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Are You Ready to Break Up With Your Mentor?

Are You Ready to Break Up With Your Mentor?

A mentoring relationship can be one of the most worthwhile ones you’ll enjoy, but when things go wrong, they can go very wrong. You may have reached the natural end of your relationship. Or you may have made a bad decision.

Just like any other business relationship, the key is to manage it with as much respect as you can muster. Even if your mentor is not in your line of business, you’ll probably see them several times after you end your mentorship with them.

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Before you tell them that you want to break up, start asking yourself some hard questions about why you want the relationship to end. After you know the answers, it will be easier to tell your mentor honestly why you think you both should go your separate ways.

Have you changed your long term or short term goals?

If that’s the case, there might be someone else out there who can do a better job of helping you reach them. You may be at a point where you want to drastically change your business goals.  Once you do so, you’ll need to connect with someone who has experience in the direction you’re heading into, and that may be a completely different person.

Does their advice and guidance currently help you overcome obstacles?

In the past, their words may have been golden, but lately, it seems as if you have to ignore their advice. When you make decisions that go against their advice, you have more success.  Maybe they’ve just stopped “getting you.”

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Are they currently helping you develop your professional skills, opportunities and networks?

One of the greatest advantages of having a mentor is the ability to take advantage of their own business contacts and experience. You may have reached the point that you’ve exhausted all of these resources.

Are you in a marriage of convenience?

Did either of you agree to the mentorship “just to be nice” to the other? Did you go into the relationship thinking your mentor would be perfect for you just to realize that you don’t mesh very well? Have you constantly had problems relating to each other? It’s probably time for an amicable divorce.

Is your relationship turning toxic?

A toxic mentorship doesn’t have to be abusive. It can simply be one that is inhibiting your personal or professional growth. It is possible that your mentor has some jealousy issues and is deliberately or unconsciously trying to sabotage your growth. You may be responsible for the toxicity, hanging on to your current mentor like a security blanket long after you should’ve let them go.

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Most mentors will take on several mentees over the years, and if you’ve outgrown your mentor, tell them that you know it’s time that they move on to another mentee. No matter how you feel about your mentor and your relationship, the key is to keep things open. This is especially true if your mentor is guiding you in your business life. Focus on all the positive things that your mentor has done for you, like sacrificing her time, taking you to networking events, or taking you out to lunch. It would be a nice touch to take your mentor on one of these activities as a way of saying thank you and goodbye.

If word gets out that you’re ungrateful, demanding, unprofessional, and ended your previous mentorship by just not responding to emails, it will be virtually impossible to find another mentor. We select most of our mentors due to their superior position in an industry, their large network of contacts, or advanced experience. If you leave your mentor in a negative way, you may very well shoot yourself in the foot professionally. Even if your mentor is a total jerk, refrain from treating him or referring to him as such.

In the future, you may decide to return to your mentor. You never know how different things may be in five years, or even one year from now. If the two of you had an amicable split, you mentor will be more amenable to returning to mentor you in the future.

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Leaving a mentorship means that you’ve grown in some kind of way. When you end your relationship, take pains to do so in an positive and open manner. Even if things have started to do downhill in your relationship, if you take charge and end things on a positive note, you’ll be able to leave with your dignity and professional reputation intact.

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The Gentle Art of Saying No

The Gentle Art of Saying No

No!

It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

  1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
  2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
  3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
  4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
  5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
  6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
  7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
  8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
  9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
  10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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