Establishing Great Mentoring Partnerships

By Tenny Mickey, PhD

It has been proven that people in organizations who are receptive to positive mentoring enhance their performance faster, enjoy more positive exposure, and appear to enjoy their work better than those who are not. Effective mentors also derive great pleasure from supporting others as they advance their careers. A relationship built on trust and respect creates a secure and safe environment for mentoring to take place. It is often confounding when thinking about why more people are not involved actively in mentoring relationships. I will discuss some of the challenges related to developing and sustaining a positive mentoring relationship in this article. Also, I believe that mentoring between two people must be a partnership. In this article, I will make references to the terms “mentor”, ” person being mentored”, and “mentoring partnership.”

First, I believe a mentor is someone who has a deeper level of experience in organizations. By this definition, the critical factor is the experience the mentor enjoys in a specific area. Many people make the mistake of believing a mentor must necessarily be older with many years of experience. I have found many people who have developed specific levels of expertise early in their careers are equally experienced. Some early career mentors have displayed a knack for a specific skill, an interest, and has taken the opportunity to deepen their skills in a specific professional area. So, let’s be more open as to whom will be the best mentor for specific needs and interests. As seen with the ubiquitous opportunities to upskill through technology usage, one’s skill-set is not necessarily a function of one’s age or interest in mentoring others.

An important behavior for a mentor is the willingness to share knowledge and experiences in a manner that supports the growth aspirations of the person being mentored. A mentor is super interested in the success of the person they are mentoring. The mentor must be experienced enough to help the person being mentored clarify their interests, set goals, and develop a process to achieve those goals. A mentor should also have a greater sense of how their experience and your goals will impact future organizational decisions. Throughout the mentoring partnership, the mentor should have broad enough experiences to support the person being mentored as they work through challenges that will no-doubt emerge as their knowledge increases and roles advance.

The mentor’s responsibility is to create a relationship that gives room and space for the person being mentored to learn. A common mistake occurs when people believe mentoring is about teaching how things should be done. Successful mentors rely upon their effective listening skills as indicative of their respect, caring for, and a genuine interest in the other person… the building blocks of trust.

The above foundational pointers suggest that the mentor and person they are mentoring should establish the ground rules for the mentoring partnership at the very beginning. Together, they must decide if the relationship will have a formal arrangement, an informal one, or a combination of these two. The mentoring partners should also discuss what each believes will describe an effective and comfortable mentoring partnership. They should be clear on the amount of time each person will be able to commit to the relationship. By having this conversation first, each partner in the relationship will gain a sense of the other’s needs and expectations. With this understanding, each partner will be able to have meaningful conversations when the relationship is not going as expected.


Successful mentors must realize that mentorship is all about meeting the person they are mentoring where they are…currently. It is a key factor that the mentor should listen fully …question deeply… solve at the root! This means mentors should focus on the critical areas of the problem expressed by the person being mentored. One can only do this by listening fully. When questioning, it is important to realize that the mentor’s interest is not always the optimal solution to the problem. It is often sufficient to make sure the person being mentored is focused on the right problem to solve. Also, is this the right priority on which to focus at this time? Often asking questions will yield new processes to use when examining new problems. Effective questioning also allows the mentor to tell stories of how situations of this type have occurred and been solved in their career.

It is very easy to fall into the trap of “SOLUTIONEERING.” Mentors have many points of experience to rely upon when helping their mentoring partners find solutions. It is often tempting to provide a ready solution that is based upon the mentor’s experiences. Great mentoring however suggests that the person being mentored will “learn how to fish” when working with their mentor. Mentors are best when they share anecdotes that mirror the person being mentored experiences. In this manner, the information is more likely to be remembered and applied more appropriately in the situation being discussed. This will also encourage the formation of broad principles that might govern future situations. It is very important in the partnership that sharing information is equal. This is helpful for the mentor to listen more than telling. For the person being mentored, this can create psychological safety in that they feel equally able to express challenges and propose solutions.

