A former colleague of mine — from back in the days of my IBM career — tracked me down recently through LinkedIn. His name is Lex and what prompted him to reconnect was that he wanted to get my thoughts on how he could pursue a change in profession to project management.   

After a brief exchange of emails, we decided to discuss his questions over the phone. I’m not really sure how — what happened next — happened, but a 30-minute phone call intended to respond to a few questions about project management ended with a request to consider entering into a mentoring relationship with Lex.   

A Mentor. Me?  Am I qualified? Do I really have the time? How would this work given that Lex lives in New York and I live in Kentucky? Well, within a week after our phone call, Lex had it all laid out. Here’s what he proposed:  

  1. The mentor/mentee relationship will be a learning and sharing experience for both parties, not just a one-way communication.   
  2. The mentor and mentee will be honest, trustworthy and discrete as both will be sharing experiences and situations which may be confidential or sensitive.  
  3. The mentor will share ideas — based on experience — on how to address difficult situations or choosing the best option in a situation where multiple approaches are available. The mentee will decide what he/she will use and then provide feedback to the mentor.  
  4. The mentor will share professional development ideas in the way of education, training, project engagement types, and/or industries in which to work so as to grow the mentee’s capabilities and professional competencies.  
  5. The mentor will leverage his/her professional network to assist the mentee in achieving his/her professional objectives. 
  6. The mentee will schedule a recurring meeting with the mentor with the objective of discussing professional topics as well as specific things that the mentee has been working on to grow professionally.   
  7. The mentor and mentee will communicate additionally as needed.  The mentee may be experiencing a situation where the mentor’s assistance may be helpful or the mentor may have something he/she feels is worth sharing with the mentee. 

WOW!  How could I say “no” to something so well thought out?  Recognizing that things will evolve over time, Lex and I agreed to move forward.  After a couple of months, I must admit that things are going very well.  I’ve had some time to reflect on my experiences thus far and have these tips to share: 

  • Establish a level of ground rules.  As you can see from above, Lex is a master at that J 
  • Be committed.  Scheduling and participating in that recurring meeting is critical as are those timely emails, phone calls, texts, etc. 
  • Accept that you are not the expert. Sharing experiences is what it’s all about.   
  • Be willing to switch positions.  Many times I find I’m learning more from Lex than he is from me. 
  • Be flexible and creative.  Don’t forget to have fun!  

 QUESTION:  Mentoring…Is it Worth It?  ANSWER:  ABSOLUTELY!   

About the Author

Sue Knies, PMP, CSSBB is the Director of Practice Management and Instructor with Solarity. Sue provides consulting services to organizations by managing key projects, and working with employees to improve and strengthen their project management skills. As an instructor, she develops and enhances courseware, teaches and mentors students in project management, and helps translate best practices and principles into approaches that are readily understood and utilized. Prior to joining Solarity, Sue had a long and distinguished career with IBM, working with worldwide, cross-divisional teams, collaborating with clients, and managing projects that yielded client solutions, drove growth and expanded wallet share. Sue currently serves on the PMI® KY Bluegrass Chapter Board as the VP of Programs and actively shares her skills by volunteering with her church on several committees.

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