A One Word Definition for Mentor and Mentee

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By Beverly Kaye

I was sitting in a hotel lobby having just finished a keynote to a large global group of leaders – the subject was career development and the organization was about to launch a new initiative. While waiting for my airport shuttle, I watched two gentlemen rush cross the lobby from opposite sides and give each other a warm bear hug.  It looked so sincere that it made me approach them (comfortably since they were both in the audience) and inquire as to what made that warm encounter.

They replied, grinning, “We’re mentor and mentee and we haven’t talked for a while.”

As usual, my curiosity got the best of me and I asked the mentor, “What made your colleague a great mentee?” He answered without hesitation, “He was thirsty!”  I thought that was an excellent answer and I have continued to think about it ever since. When a mentor senses that a mentee is sincerely interested in learning, and is hungry for both information not only about the formal system, but the informal do’s and don’ts as well … the relationship will flourish.

When I asked the mentee what made his mentor so great, he replied with a single word definition too, “He was authentic!”  Again, a perfect word to describe what mentees really want.  They want to know about their mentor’s failures as well as successes, they want to know how they learned some of the lessons about how to negotiate effectively in the organization, and they want to hear some life lessons as well.

Perhaps, since January is National Mentoring Month, these two words – thirsty and authentic – might suffice as a quick test for mentor and mentee! I know those words have helped me as I continue to seek advice from others and offer it as well.

Download 31 Mentoring Tips and 31 Mentee/Learning Partner Tips




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