Guidelines for Effective Mentoring Sessions

By Sue Hornblow, Key Performance Group.

In earlier blogs I shared some thoughts on the value of a mentor, identifying and the initial meeting. This time I will give you some tips to ensure your mentoring meetings are thought-provoking and create value.

Establishing a trusting high value mentoring relationship takes an investment of time for both parties.  It typically takes several sessions to build trust and an understanding of what approaches work best for each of you.  The first session typically focuses on agreeing goals and what success would look like. Ideally you leave this and every session with the mentee deciding some actions they will take as a result of the discussion. It is a good idea to document these and refer to them at the start of your next session.

To ensure sessions are valuable, you may like to use the following agenda for a one hour mentoring session.

  1. Reconnect (3-5 minutes)
  2. Objective/ focus for today’s session ( a good idea to notify in advance)  (1-2 minutes)
  3. Review of actions and the insights gained/ lessons learnt (10 minutes)
  4. Discussion on topic of focus for today (35–40 minutes)
  5. Wrap up (6-8 minutes)
  • Agreed actions
  • Reflect on key learning and insights from session.
  • Agree any carry forward items
  • Check on value of process, what is working and what you could improve
  • Confirm next session logistics

Having a structure for mentoring meetings keeps you both on track and can help to ensure that your valuable time is well spent.

While a mentor usually has experience and wisdom to contribute, I would warn to hold back on giving advice. Your experiences are valuable, but the person you are and the situations you faced are different to those of the mentee. They like you are unique. Few people like to be told what to do. So hold back until asked for advice. Instead use your experience to ask powerful questions that make the mentee think differently and explore new possibilities. Adults learn better when they are made to think for themselves. We are more committed to actions and take responsibility for results when we make the decision rather than being told what to do. We are then accountable for our actions and the results.

Having a mentor is like having a handrail to help guide and support us. We need to take the steps ourselves, but progress is accelerated when we have good support and guidance.

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