The Role of Trust in a Mentoring Program

Trust is like oxygen in a room: easy to overlook when it’s there, but if it’s missing, it’s near impossible to think about anything else. To make sure the success of your business mentoring program isn’t stifled, build your program on a foundation of trusting relationships.

Role of Trust in Mentoring Program - Mentoring Relationship


Trust Between The Mentor and Mentee


Trust is essential within a professional mentorship. If the mentee does not trust the mentor, they are unlikely to open up and be vulnerable with the mentor. If some topics are seen as “off limits” for the mentee to share with the mentor, this can limit the growth that the mentee can achieve in the business mentoring relationship. 


Trust contains multiple elements: for a mentor to be trustworthy, the mentee must believe in the person’s competence, and also believe the mentor’s motives are in the right place. In an organization-sponsored mentoring program, it’s likely that the mentee already accepts the competence of the mentor, as they have the stamp of approval from the organization by virtue of being tapped as a mentor. However, the mentor will need to focus on “proving themself” with regard to their motives. If the mentee perceives that the mentor is in the business mentoring program for the wrong reasons, the relationship isn’t likely to be successful.


Also read: Ending Mentoring relationships


Being able to build trust is one of the main qualities of a good mentor. To build trust with a mentee, try the following:


  1. Make an honest assessment of your motives Trust in mentoring relationship
    Why are you entering this mentoring relationship? Is it because of a desire to give back, to help others, or pass the torch? Or, do you want an audience with which to share your own thoughts and ideas? Do you think that your mentee can help you connect with other people in their department? While it’s true that mentors also benefit from business mentoring relationships, the primary focus should be on the development of the mentee. If that’s not your top priority, reassess your involvement with the mentorship program. 
  2. Do what you say you’re going to do 
    Follow through on all agreements, and make sure that you fulfill your promises. This means showing up on time, and keeping appointments. It also means following your own advice. 
  3. Meet with your mentee often 
    People tend to develop trust more quickly with another person when they have several contacts rather than fewer, less frequent contacts. If you’re using mentoring software to meet virtually, aim for shorter, more frequent meetings (perhaps an hour every other week) rather than going for longer periods of time without meeting (say, a two hour meeting once per month). 


Also read: The Seven Sins of Business Mentoring


Organizational Trust is the Foundation for a Business Mentoring Program


Most business leaders know that organizational trust is critical for employee engagement, job satisfaction, and retention. However, organizational trust is essential for launching a successful mentoring program. If an organization is perceived as highly political, biased, or unfair, this is bound to factor into nearly all of the major decisions that a mentee makes regarding their career, including their participation in a business mentoring program.


Organizational trust is similar to attachment in parenting. If a child has a secure attachment with their parent, they will venture off, play, and explore in an age-appropriate way. However, if a child has an unhealthy attachment to a parent, the child will be overly focused on the parent, unsure if they will still be there to provide their basic needs. This focus on the parent can hamper the child’s willingness to explore new situations, cause them to be weary of people they don’t know, and generally have more problems regulating their emotions. 


Organizational trust in mentoring program - mentoring relationship


Before starting a business mentoring program, consider the following actions to create a culture of trust in your organization:


  1. Communicate more. A lack of organizational trust often stems from leadership that doesn’t communicate enough. When employees feel in the dark on particular issues and events, they can often fill in the details with all kinds of assumptions rather than give the organization the benefit of the doubt. By erring on the side of overcommunication, organizations can help build trust among employees.

  2. Give employees more autonomy. A micromanager sends a message to their staff that they can’t be trusted to do the job right. When workers are given more control, it’s a signal from leadership that they trust them to do the right thing. Look at applying job crafting, which allows employees to tweak their job descriptions to fit their individual interests and skills. 

  3. Encourage relationship-building. By allowing and encouraging employees to build relationships with one another, an organization can send the signal that it’s ok for the “whole person” to come to work. If employees don’t feel accepted by others, it’s hard to extend trust to the organization as a whole.


Trust plays a major role in mentoring programs, but isn’t always at the top of the agenda when discussing mentorship programs. Don’t underestimate the importance of trust in the success of a business mentoring program. It can easily be overlooked, but without it, a mentoring program isn’t likely to be successful.

Topics: Mentoring Best Practices, Mentoring Relationship