How to take your mentorships to the next level |

How to take your mentorships to the next level

By Laura L

Updated Updated

Engaging in a mentorship programme can have significant impact on your development and your career. In fact, 70 percent of Fortune 500 companies have a mentorship programme, proving its importance in helping to create innovative leaders and thriving businesses.  

What are the ingredients for a successful mentoring relationship and how can you make the most of these relationships throughout your career to launch you into your greatest ambitions?  

Dr Charla Griffy-Brown is an accomplished professor, board member and consultant. She’s Senior Associate Dean Executive at Pepperdine Graziadio Business School and, alongside her varied professional roles, has dedicated much of her career to mentoring women into leadership. spoke to Dr Griffy-Brown for her advice on taking your mentoring relationships to the next level.  

What are the ingredients for successful mentorship? 

The purpose of mentorship is to reflect on critical areas of growth and to be intentional about the leadership roles you aim to step into. It’s a space to explore who you are in the world and who you wish to become, according to Dr Griffy-Brown.  

“I believe everyone should have the opportunity to engage in a mentor relationship,” said Griffy-Brown. “It’s a great way to find assistance in identifying and working towards your goals, developing your networks and how to navigate the next version of yourself.”  

Griffy-Brown has seen extraordinary change in the MBA students at Pepperdine Graziadio Business School who engage in mentorship. She said: “Whether it’s a student struggling to manage conflict, or how to boldly express themselves in a risk situation, or developing the capacity to listen and ask the right questions – I've seen significant development and powerful changes happening.  

“I’ve seen students move into executive roles. I’ve seen students take pathways that feels more aligned to where they want to go. Mentorship is about more than what you want to do. It’s about who you want to be. Professional and personal growth must be intertwined for the best career outcomes.”  

For Griffy-Brown, there are several key ingredients for creating successful mentor relationships.  

Take ownership for your growth 

Planning and intentionality are vital when it comes to creating a successful relationship, says Griffy-Brown.  

“The relationships that don’t work are those left undefined. There’s a direct correlation between your engagement and how much you’re going to benefit from the relationship. The mentor is not there to drive that or figure it out for you. You have to take ownership and determine the time period you want to work to, schedule meetings and propose agendas for yourself. 

“It’s important to remember that your mentors, if they are your champions, will likely be in positions of strength or influence within the organisation and their time is critical. Defining what you want to get out from the opportunity and taking ownership of the relationship will be extremely helpful,” she said.  

Identify your professional and personal goals 

Set goals and milestones along the way that are achievable and reasonable, said Griffy-Brown. “You might want to improve your skills in a particular area or receive guidance on a major decision or challenge you’re facing. Figure out where it is you want to go and put that against an agenda for optimum growth,” she said.  

“It’s important to make sure you translate your goals into SMART goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time bound, and articulate the value of achieving those goals through mentorship.  

“Keep in mind that your expectations should be realistic for the time you’ll spend in the programme. Take the time to understand what you can realistically achieve and talk to your mentor if you’re unsure what will be feasible. Talking through your goals to figure out the steps you’ll take to achieve them is a valuable part of the relationship too.”  

Build trust 

“To make the most out of your mentor relationships, you have to develop a level of trust between you. This is about maintaining confidentiality, keeping your commitments, listening to and remembering the wisdom that your mentor imparts and making use of the opportunities and resources provided to you,” Griffy-Brown said.  

“If your mentor can see that you’re serious about your ambitions and you are making the most of their time, they’ll be much more willing to help you and impart as much wisdom as they can.” 

Learn from your mentor 

Arguably the most important aspect of a strong mentor relationship is appreciating everything you learn from your mentor including their differences, says Griffy-Brown. 

“You might find that your mentor has a different approach to leadership or career development than you’d expect. Be appreciative of that diversity and at the same time, know that difference of perspective is important,” she said.  

“Think of your mentor as a learning facilitator rather than an expert, because they can guide you to other people and provide resources to help you. Seek discussion rather than input or advice, as this shows an extra level of respect for your mentor. Stay true to yourself and find value from a different lens. 

“Some of the most important mentor relationships I’ve had were with people who are completely different to me and I don’t think I would have set out to be matched with them.” 

Express appreciation 

“Communication is going to be important throughout the process and expressing your appreciation for your mentor’s time is part of that,” Griffy-Brown said. “It goes along with building trust and showing results from the lessons you’ve learned. 

“If you demonstrate an active commitment to your own professional development, show results from your efforts and express the role your mentorship played in that, you’re in for a fruitful relationship built on trust and shared value.” 

Seek out mentorship at various points in your career 

As we navigate the complexities of a turbulent 21st century workforce, Dr Griffy-Brown suggests approaching mentorship with the different seasons of your career.  

“It’s helpful to see it as a season of change. Whether you’re in a mentorship programme or seeking someone to mentor you individually, there is wisdom in seeking this type of growth from different mentors throughout your career development,” she said.  

“There are bound to be times of challenge as you move up in your career and into leadership roles, so entering mentor relationships periodically through your career can be a helpful way to come unstuck, and to collect the lessons and guidance of various people along the way.”  


How can MBA programmes provide the opportunity for mentorship? 

“Most MBA programmes will have a large alumni network or strong industry contacts, but how are they enabling students to grow and connect through mentorship? Are there initiatives that are designed for this type of self-awareness and development? 

“These are the questions I think students should be asking as they make the significant investment in themselves and their educational future,” said Griffy-Brown.  

At Pepperdine Graziadio Business School, MBA and Executive MBA students can sign up to a mentorship programme with an executive mentor and can also choose to mentor the school’s undergraduate business students. Each year, the programme reaches full capacity and "the results are remarkable," said Griffy-Brown.   

“When you're on an MBA programme, you might have a family, elderly parents or changes in job opportunities. A lot is going on, so it’s important to not only have your cohort to lean on but someone whose job it is to help you reflect on yourself and become the leader you want to be.” 

“That person observes you walking through your programme and can ask ‘have you tried this’ or guide you to the right support. Sometimes your faculty can be mentors, too. So how well do you get to know your faculty? 

“In my classes, I give my students my cell number to contact me at any time and they do. It's not just a LinkedIn relationship. It's helping them through this class and for those that are interested, I'm delighted to take on the role of mentoring that we've been talking about.”  


Dr Charla Griffy-Brown is an accomplished professor, board member and consultant. She’s Senior Associate Dean Executive at Pepperdine Graziadio Business School.

This article was originally published in . It was last updated in

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