The first step of mentoring – define your goals

Since I was profiled in, I have been busy meeting many mentors and mentees who are eager to join my mentor network platform, NBT Mentors.

I have also been busy meeting with many universities and organizations that see the value of an official mentorship program that they can uniquely brand and customize. I keep hearing time and time again that working with a mentor is one of the most valuable tools in helping people to accelerate success in their careers, but very few seem to have a meaningful way of approaching mentorship.

For this reason, I feel good about what I’m doing.

One of the things that comes up in most conversations about mentorship, is that people understand the value of it, but few know where to begin. Luckily, I’ve spent some time researching this and have put all the best practices I’ve learned into my platform.

For starters, my first piece of advice when meeting with a potential mentor or mentee, is to have a really open and frank discussion about your goals. For example, it’s fine to have regular chats or discussions with your mentor or mentee, but thoughtfully defining your goals and planning out the process to accomplish them will help facilitate a faster and better experience, and outcome.

I recently spoke with a friend of mine, David Barrett, who is a professor and the executive director of Ivey Business School, and also specializes in the concept of “lean management”. In his spare time, David coaches senior level hockey and has a lot to share about coaching people and businesses. We spoke about a number of things including how he has benefited from mentors during his life and his approach to mentoring and coaching today. Our full discussion can be found here on my NBT Mentors Blog.

I took away many things from our discussion but one thing that really stood out is his take on the concept of “lean” when it comes to business – or anything for that matter. As a professor, coach and someone who has spent much of his career consulting with businesses, he often spends much of his time working with people on ways to do things better and more efficiently.

In business, he sees it as, “how do we stop doing the things that take up time and resources that the customer doesn’t even value?” If only we all approached our work this way!

It’s tough sometimes to take a step back and truly pinpoint the least necessary or meaningful work. This concept can be applied to the mentorship process as well. One thing David champions is the notion of defining goals early. This can be applied to both mentors and mentees.

From my experience, my research and my meetings with many people in the workforce, I now strongly believe that mentees should come to each meeting with a clear list of their goals, as well as a suggested path to accomplish them. You can’t achieve your goals if you haven’t set them out to begin with, and a mentor will want to see that you’ve taken some time to identify what you think is the best way to achieve success.

And, setting out a way to measure these goals is just as important, even though this might appear to be difficult at first.

For example, if a mentee is just coming out of school and working in a field that may not be their ideal one, a goal of securing a role in a field of his/her choice could be the end goal. Conversely for a mentor, an achievable goal could be to help his/her mentee define what it is that makes him/her happy or will make him or her happy in the long run. In this way, having defined the goals of both the mentee and mentor, the long-term plan for the mentoring partnership will also take shape and can be measured and managed over time.

So to summarize, during the mentorship process, you must establish what people value, what your end goal is, map out the most efficient process to try and achieve those goals and then continuously evaluate whether all efforts being made are driving towards those objectives in a meaningful way. In a nutshell, applying the concept of “lean” to the mentorship process will go a long way to achieving tangible, measurable results in a highly efficient and effective way.

If you’re interested in gaining value through mentorship or want to learn more, please visit!

Robert Buren
Robert Buren
In 2008, NBT Mentors’ founder, Robert Buren, suffered a traumatic injury while mountain biking near his home in Oakville, Ontario. The accident left him paraplegic and having to learn to live without the use of his legs, as well as the many complications that accompany a spinal cord injury. Unable to work full-time anymore, but compelled to continuing being productive and contributing in some way, the idea of a Mentoring association evolved. Launched in the fall of 2017, NBT Mentors is seeking to partner with those corporations and institutions that share in our vision and realize the value of giving back.

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