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Best Practices: Building Positive Mentoring Relationships

When mentoring relationships fail, the cause can often be traced back to a mismatch between actions and expectations. When people enter into a relationship with differing ideas about important issues, such as time commitment or confidentiality, good will and good intentions may not be able to prevent a potentially damaging misunderstanding. Some of the best practices of building and maintaining positive mentoring relationships involve clarifying expectations as early as possible—yours as well as theirs.

Understand your own needs before you begin to approach new mentoring partners. “Drill down” to the specifics whenever possible. For example, asking someone for help with a new class that you’re teaching is different from asking for help developing active learning exercises that can work in a large lecture setting.

Respect the time constraints of your mentoring partner, and recognize that the best mentors are often highly sought out by others. Try to decide how often the two of you would like to or are able to meet, whether your interaction will be mostly in person or online, if your mentoring partnership will cover more general topics or more specific ones.

Recognize that the things you discuss with your mentoring partner are confidential. Usually, it is worthwhile to make sure your mentoring partner has the same understanding.

Remember to thank and acknowledge your mentoring partners as often and appropriately as possible. And if an opportunity arises to put your skills and experience to use to help your mentoring partner, be sure to reciprocate.

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