me so much of the “care personally” aspect from Radical Candor by Kim Scott. I am in the process of going through that book with my team in the coming months. I might be able to work some of this content into those conversations, so thanks for the post! Looking forward to reading more if my lucky number comes up.
I struggle with being “all business” at work and with those whom I work with. I appreciate this list and want to begin with questions deeper than small talk, and being fully present for the responses, such as turning from my computer to look at the person. Thank you.
While being open is crucial, how do you know that the other party would be a good mentor? What are the signs to look for? Just because someone is good at their job doesn’t mean they would be good at mentoring.
In a professional relationship, how much personal life do you share? It would seem to make it uncomfortable or awkward. If too professional, then it becomes too sterile and of little value.
My favorite tip is the last one. The greatest investment we make in relationships is putting in the time. Sadly, it’s a resource that we so willingly waste (I’m an offender!) I find that putting in small, daily, personalized efforts does so much more than annual team-building events. Those types of meetings have their place in supporting the harder, consistent work we do one-on-one.
The “Keep at it” rule is especially important because builds a history of trustworthiness. Trustworthiness is what people rely on when they are vulnerable, unsure, and practicing; a natural human process.
Amazes me how the most obvious also seems to be the most difficult to commit to and continue. Thanks for the words of advice on the NEED to connect with the team in not just a “transactional” manner but in a manner that will create meaningful, deep connections.
Show that you care, be more involved and strive to build your relationships on openness, trust and information (gained by talking and listening). We all need to make others feel important and share information with multiple parties. Get another person involved if that makes those involved more comfortable. The goal is for “us” to get better together.
Relationships at work are so critical to good outcomes. Love this blog.
Appreciate the wisdom – the more I learn about someone, truly desire to connect – the better my questions get when we meet. Then progress begins.
Great advice. I need to do more of the “owning” part.
Pingback: 5 Ways to Foster Connection in Mentoring Relationships
Getting past the small talk is important but I admit that I do not always do that as I am more on the introverted side. I will take this on as a challenge this week. Thank you.
Excellent Ideas. Sharing with our Mentors! Thanks for the ideas. 🙂
I learned as my role as an NCO in the Army and through my volunteer efforts that building true relationships was critical for both me, the other person and for our mission/work and personal success. Building rapport, trust, and sharing life help create that true relationship.. these are hard for me as an introvert, but rewarding and fulfilling on many levels. Great list of tips that help us all build better relationships, whether at work, at home, or anywhere.
I am happy to see more conversation about building stronger relationships at work. It’s critical as we spend so much of our time with our colleagues, we must develop a deeper relationship with them. We can use them to lean on when times are hard.
Indeed work relationships that get built on trust have the potential of significantly enhancing the effectiveness of the individuals and the team. In such a situation, the team benefits through a synergistic multiplier effect.
Trust develops when each team member is willing to stand for something which is bigger than himself or herself. Mentoring which uses this aspect as the underlying context can be immensely powerful.
Successful mentoring is really about the mentor supporting the mentee to move up the effectiveness ladder in terms of how he / she contributes viz. Doing it under supervision to doing it independently to doing it through others to setting a strategic direction.As an individual moves up in this manner, his contribution expands in terms of his influence, perspective,complexity and impact.
I read this and can’t help but think of the saying, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” As leaders, these tips provide a proverbial gut-check to remind us that we get out of relationships what we put into them, especially in the opportunities we have to mentor. I believe that as mentors, we can learn just as much if not more from our mentees and these don’t have to be formal relationships. Commit to helping everyone on your team grow and you will grow as well. Personally, a growth focus I’m working on is learning to be an active listener. With that in mind, I’m taking away a commitment to “ask better questions” and “create continuity” to bolster this skill.
Appreciate the steps. I continue to use them. Culture is, however, not always on the side of connection. Trust may be partial or not at all. Small talk is seen as intrusive and continuity is seen as policing. Building meaninful relationships takes hard work and lots of care.
Yes, stay at it! You cannot become discouraged or disengaged when it comes to mentoring. It requires you to be passionate, involved, invested and committed to the development of the person you are mentoring.
My personal mantra is that it is “ALL about relationships,” so I focus on investing in relationship building activities with my teams and encourage them to do the same. What is the secret sauce to helping others that are struggling, spending time finger pointing, blaming each other for their lack of relationship? Not a rhetorical question fellow leadership freaks. 🙂 Two of my best are really struggling with their relationship. I am sharing all my best material, talking through all the best advice I have read, thoughts????
