It’s not uncommon in my coaching calls to hear some of my clients wonder if they are being guided by their mentors in directions that may not be the best for them or their career success. They wonder if meeting the expectations given them will actually benefit them in the long run. When pressed further, I discover that they are often being mentored by their supervisor. My clients seem to question whether falling in step with their supervisor is really positioning themselves well. Hmm.
You see, if you are a supervisor/mentor, you have competing objectives: get the work done to satisfy your clients versus freeing up your proteges to engage in stretch opportunities, leaving you with having to find someone else to do the work.
Some supervisors put it all on their proteges to figure out how to get it all done AND venture into a new opportunity. While it will require additional effort and problem solving on their part, it’s a joint effort and confirms that you have competing objectives. Otherwise, you would be more than willing to turn your protégés loose. Don’t take it personally, but don’t be surprised when your people feel like a resource to your goals instead of you being a support to theirs.
The point is that, as a supervisor/mentor, you have to balance your needs with theirs. You have to be on the lookout for both getting the work done while continuing their development. That’s a tall order and requires constant vigilance on your part.
All of this to say that your role as both a supervisor and mentor for the same protégé is difficult and challenging for even the most proficient of supervisors. You may benefit to suggest your proteges find another mentor who will be able to give them the perspective they need and will relieve you of the pressure of competing priorities. It’s not a sign of weakness, but an indication of maturity. Ultimately, you don’t want to be responsible for holding someone back because you were their supervisor and their mentor.