Mentors also validate and allow their partners to gain confidence in their ability to make decisions. This is sometimes achieved by feeding back, and sometimes expanding on, what the mentor has heard the person being mentored say. Sometimes people have a great hunch about the right solution, but when hearing it being rephrased by their mentor, clarity and confidence increase. This method also allows the mentor to provide a framework that helps to organize thinking, develop future processes, and build increasing confidence in how they approach solutions.


Effective feedback is a vital aspect of the mentoring partnership. How feedback is provided and received is extremely important. There are several factors to keep in mind when giving or receiving feedback. The following checklist helps members of the mentoring partnership keep this in mind:

• Always have the best interest of the mentoring partnership outcomes in mind
• Always balance improvement needs and positive feedback
• Observe each other’s thoughts and reactions with positive interest and curiosity
• Focus on facts and behaviors rather than emotions and personal attributes
• Acknowledge and summarize each other’s contributions when responding
• Provide feedback in a supportive way
• Strike a balance between being too friendly and too formal
• Ask probing questions to learn deeply and to stimulate alternative thinking processes


Empathy is a key element in the mentoring partnership. As mentors question deeply and listen intently, they should focus on a deeper understanding of the obstacles. More importantly, when “drilling down” is the ability to display empathy. The questions should be balanced to (1) provide insights about the situation but with the realization of (2) how the other person in the partnership is experiencing the situation. This is a good practice to adopt when dealing not only in the mentoring partnership but also in other situations at work. It is important for the mentor and the person being mentored to experience and share the value of empathy.


A mentor should ask questions that are stimulating, meaningful, and impactful. Marshall Goldsmith, the coaches coach, always suggests that mentors start with the end in mind. The mentor is then able to focus on the “ask” and thereby guide the coaching relationship with the end-point in mind.

Another great question is to ask “what is it that you need right now?“ This helps you understand how you might be most supportive. It’s so easy to jump into giving advice based on your experiences. Is that what the person being mentored needs? Do they want your advice? Do they need an advocate? Or do they need just a “…you got this!!”

Discourage people in your mentoring partnership from asking solicitous questions. Often, the person being mentored becomes vulnerable and chooses to show others their capabilities. Don’t bite…rather, encourage them to come up with tougher questions. They are not in this relationship to charm their mentor, but rather to become vulnerable, share, learn, and grow.

Many people in mentoring partnerships will focus on their career advancement. It is important to understand what is driving this interest. Is it a passing fantasy…something that feels exciting at the moment? Is it something they are thinking about as a career end-point? Is it a way of seeking personal prominence among their workmates? Is it a career choice that feels prestigious or profitable? This is a very important place in which a mentor can help them “dial it back” by plotting the path carefully that will yield longer-term satisfaction.

Asking about taking personal time for reflection and rest is another important element of mentoring. It is important to know that personal balance is very important for success in all aspects of life and work. Many people being mentored believe it is more important to deliver an energetic appearance as a reflection of their strong work capabilities. It is key to practice and to emphasize that rest and reflection are also key factors. Your first job should be as much about you proving yourself as about you understanding yourself, getting a better idea of your strengths and how you can prove yourself in an arena that you love later on.”

It is essential that the mentee and the mentor mutually agree that the content of their discussions will be kept confidential. This will enable the person to be mentored to explore preliminary ideas before sharing them with a wider audience. It is also helpful when expressing doubts and reservations without having to be afraid of any consequences in other situations.

Lastly, it is critical to evaluate the progress of the mentoring partnership as the most important aspect of each meeting. This information gained will be useful in honing the effectiveness of the partnership.


