When is it OK for Mentors To Give Advice?

By Barry Sweeny, 2003


A mentor’s considerable experience and the good judgment that comes from experience are the key reasons we even assign mentors to work with a protege. However, if a protege chooses NOT to defer to the experience of that mentor, all of the experience in the world is of no value. Protege’s must choose to benefit from a mentor’s experience, and it is up to the mentoring program and the mentor to try and establish the conditions under which that will occur.

When the conditions are not right and the protege chooses to decide for him/herself what to do, or refers to an equally inexperienced peer for advice, that’s when things can become difficult for the protege and can turn sour in a mentoring process. It frequently does no good to TELL a protege what they NEED to do if they do not see the need that the mentor sees.

As Marilyn Feruson has said, “The Gate to Change is LOCKED on the INside.*” That’s why mentors need to know how to assess protege readiness to learn and needs which may be obstacles to that learning and growth.

Be sure to read those if you have trouble making sense of the advice offered here. Otherwise, this advice may seem to narrow and restricting to you.

It’s OK for Mentors To Give Advice IF… Why It’s OK…
1. The question has ONE right answer. It reduces trial and error learning and time wasted.
2. The protege ASKS for the mentor’s advice/suggestions. The “gate to change* is open and there is readiness to learn
3. Client or customers’ welfare is at-risk Protecting client and customers’ interests is the first responsibility.
4. All other approaches have failed AND the protege’s own ultimate success is at-risk. Proteges deserve the truth. If the protege fails, a mentor must know you did ALL that you could do to help.