Two HR leaders weigh in on building relationships with mentors

Two HR leaders weigh in on building relationships with mentors

4000 2667 Brenda Akinyi

Cellulant’s Rose Gichure and WWF’s Victor Komu share how to build a fruitful relationship with your mentor.

Through mentorship, we have the opportunity to learn from another person’s journey. A great mentor-mentee could be the difference between you learning the lessons “the hard way” or sidestepping mistakes in your professional journey.

Having busy professionals lend their time and energy to us means that we must be intentional about how we cultivate and manage such relationships. We spoke to two HR leaders in Kenya about what it means to have a mentor and how to go about ensuring that we get the most value from our interactions with our mentors.

First, we spoke to Rose Gichure, Group Talent Manager and HRBP at Cellulant in Nairobi. Rose has been at Cellulant for about 1.5 years and previously, she was a Recruitment Specialist at Rose Avenue Consulting Group.

Why is it valuable to have a mentor?

Having a mentor is like having a sounding board to bounce off ideas, an accountability partner to create boundaries and keep you on your toes, a parent to discipline you if needed, a friend to offer encouragement and a cheerleader to keep you going,  all bundled into one.

They are rooting for you, calling you out on your bulls****, and believe in you even when you are about to give up. A mentor will always be brutally honest with you and tell you exactly how it is rather than downplay any weaknesses they see in you.

You can tap into their wealth of knowledge, networks, as this shortens your learning curve. A mentor does not tell you what to do; they point you in the right direction; while asking you the right questions that enable you to put together a masterpiece. They have experiences you can learn from.

Having a mentor is not a sign of weakness; it shows you are smart enough and driven enough to succeed.

How can you be a great mentee?

Being a great mentee is hard. The journey is hard, but the fruits of success are fulfilling. You have to be disciplined, take criticism and accept your faults, be willing to be stretched and grow. My advice is to adopt a Growth Mindset and a Beginners Mindset.

Beginner’s mindset means taking on the curiosity of a child and wanting to learn new things, accepting that you do not know it all. A growth mindset means accepting to learn new ways of doing things vs always having a fixed mindset about how things should happen.

Next, we got valuable insights from Victor Komu, HR and Administration Manager at WWF Kenya. Victor has been with WWF for over six years and was previously a Human Resource Partner at English Press Limited.

What are the key things I need to keep in mind while developing a relationship with my mentor?

Developing and maintaining a relationship with your mentor involves understanding and building on several things:

  • Which roles would you want your mentor to play? – A guide, role model, professional friend, thinking partner, challenger or performance coach.
  • What your first conversations are about – These should revolve around getting to know each other, building trust and agreeing on how to work together.
  • Begin to define your goals: – What does success look like for you? In addition to this;
  • Understand the setting in your relationship – Make sure you and your mentor agree on the expectations & are establish a level of confidentiality.

What does a mentor expect of their mentee?

As a mentee, trying to get the most value out of your  relationship is on you; hence, it is important to know what is expected of a mentee:

  • Initiate and drive the relationship – Be clear on the assistance you need. Find the right people in your circle, whom you believe would provide the necessary guidance. In addition to this, always follow through on commitments.
  • Allocate time and energy – Communicate more and schedule time to catch up on your progress regularly. Most mentors, while willing to help are always busy; hence, you must value their time.
  • Take an active role in your learning – Challenge yourself. While every person’s success story is in many aspects different, a recurring theme in all of them is the dedication, time and focus required to ensure that you master your craft.
  • Openness and honesty – A mentor-mentee relationship creates a ‘safe space’ that gives room for vulnerability. Feel free to open up to your mentor on what challenges you are facing as this will help you identify any areas of improvement. Remember asking for help is not a sign of weakness. It takes courage to accept that you need a hand to help you reach greater heights.

Thank you so much to Rose and Victor for sharing these valuable insights and tips! We agree with Rose that “All in all, the world is a better place when we learn from the ones who have gone before us and then pay it forward by mentoring others when the time comes.”

Now, we’d love to hear from you too! Have you had the privilege of being mentored or mentoring someone? Let us know some of the things that helped you build and maintain a relationship with them. Read more on how to pick your perfect mentor.