In the beginning of the mentorship process it is important to define “the rules of the game” between the mentor and the mentee – what is and is not allowed during the mentoring relationship.
Some of the examples of well-established rules of the game are:
- Show respect for each other by coming to the meetings regularly and on time, by turning off your mobile phones and allowing the other person to finish what they wanted to say.
- Discretion: Everything that is being said during the mentoring relationship is strictly confidential. If, for some reason, information from the meeting is to be communicated to other people, both sides should give their consent.
- Mentor is obliged to communicate which topics are off-limits for the discussion with the mentee, due to the conflict of interest or disloyalty concerns.
- Mentee always has the primacy in deciding on the topics for the meeting, unless otherwise agreed.
- Asking provocative questions is OK when the atmosphere is open and friendly.
EXAMPLE OF 1 HOUR MEETING AGENDA:
- What’s new from the last time – 5 minutes
- Chosen topic/question for the day – 50 minutes
- Summary/plan for the following meeting – 5 minutes
GOOD MENTORING MEETINGS TIPS:
- Plan ahead, continuity is important
- On average, 8 to 10 meetings a year are necessary
- Agree on the agenda
- It is best to hold meetings on a neutral territory
- Get to know each other at the first meeting
- Constantly evaluate progress, even at the last meeting
- Conclusion: what did we talk about?
- Reflection: thoughts that moved me during and after the conversation
- Consistency: what do I need to do/consider the following…
DIFFERENT CONVERSATION MODELS WHICH YOU CAN USE FOR THE MENTORSHIP MEETINGS:
GROW model: developmental and far-sighted
Reality: interpretation of reality
Option: different options
Will: what the mentee does
STAR model – focus on realization and concrete events
Situation: describe the present situation
Task: what is your mission
Action: what have you done
Result: what have you achieved
BASIC RULES OF ACTIVE LISTENING:
- Listen to others while they talk
- Avoid talking down to people
- Show understanding and interest
- Ask open-ended questions
- Use ’I’ messages
- Help others see the situation
THE USE OF QUESTIONS DURING THE MEETINGS:
During one’s work with the mentee, it is best to use open-ended questions which aim to elicit more free and detailed answers.
The so-called closed questions should be avoided in the mentoring meetings. These are the kinds of questions which elicit only ’YES’ or ’NO’ responses:
- Did you?
- Do you have?
- Do you want?
Sometimes it happens that the mentor-mentee relationship does not succeed. The most often reasons for this are unclear goals and directions. Sometimes, the right kind of personal chemistry is lacking, and then it is best for such a mentoring relationship to end. If the mentor discovers that the mentee has serious personal problems, he/she should refer the mentee to a professional without trying to assume a role of the psychiatrist.
MOST COMMON MENTORING TRAPS ARE:
- Lack of mentee engagement
- Mentee feels apprehensive of the mentor
- Mentor has no time
- Mentor does not provide feedback
- Mentor gives too much advice
There are several questions that can be helpful in setting up the rules of the mentoring relationship:
- How often should the meetings take place?
It is common that the participants meet once a month. In the beginning, the meetings can take place more often until things are worked out and participants become familiar with each other.
- How long should a meeting last?
From 90 minutes to 2 hours is a good time-frame that allows participants to remain concentrated.
- Where should the meetings take place? Should the meetings be held in everyday surroundings, or are there better alternatives?
Sometimes, a walk in the park can be an excellent solution – of course, if both mentor and mentee agree.
- To take notes or not?
For the mentor, it can sometimes be useful to make a few quick notes during the meeting. Make a note, for example, of the questions you would like to ask but you don’t want to interrupt the discussion, or ideas that come to you while you are listening to the other person. Making notes could be good for the mentee as well, so that he/she can track their progress.
- To be in contact between the meetings or not?
Mentors should encourage their mentees to feel free to contact them even between the sessions if any questions or dilemmas arise.
- How to define a topic for each meeting?
The mentee, for example, can send an email with a desired topic several days ahead and communicate in that way what he would like to discuss with his/her mentor; alternatively, the topic can be jointly determined at the following meeting.