Articles // January 06,2023

Mentoring the Mentor: How Can Executives and Leaders Walk the Tightrope of Feedback Communication?

By Author - Meenakshi Girish, Editor - Chandrani Datta

Accurate and timely feedback can go a long way, be it from the mentor to the mentee or vice-versa. A successful mentoring relationship is a two-way road where both parties take over the steering wheel from time to time. A leader as a mentor and coach also needs to keep this in mind to build a valuable relationship with his executives and vendors.

Both parties must intend to provide meaningful feedback and help the other person grow to be the best version of themselves. I have met some quality mentors in my life who have provided timely and valuable feedback. It strengthens the relationship by adding value to it and gives me the power to offer feedback in exchange for group effectiveness.

But there was one instance where I was given feedback that personally triggered me and my suggestion was not accepted.

I was working with a client whose Instagram profile I handled. Every week, I would shoot and post around three videos of myself explaining a concept. This service had been progressing for the last eight months.

Out of the blue one day, my client sent me a video I had shot and told me to take it down from the page. She told me I didn’t look presentable and I was ungroomed in the video so it was impossible to have it on the page.

I was instantly offended by the personal attack. I always believe it is right to criticize art but not the artist directly. She had given me prior feedback about my angles not looking good or poor audio and lighting. While these had been easy for me to digest and grow from, this personal attack on my looks caught me off guard.

I responded by being transparent about my feelings and mentioning what sort of feedback I appreciated receiving. But she only said, “I am your mentor. I only want you to grow and produce quality content. If you don’t wish to accept the feedback, either leave my business or let me know and I will never mentor you again.”

The two-way channel of communication

Providing good feedback is crucial for any situation, but the way the feedback is given makes a big difference. The only feedback I wished to give my mentor was to watch her choice of words and to separate the art from the artist. Her feedback was unconstructive and ineffective as I had no idea which part of me needed grooming and why I needed grooming.

I was quite presentable and delivered the same standard as I had been posting for the last eight months. I had no idea what to change to make the video better — let alone having my feelings hurt and my insecurity doubled.

This is where mentoring the mentor comes into play. Mentors need to have open mindsets and admit that they can make mistakes too. They are also learning, and feedback is needed if they wish to improve their coaching and mentoring skills for leadership success.

The mentor could help the mentee using their expertise, skills, and knowledge. But only mentees can help mentors by telling them what’s working and what isn’t. Just imagine mentoring as a one-way road with guidance only from the mentor.

Neither person would be on the same page and no solutions can be attained. By taking their mentee’s feedback seriously, mentors can connect better with other mentees and invest in better relationships.

How do you make this work?

Mentors can help mentees learn more and improve their performances using their knowledge and enhanced skills. To make relationships work, you need teamwork and collaboration among other things.

To foster and maintain healthy relationships with their mentors, mentees can follow three simple steps:

  1. Evaluate how the relationship will grow in the long run
  2. Review the session and reflect on what needs to change
  3. Provide authentic feedback without restrictions or grudges

By following these three steps, mentees can determine where their mentor relationship is headed. Is it bringing them success or benefits in the future? Are they able to learn more and introspect about their drawbacks? Are they able to nurture a healthy bond without worrying about grudges or rejections?

Read on to know how you can convey your feedback without offending the other party or hitting their sore spots. Together, you can enable group effectiveness for mutual benefits.

Be precise with your feedback

Give clear and concise feedback with specific touch points. The issue with my mentor was her lack of objectivity and clarity when it came to my “ungroomed” appearance. After we spoke about the issue (once both of us cooled down), she simply told me I was wearing a t-shirt in the video. She wanted me to wear something more formal and I had honestly not noticed the change in attire in my video.

Once she became specific and pointed out the exact issue, I was able to change myself and use the inputs for my other works as well. Had she evaluated my error correctly and given me better feedback based on her observations, the conflict could have been avoided altogether. Using vague terms and asking me to change the video without a specific detail made the feedback sound judgmental.

Mentees must also choose their words wisely and provide specific feedback. Be as descriptive as possible and use examples to drive your point home.

Involve the listener in the feedback process

Start by mentioning the positives they have been bringing into your life. Sandwich criticism can work wonders in fostering great relationships if delivered in an effective tone. This will put the mentor at ease knowing you aren’t going to cut ties with them. Once this is cleared, go for teamwork and collaboration to involve them in your feedback.

Use ‘I’ statements and show them how a change in their behavior will affect you. For example, try saying, “I am not able to make actionable changes in my life if you end the session by pointing out my mistakes. Could you try giving me a solution or direction once you identify where I am going wrong?”

It shows exactly what you want the mentor to do and makes it a collaborative discussion so they can add their input. Maybe they might even respond by saying, “No, I want you to arrive at the solution yourself. I will only show you the path, but you must travel it alone and find the way yourself.”

If this approach doesn’t suit you, then it’s time to either proceed with your mentor’s plan or change your mentor. Your role is to facilitate a healthy conversation with your mentor and convey what’s not working and what you want to change. Give them the space to explore potential alternatives and arrive at something that works for both of you.

Convey it when you are both in a good mood

A key point I mentioned above was WHEN the feedback was given. My mentor and I restarted the conversation only after we had both taken a breather. Had we begun the chat when we were offended and heated up, it would have erupted into a personal attack battle. We both would have ended up offending each other personally and maybe even left permanent scars.

The simplest way to avoid this is to resume the discussion after thinking things over and settling down. This will help you speak in a composed way and focus on solving the issue once and for all. It is also vital to not wait for too long to give feedback.

Had I kept my insecurity to myself and mentioned it to my mentor after a few days, things would have played out worse. Maybe I would have felt bad about myself and refused to shoot videos in the future. Or I would have waited for her to insult me again so I could blow up on her with both incidents together.

Both approaches are wrong, and it would have ruined the relationship we had nurtured for so long! After all, I had stuck around for eight months owing to her timely feedback and because I was able to grow from it.

Final thoughts

Feedback is a two-way road that should effectively be welcomed wholeheartedly. Make adjustments with your mentor to suit your style and be comprehensive with your feedback. Follow a schedule and set a plan to logically frame a solution. Try to address concerns as soon as possible and move on from issues.

Communication is key — follow it and try to be flexible during sessions. It helps if both the mentor and mentee appreciate where the other party is coming from. View the feedback as constructively as you can and don’t take things personally. At the end of the day, both of you need to grow and build an invaluable relationship.

You can develop your skills and build a network of contacts to foster your personal goals and career development. Take time to reflect on the feedback and respond with what’s working and what’s not suiting your style.

If you are ready to embark on self-awareness and enhance your two-way mentoring feedback, you can speak to us for coaching and mentoring skills that can contribute your executive and leadership success!

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