To make the most of the partnership, Sherman says, "We reviewed my responsibilities as a mentee, and my expectations and goals. We agreed to a meeting schedule and … that it was my responsibility to guide our conversations to make the most out of my time with her. She asks very powerful questions that really make one think."
With Bollinger's support, Sherman says she was able to oversee a major restructuring that eliminated $800,000 in expenses for Banner Health.
Kris McMasters, CEO of public accounting firm Clifton Gunderson, believes that the best mentors "make people think they can do things they don't even think they have the ability to do. They make them stretch."
McMasters, who has had a number of mentors over the course of her career, says Clifton Gunderson finds it best to match people up, using traditional methods, with mentors who have had experience in the same area of service, such as taxes, assurance, or accounting. That way, "they understand what it means to come up in that position."
Before McMasters became CEO, her mentor was her then-CEO boss. "He put the onus on me to be successful. He was not spoon feeding me," she says.
For example, "I went to him, I said I wasn't happy with the level of turnover. He said, 'write a strategy paper on what we should do differently.' I looked at other professional services organizations and met with him periodically. He made recommendations. At that time, I had no HR background. I learned a ton from it," McMasters says.
Sticking to a set of ground rules
Lois Zachary urges mentors and mentees to establish ground rules before they begin a relationship. "Put it all out on the table at the beginning. Talk about stumbling blocks. About confidentiality. How do you close the relationship if it doesn't work out?"
As a mentee, it's best to establish a process and always have a mentoring date on the calendar, Zachary advises. Ask your mentor for what you need. And ask yourself if you are making progress on your goals. "Make sure you are on track, don't just wait for things to go off the rails," she says.
Keeping the relationship on track is where social software can help, says Daniel Debow. "It's a shared private space for the two of you to keep notes [and] set goals."
And if you're handling the relationship professionally, there's no need to feel bad about taking up your mentor's time. "We hear in our research and interviews that the mentor gets more out of it than the mentee," Zachary says. Mentoring "gives them perspective. It reengages them and reconnects them to what they're doing. They learn about things going on in their company, in their field."