Permission is needed from Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC to reproduce any portion provided in this article. © 2020

Tenny Mickey, Ph.D. is a Senior Consultant with Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC. As a Leadership & Organizational Psychologist, & Executive Coach, Tenny helps LEADERS improve their effectiveness. She relies upon her successful work as an officer in 3 Fortune 50 organizations (News Corporation, Disney, and Compaq) & 16 years of effective Organizational & Leadership Consulting. Additionally, each of her academic achievements, ranging from ( a Historical Black College & University) Huston-Tillotson University (BA), (Ivy League) Harvard University (EdM), and (Professional Psychology) Fielding Graduate University (M.A. & PhD) has contributed to the knowledge, respect & understanding she relies upon to support individual success. She is further stimulated and inspired to gain “new knowledge” each day. Feel free to contact Tenny through

If you would like additional information on this topic or others, please contact your Human Resources department or Lighthouse Consulting Services LLC, Santa Monica, CA, (310) 453-6556, & our website:

Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC provides a variety of services, including in-depth work style assessments for new hires & staff development. LCS can test in 19 different languages, provide domestic and international interpersonal coaching and offer a variety of workshops – team building, interpersonal communication and stress management. To order the books, “Cracking the Personality Code”, “Cracking the Business Code” and “Cracking the High-Performance Team Code”, please go to

Our Sino-Am Leadership Program helps executives excel when stationed outside their home country. American managers in Asia and Asian managers in America face considerable business, personal, and leadership challenges because of the cultural differences. This unique program provides personal, one-on-one coaching. For more information visit,  We also have an affiliate in the UK who covers all of Europe so we are now a true multi-national company that can support our clients globally.

Finding Inspiration During Tough Times

By Dana D. Borowka, MA & Ellen W. Borowka, MA

It’s so easy to get caught up with the news, lack of business, cash flow forecasting, etc. So, we are at a crossroads… do we sit down and ruminate about the dire situation we find ourselves in? Or do we rise higher… together to find answers and inspiration – not only to help our own families, companies, communities but also our nation, our world. This is a unique time where we all are facing the same situation… across the globe. We are all in the same boat. Though for some people… this will hit harder than for others. What do we do? Where do we go? Moving forward also means learning from others. We recently did a Covid-19 poll with our clients and we share those insights as well as some ideas for finding our way during this difficult time.

Moving Forward with Fear

Stewart Emory once said, “The absence of fear is not an option that is available to most people. People are looking for that, but that is just not an option. The difference between people who are really making it in the world and the people who are not is simple: The people who are making it in the world are making it and they have fear.” He then continues, “To go forward we need to make the growth choice. The fear choice is to retreat to comfort and avoid the fear. The growth choice is to take fear as a companion and move ahead. To have a life that is a joyful adventure, we need to be willing to take the risk. Courage is the willingness to be afraid and act anyway.” We can’t eliminate fear, but we can find ways to manage it so we can move forward on to do the things we have to do. We will address fear more later in this article.

Inspiration Leads to Finding Answers

I was raised in both Judaism and Christian Science. What a mix, huh?! Yet both go hand in hand when having to deal with difficult times and finding ideas to keep inspired. I woke up one morning during my high school days wondering what kind of job I should look for during the summer. I had been reading a bible lesson from the Christian Science Church and the topic that week included ideas about supply. One of the bible stories shared was when Jesus fed over 5,000 people. They had gone to hear him speak and share inspiring ideas. They went to get inspiration and insights about their spiritual selves and not for the sake of being fed. As a matter of fact, they had no idea that anyone would feed them… other than filling their need for ideas about God. I was so moved by this idea of gathering ideas for inspiration. The next thing that happened was that my phone rang. It was my Sunday School teacher who worked for her son in the travel industry. They were wondering if I would be interested in being trained to be a tour manager and lead groups across the country. This turned out to be an amazing opportunity to meet a lot of people and to have fun and travel the US and Canada. It was interesting to me how this prospect came about. I was first inspired by what others did when they went to hear Jesus speak and they were fed. When I read and studied this bible passage, I too was fed by fulfilling a human need. It all happened so fast. Insight, inspiration and my summer need for a job was met.

