Trust in a mentoring relationship is a must. This video outlines five ways to build trust with your mentor.
- Can you think of a time at work when someone earned your trust, or when someone betrayed your trust? Trust is the foundation of most effective relationships. This is especially true for mentoring. Trust is defined as being truthful, consistent, and transparent. Let's look at five ways to build trust with your mentor. First, assess the trust in your relationship with your mentor. To help you reflect on the trust you have with your mentor, I have developed a mentoring trust assessment tool.
This tool is available in the Exercise Files. Here are a few questions from the tool for you to consider. Do I communicate honestly with my mentor? Do my actions match my words when I'm working with my mentor? Do I share personal stories with my mentor? Second, build trust by taking a risk and self-disclosing. For example, recently I had a protege who had been mentoring all year long. Our relationship had gone from great to awful in just a few months.
She was not returning emails, and was canceling meetings. When I finally did meet with her I was annoyed, but I asked her what was going on. I was shocked when she shared that she was a cancer survivor, and she had been unavailable because she had experienced a reoccurrence scare and had been coping with that. At this point, I had a choice. I could choose to express my sympathy and pivot the conversation back to career topics, or I could match my protege's level of disclosure and go deeper, which is what I did.
I shared with her that I too was a cancer survivor. This defining moment in our relationship initiated by my protege's self-disclosing really accelerated our mutual trust in each other. Third, keep secrets sacred and be your mentor's best advocate. The more comfortable your mentor becomes with you, the more your mentor will share. Research by scholars including Eby and Scandura investigating toxic mentoring relationships demonstrates conclusively that failing to keep your mentor's confidences private is one of the most damaging acts you can perform.
Also, whenever you have the opportunity, act as an advocate and agent for your mentor. Writing an endorsement on LinkedIn is a great way to do this. Always share your mentor's accomplishments, not their secrets. Fourth, be a truth teller to your mentor. In my research I spoke with a general who talked about how his protege built trust by serving as a truth teller to him. He said as a leader he was surrounded by people who praised and agreed with him.
He said truth was a scarce commodity. The general's protege became one of the few people in his network that would tell him the critical feedback he needed to hear. Fifth, set and communicate boundaries. As a protege, you need to decide, what are your boundaries with your mentor? For example, several years ago I was the mentee of someone who was going through a difficult divorce. I felt very uncomfortable when he shared his marital woes, and I told him that.
My mentor was embarrassed, but really respected that I communicated my boundaries. As we get closer to people it's natural that our boundaries get tested, so just listen to your gut and speak up to your mentor if this happens. Trust is the foundation for successful mentoring relationships. The most important idea here is that if you want to build trust with your mentor, you must be trustworthy.