When I think back on my career, I can’t help but see the influence of mentors and trusted advisors throughout. Mentor relationships can look very different, but are always valuable – on both sides. Whether you’re an experienced advisor or are leading someone for the first time, here are some tips based on my experience to help develop these relationships.

Remember who it’s about – What are your mentee’s or advisee’s expectations for the relationship or conversation? While you may have expectations of how the relationship should go, the focus should always be on them.  Ask questions to make sure you understand their personal circumstances, goals, and personality to give them the space to be their authentic self.

Listen up – Pay attention to what the mentee is saying, but also read the nonverbal cues. If they are asking for advice, provide it. If they just want a forum to vent, listen and maintain confidentiality. Are they feeling uncomfortable or defensive? Adjust your approach. By following your mentee’s lead, it can prevent you from dictating the conversation.

Set the scene – Rather than suggesting to an advisee what you would do, use your experience to give scenarios of the potential implications of a decision. When doing so, remind your mentee of the big picture and how the specific scenario plays into their long-term objectives. If they choose one side, what does that realistically look like? This allows them to come to the conclusion that best aligns with their goals and desires on their own. Providing personal examples can be helpful when relevant, but remember to acknowledge the differences between your scenarios to avoid discounting their feelings and frustrations.

Say you don’t know – Mentees will not expect you to have all the answers – so when you don’t, admit it! They will value your transparency and appreciate your concern for their best interests. If possible, use available connections to provide them with someone else that may have the answers they’re looking for. Access to different advice from others can only help bolster your mentee’s growth.

Informal is fine – Mentoring relationships that are informal and grown naturally can be just as valuable as, if not more than, formal mentoring programs at your workplace. Place significance on experience and trust, rather than age, rank, or position. In more cases than not, this trust will grow organically as your advisee begins to rely on your confidential wisdom.


Jamie is an Organizational Development Manager and Sendero’s 2017 UP Award Winner. Each year, the company nominates and selects an UP Award recipient as an opportunity to recognize Sendero colleagues who are demonstrating excellence in serving our People, Company, Clients, and Community.

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