The Pillars of Mentoring at 180th (Part 4): Accountability

By Clarice Fu

In the last article in this four-part series on the Pillars of Mentoring at 180th, Clarice addresses the idea of holding mentees accountable to their own commitments and tells the story of a challenging situation with a mentee.

Who is accountable?

Effective goal setting is a critical first step in helping a mentee achieve their targets. But that is only half the battle. What happens after a mentee commits their goals to paper? Who’s responsible for the goals? Who holds the mentee accountable to their commitments?

It is very important that mentees understand that they are accountable to their own goals – they are doing it for themselves (not their mom, not their family, not their mentor) and they must know that they have to put in the hard work if they want to reach their goals. If they lose sight of the prize and feel discouraged, the mentor will coach the mentee and hold them accountable to their commitments so that they don’t give up. This is a lot trickier than it sounds!

Consider the case of rover Betty. Her first personal development planning session (PDP) went exceptionally well – after an hour of good discussion with her mentor, she formulated some challenging goals for herself with guidance from her mentor and left the session energized and smiling. In the months following their first PDP, Betty and her mentor had regular calls to keep up with what was going on in Betty’s life. All signs showed that the mentor hit it off with Betty, and that they were off to a very successful relationship.

…until several months later, when Betty and her mentor had their second formal PDP session. Betty did not reach any of her goals. When her mentor asked her what happened, Betty became defensive and said that she didn’t think her goals were realistic to begin with. She only wrote them down because she had to. Even though Betty went through the motions of goal-setting, she did not feel like she was responsible for them and was frustrated that her mentor was giving her a hard time.

So what went wrong? The mentor failed to establish the terms of the relationship at their first meeting, so Betty did not understand her role as a mentee and the role of her mentor. She went through the goal setting exercise, but did not feel ownership, and did not give her mentor permission to hold her accountable for her goals.

What the mentor did was to “reset” their relationship. They went back to openly discuss mutual expectations and to build mutual trust. What was Betty’s understanding of the goal setting process, and how did she feel about it? Why are her goals her responsibility and what does that mean? What did Betty expect from her mentor?

Establishing a clear expectation that the mentee is accountable for their own goals is very important to a successful outcome. Furthermore, a mentor also needs permission from their mentee to hold them accountable, or they may run into Betty’s mentor’s situation. One tool that our mentors use to help start these difficult dialogues is our Mentor-Mentee Agreement, which clearly outlines the commitment that the mentor has to the mentee, and vice versa. It is a great conversation starter to help reach that common ground and to set the stage for a solid, trust-based, mutual mentor-mentee relationship.

The topic of “Trust” will be further discussed in a later article, so be sure to check back frequently!

Clarice Fu

One Response to “The Pillars of Mentoring at 180th (Part 4): Accountability

  • Thanks Clarice for sharing this insightful story which highlighted the importance of clarifying and documenting expectations right off the bat in any project, to avoid any confusion or disappointment at a latter stage.
    I feel that the “Mentoring Agreement” which you well pointed out, is really a great tool to manage and clarify expectations.
    Look forward to reading your next post.

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