How to get the most out of a mentoring process

Expectations need to be completely aligned to get a successful mentoring process. The mentee needs to take action before the first meeting and keep on top of things until the last meeting.

In my previous post I briefly went through some of the benefits about having a mentor. Now let’s turn our attention to how to get the most out of a mentoring process when you have entered into such a relationship. I’ll review four key areas 1) roles and responsibilities, 2) first meeting, 3) during the process, and 4) ending the process.

1) Roles and responsibilities
First, a word about the role the mentor and mentee have in the mentoring relationship.  The mentor is basically a role model in terms of the values and capabilities he or she possesses – otherwise why would you want that person as your mentor. The mentor is responsible for:

  • The mentee’s learning and development process by ensuring that the process remains structured
  • Being a sparring partner by challenging and encouraging the mentee in a constructive fashion
  • Sharing knowledge and experience for the benefit of the mentee
  • Respecting the mentee and being patient

The mentee also has considerable responsibilities for making the process beneficial, specifically the mentee should:

  • Be clear about development needs
  • Plan the process to work towards the development goals
  • Set the agenda and prepare for each meeting with the mentor
  • Be open to guidance, be curious, and ready for ground-breaking new perspectives

2) The first meeting
The key to getting a fantastic mentoring process is all about aligning expectations. It’s as simple as that, but easily forgotten or skipped. Therefore, at your first meeting it’s crucial that you discuss the details before you dive into the actual mentoring. Below I have compiled a checklist of things you might consider discussing at your first meeting

  • Purpose
    • Goals of the mentee – what do you want to use the mentor for?
    • Length of the mentoring process
  • Cooperation
    • Frequency of meetings
    • Timing of meetings
    • How do you keep contact between meetings (phone, mail etc.)
    • Personality profiles
  • Before each meeting
    • When to send agenda
    • Minimum requirements to agenda
  • Topics for discussion
    • What topics are expected to be discussed
    • What topics are out of bounds
    • Confidentiality of discussions
  • Evaluation
    • How to evaluate traction of progress
    • How to provide feedback to each other

Note that the list seems short but will probably take quite some time to go through at the meeting. This can be considerably shortened if you agree on preparing your thoughts for each item on the list beforehand. I have used a similar list on a couple occasions and can testify that it, at the very least, helps setting your thoughts straight as a mentee. The mentor also gains some knowledge about what to expect. Further, writing some notes on what you discuss will come in handy later on.

3) During the process
Going through the checklist at the first meeting might not be enough though. It is helpful reviewing what you agreed on at the first meeting once in a while to make sure you are still on the right track and that you both still agree on the objective and are getting value from your interactions.

Keep a diary of what you discuss at each meeting. This can become very helpful if you suddenly feel the need to backtrack your thoughts or recall a specific advice you can’t remember.

Remember to enjoy the process while it lasts. It’s a golden opportunity to get such valuable input absolutely free, so remember to be explicit about how much you appreciate the help you are getting.

4) Ending the process
There’s nothing worse than ending the process without actually ending it, i.e. suddenly the meeting just doesn’t happen anymore. So make sure that you are both aware that the mentoring is no longer needed and take some time out to celebrate what you have learned along the way by going out for dinner or something to that tune.

I hope this will help you to a successful mentoring process.

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