Intentionally building relationships almost has to be a strategy in living life. Relationships take time and it’s even harder to keep them going. It is so easy to keep to yourself and to keep busy. It’s harder to leave room to build relationships. Whether you extend yourself through mentoring, or getting to know your neighbor, or keeping up with family members, if you are too busy then there is no space for relationships.
I’ve been challenged by this blog to mentor a bubbling young person in my life. She has good intentions, great ideas for a new ministry at church and yet she gets quiet when the team needs her to present her case, the team has reasonable questions. She and I will meet today to start a conversation and perhaps a mentoring relationship will begin…I’m excited because of what I may get out of this relationship too. This book sounds like it will have elements that will help the both of us.
I would like your book because I’m in a position of mentoring others and lack some confidence & believe your book will help me make some adjustments that I can become a stronger mentor! Thank you!
I appreciate the 5 tips for building those meaningful relationships in mentoring…I especially needed to hear the reminder to go beyond much small talk, as going deeper is what makes the time more useful and effective for both involved. Thanks for sharing.
I love to mentor and help people. Sharing knowledge and assisting someone learn is very rewarding. I always encourage my team to learn and grow. Seeing an employee grow and be promoted is one of the greatest feelings.
In order to be effective we have to care about and for the people around us.I find that I am most fulfilled at work when I can help the folks around me be successful and in many ways that starts with having a relationship with that person and understanding how I can affect their day to day satisfaction.
Much like you indicate, you have to keep at it and be consistent. Great post. Thank you
All great mentors are still growing. You never arrive. Thinking you have arrived delays you in the journey of wisdom. “It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.’ John Wooden
Great topic! Mentoring is a powerful resource both for mentors and mentees. It is important to not only build relationships with those around us, but to build meaningful relationships and know what our objectives are when making those connections. It’s also okay to outgrow a mentoring relationship once our primary needs are met, and to seek new relationships to fulfill other needs. It’s an evolutionary process, and helps to build a great network of connections and advisors to take with you on your journey and help with long term personal and professional growth.
Vulnerability is tough. We believe that is shows weakness. In reality it shows humanness. The fact is, whether we want to believe it or not, we are all human and all have human issues. It doesn’t mean we have to reveal our deepest and darkest vulnerability, but be more open to sharing those issues. These are great tips to start building relationships.
I think mentor/mentee relationships are so important in the workplace and is something that isn’t always well defined, especially in smaller companies like the one I work at. I think it is extremely important to have someone that you are working with to setup goals and achievements with or is available to talk to about professional and personal things. I think a mentor can be anyone in the company, not necessarily management, but even a peer that you feel comfortable talking to but also pushes you to meet your potential.
In my job I help to facilitate our internship program and the mentor/mentee mentality is something I really want to stress in our future programs. I think it is extremely important for those new and inexperienced employees to have someone to turn to ask all of the seemingly stupid questions or curiosities that they may be too embarrassed or intimidated to ask their boss. I think it is something that greatly increases the transitional period into a new position and helps employees feel more comfortable.
I am about to begin a mentoring relationship! This would be an excellent resource!
First things first has been a constant reminder for me in my relationship journeys – a reminder that I need to initiate.
These are great tips for anyone looking to expand a mentor relationship. I wish the younger me had access to this wisdom. Today, I strive to mentor those at the beginning of their careers in my field as it is much needed especially for those of us who are often left out of the inner circle.
I was a working mom who was held back in my career because of my personal responsibilities of raising young children. We still have a long way to go to support these women but providing mentoring is a great step in the right direction.
Thank you for relating to every day work. Relationship are so important in the work place. I would enjoy this book.
Everyone needs to remember to keep at it.
I loved my time as a middle manager and building a team. That’s when I found out how rewarding it was to help everyone on the team succeed…and we all succeed. THANK YOU for promoting this most necessary work environment again. It seems most work places and bosses are “too busy” for any interaction other than correction or “drill downs.” My mantras have always been: 1) praise in public, correct in private; and 2) a person who feels appreciated will always do more than expected. Long live the caring mentors. I hope I continue to be a consistent one in my workplace.
Open up and ask good questions. Love it!
I love helping people find their potential but sometimes there is that someone that has a wall and I need help finding the crack in the armor that I can start building a relationship to be able to have a good mentoring, if that is what’s needed, relationship or just a working friendship.
