'Finding common ground' the key to successful mentoring relationships

29 October 2015

The benefits of mentoring can be felt not only by individuals and their organisations, but much further afield, by the communities they serve, as the ripple effect spreads.

Amos Kabanya, a participant in the African Leadership Development Program, delivered by Leadership Victoria, was thrilled to be partnered with experienced mentor Jilane Matinga.

The results of their mentorship have been transformative for him, Amos says.

“After the program, I’m now in a position to go forward, put my hand up and be counted,” he says. I’ve been able to represent the company, my community and my family in a way I couldn’t envisage before.”

“Jilane is an amazing woman. She has a strong, patient and balanced personality, yet is open, understanding and easy to relate with. From the initial meeting, we set out some key areas for me to address. Through introspection and frequent communication with Jilane over the duration of the program, I was able to undercover several underlying issues that have hampered my progress in many aspects of my life.”

Jilane agrees the impact of mentoring can be tangible and wide-ranging, and has since brought her know-how to the 2015 program as a mentor coordinator.

“People who have been mentored tend to have a better-placed sense of self so that they don’t pretend to know what they don’t know but instead will ask/research,” Jilane says. “In an organisation, it prevents time-wasting and minimises costs that may be brought by poor decision-making and lack of knowledge. Overall, both the individual and organisation will benefit from mutual trust and improved productivity.”

Jilane believes finding common ground is crucial to the success of a mentoring relationship. 

“The most useful thing we did was getting to know each other initially so that we could understand how our thinking has been shaped, and also how to communicate with each other. We found out what ‘bumps’ we each had encountered in our careers but also in life. Establishing this level of rapport made it much easier to communicate with trust, so it was clear from the outset the mentor is not perfect, but has overcome challenges too.”

“The basis for a successful mentoring relationship is allowing the mentee to speak openly and for the mentor to listen, prompt self-reflection and as necessary, contribute relevant suggestions, examples and advice. Most important is to try to understand the mentee’s background and how it may have influenced his/her thinking and therefore consider whether change may be required.”

Amos’ experience with Jilane was so positive, it has inspired him to be a mentor himself and bring some of his learnings to the community.

“The mentorship experience did plant a seed that has challenged me to assist where I can. Through networking within the African community here in Melbourne, I’m now involved as a mentor for youth in two programs.”

“The program and mentorship relationships will go a long way in cultivating, nurturing and sending forth leaders from the migrant community who will make a difference in people’s lives, one person at a time. I echo Maya Angelou’s words in saying, ‘my mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style’.”