Finding Connection

In today’s time, we all need to turn somewhere for inspiration and ideas whether it’s visiting with friends, support groups, round table, associations, temple or church groups, CE/Key Executive groups such as Vistage. No matter what it is, you want to be around people that can support others and to lift everyone up.

An Invitation

I’d like to invite anyone who would like to join a Wednesday evening Christian Science testimony meeting that is held via Zoom. I just started to attend them and have found so many ideas that have lifted up my spirit. These meetings consist of readings from the Bible and from the Christian Science textbook, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy who founded the religion many years ago as well as some singing and prayer. Half of the meeting is spent with the meeting participants sharing what they have learned during the week from their study of the Bible and through prayer. The ideas are practical and useful filled with lots of take-aways. The meetings are on Wednesdays 7:30 pm PT and only last an hour. If you are interested in attending, please let me know and I’ll get a zoom link to you. See further in the article for more ideas for finding peace.

Ideas for Inspiration

Change is in the Air: It is good time to consider the following quote from Albert Einstein: “The significant problems we have today cannot be solved at the same level of thinking with which we created them.” We need to be receptive to consider how we have done things in the past and when things need to change in order to stay current. Remember the Rolodex cards? Even the good old fashioned light pole is being changed out for the more modern version that does not pollute, uses solar electricity, notifies central headquarters through a wireless device when it needs service, and is quicker and less expensive to install.

A Strategy with Stress: We all need to deal with one key element of miscommunication… stress! If we are just reacting without a strategy or a tactic to execute then we are doing no better than running in circles. Stress or “fear” can cause us to shut down and reduce our capacity to listen. An excellent team exercise to understand how stress manifests within the work environment is to have the team members draw a picture of what each person feels they look like when under stress and write out some key attributes when staff members are under pressure and when they are feeling relaxed. Here are some questions to facilitate a discussion: How do your team members manage stress? Do your team members support each other when under pressure? What would be helpful when under stress? If you’d like us to do a lunch time remote workshop entitled, Thinking Clearly or…Is Stress Getting In Your Way? Please let us know… it’s fun, engaging with lots of take-aways.

Be Like an Ostrich: The old tale that ostriches bury their head in the sand just isn’t true. What they are really doing is resting their heads on the ground which allows them to pick up on vibrations so if a predator is near by they can protect themselves. Ostriches are actually excellent listeners! We all need to be like an ostrich and become outstanding listeners. One way to develop your listening skills is to practice active listening where you paraphrase what you think the other person is saying to you. Another thing to do – listen to your heart and soul for inspiration. You might get some great ideas from that still small voice inside.

Get to Know Who You are Dealing With: Stephen Covey said, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” Part of this is to try to understand the people around you. One way to do that is to identify three key traits for each of your team members. Look for commonalities and develop a strategy for how to approach each person in order to communicate in a way that is most effective for everyone.

Create a Communications Plan: Here is a team exercise to focus on communication – briefly answer the following questions:

a. How do you listen… if at all?
b. What are three things that haven’t worked for you when communicating in the past?
c. What are three things that have worked?
d. What would you like your team members to do that they aren’t doing?
e. What are some baby steps to improve your listening and communication style?

Communication and empathy are crucial to developing a successful interpersonal relationship. The more you reach out with a plan in mind that is based on listening and openness, the more ideas will flow to you on how to best manage up and manage down.

We also have a fun workshop on this topic – let us know if you would like to know more about it.

Managing Fear

Fear or stress can feel overwhelming. So, how can we manage it better? The following are some articles on getting a handle on fear, so you can think clearly:

Are You Prepared to Lead the Way – or Has Fear Got Your Focus?

12 Tips on How to Think Clearly and Not Let Fear Control You

Overcoming Fear to Grow by Paul D Walker

Feeling Burdened?

Deeply Prepared People Create Their Own Weather by Larry Wilson

Preparing Your Thought for the Day by Paul D Walker

Finding Peace

Tools for Difficult Times from Unity Church

Temple Menorah

Temple Beth Sholom

The People of the United Methodist Church
First United Methodist Church of Santa Monica


Daily Lift from Christian Science Church

Headspace (meditation app) is offering, for a limited time, free subscriptions to 1) anyone who is unemployed ( and 2) anyone who lives in LA County ( They also have a 2 week trial period.