Relationships truly are the key to a successful team! I think the last one – keep at it – is my favorite. Good relationships won’t form overnight; you need to continue to work at them!
Today’s blog is perfectly timed for me. As someone who is naturally more task oriented than people oriented, I have to be intentional about connecting with others. This became evident in a recent 360 review and the information in today’s blog has given me the next steps I needed! THANK YOU!
This is post is so timely as I’ve recently realized how “surface” the relationships among teachers in our schools have become. We see ourselves as independent of a larger system and on islands of our own which is detrimental to the growth of our students. The first step to better collaboration is the willingness to be vulnerable enough to genuinely connect to our colleagues. As a coach and mentor I am constantly looking for ways to faciltate and model how to make connections with students and adults. I will definitely be exploring more of Ms. Fain’s work. Thanks for sharing!
After reading this post I can see where my connections and relationships both thrived and fell apart in the past. It also helps to correct my course with my current team members. It would be great to receive a copy of this book.
Thinking that what and how much to share, what is intrusive, what shows interest need to be given a great deal of thought in a work relationship. It is a delicate balance. Good article. I am interested in hearing more about culture and inclusiveness in regard to a fostering a mentoring relationship.
That was a very good read ! Work relationships are very important along with the trust that you have in your team! I would love a copy to be able to expand and minimize in the areas I need to ! Good luck everyone !
This can be especially challenging when you are managing remotely. It takes a premeditated effort to develop and maintain connections during and especially between face-to-face opportunities.
It definitely takes practice, at least for me it has. I love the reminder to “keep at it” because I found that early on I wouldn’t work hard enough at remembering the details I was learning from my employee conversations and it would become apparent when I’d miss an important life event. Thank you!
Fantastic tips to share with the team!
Work relationships are great. It takes time, but in the end, it adds to an enjoyable work environment that is open for suggestions and success.
For the first time in 24 years, I am struggling with relationships in the workplace and with finding a mentor. I have surpassed previous mentors but can’t seem to build new mentor relationships. It’s an unusual struggle for me.
Some people are easy to connect with, others I really have to work to connect but when we finally connect and they see that I care and they trust were on the same team everything works better.
I would love a book please!
Asking good questions seems like something we should have been teaching throughout school. That has definitely become one of the skills I have most tried to hone as a leader!
My team is promoting better relationships through mentoring. The first step is to establish trust. Trust empowers the team and eliminates bottle necks when decisions have to be made. To manage a good team, one has to be able to relate to them.
Thank you for the great ideas and reminders!
This was a good reminder to be intentional. I think that that is the one area that I struggle with the most. It is so easy to allow your schedule to dictate to you instead of dictating to your schedule. People are worth making the investment of our time in.
Great thoughts positioned in a way that can be acted on. This is an area I’m personally focusing on this year.
Good solid tips for building any relationship.
Being intentional – or taking responsibility for leading the way, as I prefer to think of it – is one that’s easily overlooked. A lot of people forget about it that – especially, if they’re shy, introverted and/or feel any way uncomfortable in the early stages of building a relationship.
Reminds me of Susan Scott’s book, in which a man figures out that the conversation he is having with his wife about the relationship IS the relationship!
Number 1 is a great place to start. Many times we may wonder why people are won’t reaching out to us; however they may be waiting on you. Someone has to take the initiative. If we want good relationships, we must be purposeful.
As servant leaders, we should make the first overture and “trust first”. For many and their organizations, this will start a culture shift. This “dis-equilibrium” will be healthy change and be a catalyst for growth on everyone’s part.
Love the first point, Own it! As a continuous Improvement Coach, I embrace the idea that creating the trusting relationship falls on me. It isn’t always easy, but necessary to see growth!
I think the “keep at it” is a lifelong professional and personal commitment – both to give and receive. This is especially challenging when you your geographical location tends to move every 2-3 years. Technology has connected us across the map; however, face-to-face mentoring brings the relationship to another level. This was a good reminder for me personally as I embark on the second phase of life and career.
I lead a mentor program through which I facilitate the initiation of these relationships between mentors and new hires. Somebody else in this threas already referred to Kim Scott’s work. Just as in the classroom, “we need to Maslow before we can Bloom.” I think most people in the field understand the importance of relationships between teacher and student, but fail to recognize the importance of such relationships among teachers. We must start here if we hope to get anywhere else. Thank you for this post. I will be sharing it with the group I facilitate through our online learning community.
