In Their Own Words: Best Practices for Mentors and Mentees

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For the past year, I have been working with 10 young advisers as part of a mentoring program. The program is based on the concept that it takes a village to raise an adviser. Over the course of a year, all of the junior advisers, along with their sponsoring senior advisers, attend three workshops, giving these up-and-coming professionals the chance to see and learn from other seasoned advisers and gain a different perspective on the financial services business.

As an exercise, at the conclusion of this year’s program, I asked the junior and senior advisers to prioritize two lists of best practices for mentors and mentees. Here they are, in their own words:

Best Practices for Mentors
As expressed by the mentors

  1. Communicate clear expectations
  2. Be patient
  3. Listen
  4. Be a role model
  5. Provide leadership


As expressed by the mentees

  1. Set up a block of time each week to meet with the mentee.
  2. Use specific tools, such as checklists for processes and the 20-point system for production, and maintain clear, realistic goals in writing.
  3. Allow junior advisers to find solutions for themselves—and sometimes even fail in the process.
  4. Believe in a symbiotic relationship, where both parties bring value to and benefit from the relationship.
  5. Have a finger on the pulse of junior advisers to demonstrate sincere, constructive empathy.


As you can see, there isn’t much overlap between these lists, which is a bit surprising to me. Clearly, though, younger advisers value the gift of routine meetings with their mentors.

What about the best practices for mentees?

Best Practices for Mentees
As expressed by the mentees

  1. Be coachable and eager to learn.
  2. Be willing to make sacrifices for your career.
  3. Be proactive.
  4. Be willing to fail and learn from mistakes.
  5. Be attentive to detail.


As expressed by the mentors

  1. Demonstrate entrepreneurial ownership—for example, proactively set up regular meetings with the mentor to receive feedback.
  2. Set BHAGs (big, hairy, audacious goals) and self-manage activity consistent with those goals.
  3. Look for ways to continue education and apply learning to goals.
  4. Be a team player who sets a good example in the workplace.
  5. Initiate learning by asking questions.


Again, there isn’t as much overlap as I would have expected. What does stand out to me is the difference in goal-setting between the groups; junior advisers want to set realistic goals, while senior advisers want them to set stretch goals or BHAGs. Also curious is the fact that both mentors and mentees seem to have found it easier to be more specific in describing the best practices for the other group than in articulating the best practices for their own.

If you are a mentor or a mentee, what might you take away as a best practice for yourself? Both mentors and mentees should make sure they have regularly scheduled meetings, as well as document specific goals—perhaps realistic and stretch goals—in writing.

Joni Youngwirth_2014 for webJoni Youngwirth
Managing Principal of Practice Management
Commonwealth Financial Network
Waltham, Mass.


Editor’s note: Take advantage of FPA MentorMatch to connect with an experienced financial planner to get advice and tips on your career. Learn more about this FPA member program.

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