Is mentorship all it’s cracked up to be?

Are you stuck in a failing mentorship? Perhaps you were assigned a mentor with whom you have no compatibility. Maybe your relationship consists of an annual ballgame…and not much more. Pretty soon, being a mentee may feel like more hassle than it’s worth.

We all agree that mentorship is important—but how do we find excellent mentorship? You know, the kind that really feels worthwhile. Here are three keys to bear in mind as you cultivate exceptional mentor-mentee relationships:

1) Are you pulling your weight?

One major shortcoming is that we fail to pay any attention to good menteeship (so much so that spellchecker tells me menteeship isn’t even a word). The mentor-mentee relationship is actually a two-way street. It relies on generosity and engagement from both sides to have value and thrive.

Are you being proactive in your mentorship? There’s no rule that says it’s always the mentor’s job to pick up the phone or plan the outing. While there are limits on our free time, surely there is no limit to questions to be asked and knowledge to be gained. Mentorships don’t need to be profound or formal or rigid—they just need to be worthwhile. Consider ways you can take initiative. Chances are, your mentor will invest a lot more when she feels she’s not the only one contributing.

2) Masters need mentees, too!

Author and business guru Michael Gerber outlines three roles we will each play in the course of our professional career: apprentice, craftsman, and master. During apprenticeship, all aspects of our work are exciting. We’re bombarded with opportunities to learn and grow. Things change as we enter craftsmanship. Here, the newness is largely gone, fulfillment comes from engagement in the craft itself, and we’re content to practice the craft in the pursuit of mastery.

Although mastery is technically an asymptote and really can’t be fully reached or obtained. Technicalities aside, the craftsman eventually reaches a turning point and essentially becomes a master of his art. The experienced practitioner notices his skills begin to run tangential to that mastery line, and he’s no longer fulfilled by small increments of advancement in skill alone. That’s when things come full circle, and the master needs to find another apprentice in order to reinvigorate his own passion for the craft.

The professional life cycle depends on both mentors and protégés, so don’t discredit what you contribute to that relationship!

3) Learn from the rookies

Not all mentors are experienced practitioners, and not all wisdom comes from 80-year-olds! You’re not limited to just one mentor, and there is a lot you can learn by putting a new dentist on your adviser list. After all, they’re living the challenges today that you’ll be navigating tomorrow.

With the rapid evolution of the field, what was good advice years ago may not necessarily be today’s good advice. New dentists are full of new energy for the profession and will easily relate to your current frame of mind. Also remember that being a mentor isn’t about having all the answers. Active problem solving is where the bulk of the learning (and creativity) takes place. Have you considered taking on a protégé of your own?

Bottom line, the goal is to establish a diverse mentor base, including some young blood. Be proactive in building real relationships, and don’t forget your important contribution to the partnership. If your mentor-mentee relationships are in a rut, it may be time to revisit your idea of mentorship (and menteeship) with fresh eyes. The impact mentors have on our lives can make the difference between a good career and a remarkable one.

~Dr. Ryan Dulde

ASDA’s National Leadership Conference will be held this November and features a session titled “Finding a Great Mentor.” For more sessions and to register for the event, click here.

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Comments (2)

  1. Dr. David Rice

    Nice post Ryan! As a mentor and mentee, the exchange of ideas and positive energy is infectious. I really like your point about “fit”. As a mentee, do you fit with your mentor(s)? And if you’re a mentor reading, do you fit with your mentee? This relationship is like every other… not just business, but life. If there’s a great fit, everyone is happy and wins! If it’s not there, it’s not there. It doesn’t imply that anyone is right or wrong, simply that a better fit exists elsewhere.

  2. Dr. Ryan Dulde

    Excellent points, Dr. Rice–I’m in 100% agreement with you. Do you have any first-hand experience with “fit” between mentors and mentees? By the way, you can find more of my posts at if interested. Thanks for you comment, and thanks for reading!


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