Tip #2 about opening up is particularly difficult. That “vulnerability” thing is uncomfortable.
I recently decided to embrace vulnerability and try an alternate mentor model. I am a Senior Program Manager for our IS Strategy and feel I am lacking in IS knowledge. I found a Senior Programmer and asked her to mentor me on developer tools for our applications and our tech stack. Being a senior level employee and opening up to an individual contributor like this is intimidating; however, I hope it can become a model for others I work with.
Thanks for sharing. We’ve started a mentoring program at our organization and struggle most with the “own it” step, finding that taking the mentor matching into our hands leads to some loss of ownership/agency/influence over the relationship. While we continue to encourage self-matching, and will continue with the (overall) successful program, I’m excited to continue the discussion with my colleagues on how we can encourage self-direction in these essential relationships!
It’s always great when what you have been studying on your own, connects with what others share! We just had our leadership training today. In that, we were discussing how to lead your people, you must know your people. If you don’t know them, they won’t want to hear what you have to say.
As John C. Maxwell says, “You have to touch a heart before you ask for a hand.” Mentorship is about the other person. I love all the simple items you listed, that if done right, have a lasting impact. If you are a leader, you are in the people business. People are your greatest asset. If we are engaging, empower, and encouraging others, then we need to move out of the way and let someone else do it.
It’s an intentional act every day that make a difference.
Thank you for always challenging me, equipping me and for giving me a different perspective on things!
Just did this very thing with the women at church. So important
I come from a world where apprenticeships are the driving force in workplace relationships. The teaching and sharing of job knowledge is valuable, passing along trade knowledge. Moving into a role of leadership and management, I now see the value in mentoring. The similarity in mentoring to apprenticing is great; passing along character traits, lessons learned, knowledge and experience is the fundamental key to mentoring. Building relationships, developing people.
I loved the idea of #2. Open up. It takes a risk to open up and sometimes you are met with an awkward response and your heart may sink as you go into a moment of self-doubt. If you can choose to not take it personally and stay stuck in “What’s wrong with me” mentality most people do mirror your openness, interest, enthusiasm, and engagement. It is energizing and fun to make connections. #4. Create continuity is where the real magic happens because bringing up a tidbit from a past conversation shows interest and intentionality.
The consistency and discipline to keep at it and maintain the relationships has been a challenge for me. I know the value, see the value, then excuse myself because of fatigue and squeaky wheels. A few shifts going on in my internal prioritization right now…
Relationship building is a huge skill. I always feel that no matter how well you think you do this, you can always improve. I find that whenever I’m able to learn more about how to build these crucial relationships, the better manager I become. Love the tips!
What an excellent topic – this frequently surfaces in my leadership development courses. Look forward to learning more!
Building relationships are so vital with youth in today’s society
Excellent tips for of us who don’t attend to relationships enough.
Thanks. I always enjoy working with people. I consider us more as equals and just different roles. The leadership portion comes from “going first” on most issues. Someone explained it to me like this…put a length of string on a table. The leader will start at the head of the string and pull it towards the goal. It would be more difficult and messy to push the string towards the goal.
This is the #1 way to be inspired by and to inspire others. Those connections drive the desire to do better to help others.
thank you for all your good posts
I would love to share this book with my HR team.
I appreciate the “small talk” piece. I guess I have always thought small talk would at least start the ball rolling. I personally do not “need” or necessarily want small talk or relationship building to trust my people or mentors. I am convinced by actions they take. I have to be mindful that others do need it though and to be more thoughtful of it and do it!
Excellent tips. … And a picture’s worth a thousand words. I’m a dog lover and I know how much easier it can be to feel comfortable with canines. They love unconditionally and are loyal. It might have been more effective to support your great suggestions with a more coherent visual.
Great ideas, thank you. … And a picture’s worth a thousand words. I’m a dog lover and appreciate the unconditional love and loyalty our canine friends offer. I’d like to think I return it in spades. And I’m well aware there’s less effort involved than with humans. A visual more coherent with your human-to-human suggestions would have resonated more with me in this particular case.
My take away is being intentional with communication, asking questions to learn from the experiences of others and being vulnerable to open up to your challenges and growing through them!
Just joined a formal mentoring program. I’m very excited to get to know my new mentee and utilize some of these suggestions in our interactions!