Calm is also a great app – . They have a variety of meditations on youtube, free resources ( and a trial period.

Lighthouse meditation workshop – We also have a remote meditation workshop. If you would like to talk further about any of these topics, please give us a call.

We hope this helps you to find some peace and support.

Covid-19 Poll – Lessons from our Clients

Finally, we recently took a Covid-19 poll to see what lessons our clients have learned during this difficult time. We would love to hear your ideas too…just email us at Here are some of the responses:

1. What is the most important lesson you or your business learned?

• Our employees care more than we thought and are more loyal than we expected.
• Can’t take any time together for granted. Appreciate all the little things that make us a team.
• Importance of reserves and diversification
• Something we already knew but anchored with the pandemic is the ability to work from anywhere including home. We pivoted almost all if not all of our 4000+ employees to be able to work remotely including call centers within 2 weeks.
• Be Flexible and be ready to adjust at moment’s notice—In other words: Always have a disaster plan in mind
• I can operate much cheaper than I was operating.
• To react quickly. We got the PPP loan because we were first in line. There is no time for procrastination in today’s world.

2. What one thing do you or your business wish had been done differently?

• Laid them off immediately, subject to recall.
• Dealt with employee issues prior to COVID
• Relationship with smaller bank … Wells was not responsive at all to our needs when required.
• I wish the country had not been shut down.
• Wish I had realized how serious this was earlier in the process
• I have never been an early adopter of anything but I wish I had gotten on the Zoom train sooner.
• I wish we had been more prepared for the turnaround time between the PPP loan and furloughing people right afterwards.

3. What one thing did you or your business do that turned out to be a really smart move?

• Struggle, work hard and become debt-free over the past years.
• Managed IT and Cloud services
• Took time to develop personal relationships with customers. Salesmen instructed to avoid discussing business and simply get to know customer on deeper level.
• We kept masks around since day 1 so that when customers come in we can put them on and make the customer feel better.
• Learned to use ZOOM—wish I had stock in them.
• Furloughed staff quickly and then was able to call back for a month with PPP
• Keep marketing through the troughs. There are still plenty of prospects buying.
• We had the right technology to go virtual very quickly. We also added some new things into our days to keep us connected and engaged. For instance, we started a book club and its been a smashing success. We also created a Weekly Work Log so that we could see what people were doing at home and find out what successes they had and what they were struggling with.

Permission is needed from Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC to reproduce any portion provided in this article. © 2020 This information contained in this article is not meant to be a substitute for professional counseling.

Dana Borowka, MA, CEO and Ellen Borowka, MA, Senior Analyst of Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC with their organization constantly remain focused on their mission statement – “To bring effective insight to your business”. They do this through the use of in-depth work style assessments to raise the hiring bar so companies select the right people to reduce hiring and management errors. LCS can test in 19 different languages, provide domestic and international interpersonal coaching and offer a variety of workshops – team building, interpersonal communication and stress management. They have over 25 years of business and human behavioral consulting experience. They are nationally renowned speakers and radio personalities on this topic. They are the authors of the books, “Cracking the Personality Code” , “Cracking the Business Code” and “Cracking the High-Performance Team Code”. To order the books, please visit

If you would like additional information on this topic or others, please contact your Human Resources department or Lighthouse Consulting Services LLC, Santa Monica, CA, (310) 453-6556, extension 403, & our website:

Our Sino-Am Leadership Program helps executives excel when stationed outside their home country. American managers in Asia and Asian managers in America face considerable business, personal, and leadership challenges because of the cultural differences. This unique program provides personal, one-on-one coaching. For more information visit,

We also have an affiliate in the UK who covers all of Europe so we are now a true multi-national company that can support our clients globally.