A trusting and open conversation is the foundation of mentoring where mentors can share from their experience, relate “war stories”, play devil’s advocate, hold their mentee accountable and ask open questions, listening with an intention to understand and assist.
Below are some strategies that many mentors have used which they and their mentees have found useful. Most are simple but provide a focus to the mentoring conversation which will produce some tangible outcomes.
- Mind mapping can be an excellent way of a mentee identifying the various elements which relate to a particular issue or goal. The use of different colours for each element enables the mentee to classify each component – it’s also a great visual cue for them. Also encourage them to use images and motifs, not just words – part of the benefit of mind mapping is that it gets the creative aspects of the mind working and helps in thinking laterally.
- Listing – sounds simple but can be very powerful if the mentee makes a list in relation to their goals/desires/needs or current situation with the headings of challenges, successes, and goals. This list can include pros and cons, but even without that it provides a useful starting point.
- Keep a journal for a set period on a particular topic for a particular period of time and write reflections. The mentee will focus their thoughts regarding this particular topic during that time and allow them to release a range of perspectives – thoughts and feelings relating to that topic. Having a set time (for example up to one month) gives an impetus to drive forward with the particular issue.
- Mentees need to understand the value of investing in their own development. One simple way of doing this is to get mentees to set aside 1 hour each week for their own development. Essentially they are booking a meeting with themself.
- Case studies can be a very useful way to safely unpack issues and strategies which have or have not worked in other situations. The key is to make the case-study as relevant as possible to the mentee’s current needs or relates directly to where they would like to progress.
- Resources such as journal articles, comments, books, websites and people – if these can be shared it gives the mentee an opportunity to self-learn and grow. Sometimes mentees don’t know where to start to find these things so if you can share resources that have helped you and are relevant it is a very self-empowering tool for the mentees.
- Proactive/Reactive – Stephen Covey, author of 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, his habit 1 is Proactive not reactive. If mentees want to make some changes in their lives or careers, the energy, drive and desire is going to need to come from them in order to create positive opportunities. They can influence and control aspects of their own attitudes and behaviours, language and thoughts. There are circumstances which are beyond their control so knowing what is within and outside their control is a useful starting point.
- Mentee doing a role-play/real-play where they get straight and clear feedback on their presentation skills including language (pace/volume/tone/expression) and non-verbal (posture/gestures/eye contact/facial expressions). Often the message can be lost in the delivery.
- Document summary of actions to move forward and feedback to help progress. It’s all too easy to have a useful conversation, go back to work, and not recall the specifics of strategies and actions that will help the mentee move towards their goal.
- Career timeline which doesn’t just look at specific roles and companies, but for each role have the mentee rate -10 to 0 to +10 (negative/neutral/positive degrees) how much they did or didn’t enjoy their role and why they did or didn’t enjoy it. It’s likely that you’ll discover repetitive words used which provide useful insights into what’s important in a role for your mentee. It could range from great or awful managers to issues around type of task to culture and values.
- Research companies that the mentee is interested in working for to understand whether or not their values and direction are aligned. But also for mentees who want to grow their own business – use other companies as a benchmark or guide for growth.
- Brainstorming – where blue sky is opened up and mentees are encouraged to think laterally about their particular issue, being mindful not to reject any idea on the first run through but to just pour ideas onto the page and then go through carefully and identify needs, gaps, strengths and interests.
- Investigate internal positions the mentee would like to move into. Who are the key decision makers to position them self with, ie. who to have conversations with?
Linked to this is approaching specific people to be the ‘value add’ to the team, department or project – focusing on what skills and attributes they’d bring to the opportunity.
- Encourage your mentee to get involved with internal committees, programs, and projects including ‘extra-curricular’ for the organisation. Leads to the mentee being noticed for the right reasons – outside normal duties.
In addition to internal ways to be noticed, help the mentee to identify external organisations they can be involved in to build transferable skills and networks. For example, charities that they’re particularly interested in; ratepayers’ associations; Rotary or Lions; professional membership bodies; schools/churches/community groups; sporting clubs etc…