I definitely do more of #3, even though it doesn’t come naturally. There are personal opportunities to grow everyday at work, if we will only strive to meet them.
Love this. We are currently struggling as a team with trust and I realize that it begins with me (1 of the leaders) to initiate meaningful conversations and “bridge the gap”. I am trying.
Hi Dan! I’ll love to win a copy of Lisa’s book!
Agree that better relationships at work does help to build engagement and motivation for one another. And in turn, better results and relationships. I am gradually seeing this at my work place..so I would love to learn more and be more effective in building meaningful relationships.
Relationships are important to discovering innovative ways of doing the work together!
Relationships are built upon the dialogue – alluded to in the five tips provided. I happen to believe it’s important to consider what everyone involved is saying (ourselves equally importantly) whether the INTENTION and/or INTERPRETATION of what is said is either OBJECTIVE (evidence exists to determine if it’s accurate) or is SUBJECTIVE (is a belief only – no evidence). The issues arise when the listener and the speaker see a statement made differently with regard to objective / subjective. The reactions and thus the dialogue continuation will clash … [In my experience, most frequently, statements are presented as objective are in fact subjective. The speaker has no evidence while the listener cannot really argue as it’s really only an opinion / a belief.]
Own it, ask questions, and keep at it! Great plan.
Great tips. The only thing I would add is that, when we ask good questions, we should listen (actively, attentively) to the answer.
I am interested in this topic.
Mentoring is so valuable in this fast pace of change within business! I certainly let look forward to learning how best to leverage such opportunities.
An interesting & thought-provoking post!
Mentoring Relationship is quite essential to train and develop a group of promising managers who will lead the team of executors with a planned agenda. The five tips as given are quite good and relevant to boost the morale up backed by positivity.
Trust is the foremost thing which needs to be brought in by convincing talks and the related examples of the recent past. Time Management can be yet an another key thing to be taken care.
Although I have social anxiety, I work on it to become a better person and have meaningful realationships with people.
Thank you for inspiring me.
Building the relationships is key to successful mentoring. Without a sincere relationship the mentee is not able to open up and be vulnerable, they will keep walls of safety and security up. Takign time to build a relationship is the edge of where change and growth occurs.
Owning it is such a great point. When you are building relationships (and your development) you cannot wait for it to be handed to you. I think starting with this one is a great way to reiterate that point.
I struggle with personal/professional balance. What is too much vs. what is not enough? Asking better questions is also something I’d love to dive into deeper.
I am thankful for those that mentored me. It helped to shape me to become the leader that I am today. In turn, I want to build that trust that will encourage those under my leadership to let me mentor them.
Mentoring is one of my greatest privileges in my work. Love investing in empowering, equipping and releasing people to be all they were created to be! Would love to learn more from your book!
Thanks for the thoughtful advice. As a business owner I am always on the lookout for better team building and mentoring strategies.
Vulnerability is one of the hardest to master especially if you have people that will take advantage of it. Great advice!
Seems so obvious and natural but we don’t spend so much time relating with others anymore, especially coworkers. In particular the younger employees have grown up and formed more electronic relationships so they have a higher hurdle to connect to others in person – they need to learn how to do it
I love the thought of slowing down to be more mindful of one another.
As my workplace evolves to include more teleworking I find it hard to establish/maintain strong relationships.
Trust is the number one when building a relationship; no matter what kind.
In my experience, you know mentoring is working well when it’s win/win and you feel the same rewards/benefits as the amount of work you put into it !
Fostering a mentorship takes a lot of effort and commitment both as a mentor and a mentee. It requires:
Who you choose as a mentor or mentee matters. When choosing a mentor, it requires having an awareness and understanding of the qualities and knowledge that the mentor possesses and from which you can benefit from. In addition, when agreeing to mentor someone, it requires recognizing that the individual has potential and a desire for self-improvement in order to make your effort worthwhile. Once a mentorship has been established, it demands quality time from both counterparts to allow the exchange of knowledge and advice. Openness and honesty are important for establishing the mentees baseline as well as from the mentor in the assessment and advice that is provided. Receptiveness by a mentee and willingness to put the effort for self-improvement are key to creating the change in the mentee. There is no timeline or timeframe to follow in a mentorship. Rather, it is a fluid relationship that requires a lot of time and effort since change can be slow. Ultimately, the best mentorships are not a one way exchange of information from mentor to mentee, but rather a receptive exchange of information from both counterparts.