The Top 20 Mistakes Mentors Make (and How to Avoid Them)
August 20, 2023
Let’s talk about the importance of mentors. I’m happy you landed here. Today’s blog is all about mentorship, and we’re going to dive deep into the topic to help you navigate this critical aspect of your professional growth.
Mentorship can be a powerful tool, offering guidance and support as you journey towards success and fulfillment. Too many Black women have no mentoring at all. Honestly, I didn’t get my first mentor until I was over 20 years into my career. Having a great mentor makes all the difference in your career.
However, even the most well-intentioned mentors can sometimes make mistakes. Whew chile!! So, let’s shine a light on the top 20 missteps mentors commonly make (and show you how to avoid them!).
1. Lack of Empathy and Understanding
Some mentors forget to truly listen and understand the unique challenges faced by their mentees. Remember, your journey as a high-achieving Black female executive is distinct, and your mentor should acknowledge and empathize with that.
2. Imposing Their Personal Agenda
Mentors who prioritize their own agenda over their mentees’ goals can hinder growth. Seek mentors who understand your aspirations and align their guidance accordingly. Remember, the mentor-mentee relationship should feel like a collaboration.
3. Neglecting Personal Context
Effective mentorship recognizes that professional success is intertwined with personal fulfillment. Look for mentors who understand and support your desire for balance in all aspects of your life.
4. Lack of Cultural Sensitivity
Being culturally sensitive is key. Seek mentors who honor and respect your heritage, while also understanding the unique challenges you face as a Black woman in the corporate world.
5. Failing to Challenge and Inspire
A good mentorship should push you out of your comfort zone and encourage you to aim higher. Seek mentors who believe in your potential and challenge you to reach new heights.
6. Overstepping Boundaries
Mentors need to strike a balance between offering guidance and respecting boundaries. Find mentors who understand the importance of empowerment and autonomy.
7. Not Sharing Personal Failures
Mentors who only project perfection can create unrealistic expectations. Look for mentors who openly share their own failures and how they navigated through them—these are the ones who will help you grow.
8. Providing Generic Advice
Effective mentors understand that one size does not fit all. Seek mentors who provide personalized advice that aligns with your unique circumstances and aspirations.
9. Ignoring Intersectionality
As a Black woman, your experiences are shaped by both your race and gender. Look for mentors who appreciate the complexities of your intersectional identity and support you in navigating those challenges.
10. Lack of Follow-through
Mentors who fail to follow up can leave you feeling unsupported. Seek mentors who actively track your progress and provide consistent guidance. Discreetly ask around. You don’t want to be stuck with a mentor who never delivers on anything.
11. Not Listening to Feedback
A good mentor should welcome and value your feedback. Look for mentors who are open to receiving constructive criticism and adapting their approach accordingly.
12. Focusing Solely on Career Advancement
While professional growth is important, a holistic approach to mentoring is crucial. Seek a mentorship where your personal well-being along with your career aspirations are encouraged.
13. Neglecting Mental and Emotional Support
Mentorship involves more than just professional guidance. Look for mentors who provide a safe space where you can express your fears, concerns, and emotions.
14. Imparting a Fixed Mindset
Mentors who perpetuate a fixed mindset can limit your potential. Seek mentors who believe in the power of growth and continuously encourage you to develop your skills and talents.
15. Lack of Diversity
Mentoring that doesn’t value diversity limits your exposure to different perspectives. Seek mentors from various backgrounds who can provide a broader range of experiences and insights.
16. Taking Credit for Your Success
Be cautious of mentors who take credit for your achievements. Seek mentors who celebrate your victories as their own and amplify your voice in professional circles.
17. Not Encouraging Networking
Effective mentors understand the importance of networking for career advancement. Seek mentors who help you build meaningful connections and expand your professional circle.
18. Failing to Acknowledge Privilege
Not all mentors acknowledge their own privilege, which can lead to blind spots. Seek a mentors who actively recognize and address systemic barriers that you may face.
19. Neglecting Work-Life Harmony
Balancing work and personal life is crucial for long-term success. Seek mentorship that champions work-life harmony and offer strategies to help you find fulfillment on both fronts. My mentor always checks in on my personal life by inquiring what I scheduled, and actually followed through with. This helps to keep me balanced and honest (LOL).
20. Lack of Commitment
Finally, mentoring that’s not fully committed to your growth can hinder progress. Seek mentors who are dedicated, present, and invested in your journey. A mentor who is always too busy to even meet with you, is a total waste of mentorship. If you find yourself with this mentor, take immediate action to leave that mentor-mentee relationship.
If you feel that it’s not possible to leave the relationship, all is not lost. You can have more than one mentor. Therefore, you could actually pursue a second mentor, using the lessons you just learned.
Remember, these common mistakes are not meant to discourage you or undermine the power of mentorship. Instead, they serve as guideposts to help you choose the right mentors who will elevate and support your personal and professional development.
By being aware of these pitfalls, you’re empowered to seek a mentorship which align with your values and aspirations. Together, we can create transformative relationships that lead to growth, fulfillment, and the balance you deserve.
Are you having difficulties finding a mentor? As I alluded to before, it is indeed challenging for many of us as Black women to find a good mentor. An alternative solution is hiring a culturally sensitive career coach. I’ve provided these services to many of my clients, precisely because it can be difficult. It’s important to have that support as you are navigating the workplace.
I cannot tell you how valuable my mentor has been to me over the past 7 years. His mentorship is a huge part of why I was able to leave a 6-figure job with the federal government and become a full time entrepreneur. You can read more about how I left my job during the pandemic to run both of my businesses here.
I totally get it, because I’ve experienced having no mentors, as well as poor mentors. If this resonates with you, I encourage you to request a 30-Minute Career Solution call with me today. Don’t feel isolated and apprehensive because you feel like you’re alone on this career journey. I’m here for you. Schedule your free call today.
Stay tuned for more empowering content tailored to you, exceptional Black female leaders, movers, and shakers. Your journey towards success and fulfillment is our priority!
xoxox Twanna Carter, PhD
Professional Certified Coach (PCC)