Managing A Mentor/ Mentee Relationship

Seun Igbalode Written by Seun Igbalode · 2 min read >

On Saturday, April 23, LBS organised a ‘Meet and Greet’ event for the 2022 mentors and mentees. It was a networking event to shed more light on the advantages of the mentorship programme while also physically connecting mentors to their mentees.

At face value, the mentor/mentee programme appears to be a straightforward arrangement: both parties agree to the arrangement, stick to the rules and everyone lives happily ever after. Judging however by some of the comments and questions raised at the event, the mentor/mentee relationship can sometimes be wrought with certain complexities. It obviously also has its advantages.

When the mentor is busy

A mentee alluded to the fact that when she calls, the Personal Assistant to her mentor picks up the phone. She wondered if she had the relationship with the PA or the mentor. Another mentee said the mentee told him on the phone rather curtly on the phone that she was busy, implying that she may not have time to mentor him. It took him having to go to her office without first booking an appointment to sort of ‘enforce his right to be mentored.’  

In response, Mr. Henry Onukwuba, the Academic Director, Global-Africa CEO Programme at LBS stated that mentors should make out time for their mentees. He also advocated that meeting schedules should be adhered to as much as possible.

Absentee mentees

Some of the mentors said their mentees never reached out. In making these assertions, the mentors stated matter-of-factly that the mentees were missing out big time on opportunities.

Length of relationship

I will compare the LBS mentorship programme to the product life cycle. There is the introduction stage, the growth stage, the maturity stage and then the decline stage (which I will describe as the end-stage). The timeline for the LBS mentor/ mentee relationship is between six months to one year. However, many of the mentors said some relationships have transcended the one year recommended period. These relationships have evolved from formal to familial.

One mentor said he has transformed from a mentor to a coach with the mentee being the ultimate beneficiary. According to him, he organises coaching sessions which are priced at $300 per hour. He however coaches his mentee for free. And some of the mentors testified that some mentees did not fulfil the mandate by seeing the relationship through.

Reverse mentoring

Mentors too can reap the benefits of mentorship. Whilst they pour in their wealth of knowledge and guide the growth of their mentees, the mentors can also benefit from reverse mentoring. One of the mentors said the input of his mentee was invaluable during his organisation’s digital transformation process.

The mentee’s input can also help culturally. A mentor was singing ‘Happiness, if I broke na my business……’ This mentee quickly corrected the mentor. It is not ‘Happiness, but ‘Ah finesse, if I broke na my business…….’ (I am sure you get the drift).

Level of intimacy

What is the extent of the intimacy of a mentor/mentee relationship? I will speak from personal experience. During my first meeting with my mentor, he spoke about his family (wife and children), his wife’s occupation, his religious beliefs, values and the like. To be honest, I was first taken aback because my expectation was that it would be formal. But he broke the ice which made it easy to also share personal details with him. The conversation was smoother and freer from that point since we broke the ‘formality barrier.’

Mr. Onukwuba recommends openness in the relationship, though this should be driven by the mentor. Mentors are encouraged to speak about their lives and also open up about the mistakes they may have made. The mentors should be of as much help as possible but should take cognisance of the fact that some details shared should be confidential.  

If properly managed, the relationship should be beneficial to both parties. It affords the mentees the opportunity of sitting on the shoulders of giants and giving them leverage in terms of opportunities and shared experiences to ensure they become better in every sphere of life. The mentors can also take advantage of the opportunity to gain from the skills and experience of their mentees, especially in areas where they have little or no knowledge in certain key areas.   

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