Mentoring: Some Observations By Pepper de Callier

I was in the United States recently to attend my older son, Case’s, wedding.  Being there, seeing friends and family whom I hadn’t seen for, in some cases, more than twenty years, and seeing my son, now a grown man, marry a wonderful young lady set the stage for some major reflection about life and its transitional events and the people with whom you experience those events.

At the reception dinner, I sat next to my very first mentor in business, Tony Ziehler, and his wife, Barbara.  I hadn’t seen Tony in many years and, after catching up on all the most recent developments in our lives, we drifted back to discussing memories from our early years when he was my mentor.

Little did I know at that time that sitting next to Tony and talking about old times would tie in so directly with a conversation I was about to have the following day with my younger son, Rhys, about his career.  After getting his MBA, Rhys joined a Fortune 500 company as an analyst in the Human Resources department.  As with many young professionals who are searching for a fulfilling career, Rhys, after two years in this role, felt like he wanted to pursue a path different from the one that his first job out of graduate school was giving him with regard to professional and personal growth.

Coincidently, a former supervisor of his was now the Vice President of Human resources at a small, innovative, rapidly growing biotechnology company and she was looking for a marketing analyst.  She recruited him to this new opportunity, which would give him exposure to an entirely different experience better leveraging his talents and abilities.  Being a progressive company, focusing on the development of its human capital, Rhys’s new employer made arrangements for him to enter into a formal one-on-one mentoring relationship with a well regarded senior executive.

Eager to collect insights and opinions from various sources to further develop his understanding of the mentoring process and how to get the most from it he asked me a question that is especially relevant to young professionals in the Czech Republic who are in, or looking for, mentoring relationships to further develop themselves personally and professionally.  Rhys asked, “Dad, what do think are the most important elements of a mentoring relationship?”

While I agree that the process of mentoring can take many different forms ranging from highly structured to very informal relationships depending on the individual needs and style of the people involved, I also feel that, after observing these relationships and studying them for more than 30 years, that there are ten basic elements that collectively form the sine qua non of successful mentoring.

1) Desire—it all begins here.  Both parties have to really want to do this or it will never get off the ground and it will more likely than not be more harmful than helpful.

2) Chemistry—the mentor and mentee have to have a “chemical” connection.  They have to “feel good” about each other and the style in which they operate.

3) Respect—there must be a reason these two people are being paired-up and it should be based on the potential of one and the past accomplishments of the other.  Each party needs to be made aware of the other’s qualifications, up front, which will then become the foundation for a growing, mutual respect.

4) Time—if you don’t have the time to dedicate to this exercise, don’t do it.  It will end up hurting you both in ways that may have far-reaching consequences.

5) Ability to communicate openly—if you can’t talk to each other openly, you will never be able to realize the full potential of the relationship.

6) Trust—trust is an ongoing and evolving thing. It must be nurtured in each and every interaction.  It can be as fragile as fine crystal and just as hard to repair once broken. 

7) Integrity is the cornerstone—there can be no hidden agendas or a desire to make someone a “mini-me”.  The mentee must also be ever vigilant not to betray a trust by using information, or the relationship, with the mentor in a way that is inappropriate.

8) Dedication to learning—this process teaches the mentor as much about him or herself as it does the mentee.  Many times it’s not a matter of providing the right answer to a question; it’s more about providing the right question to answers being formed.  Dedication to learning is what drives this process in its highest form.

9)  Self-pace—don’t rush.  Everybody learns and assimilates information at different speeds and in different ways.  Be sensitive to each other in this area and do what feels right.  Don’t be forced into an artificial timeline.

10) Fun!—this is a wonderful journey and it should be enjoyed. 

Good luck on your way up!

About the Author: Pepper de Callier is one of the most respected senior executive coaches and authorities on leadership in Europe. Learn more about him at

Follow Pepper on YouTube: A new inspirational video message is posted every Monday - Common Sense Wisdom: Thoughts to Live By. 

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