Tips for successful mentor meetings

Important etiquette tips for on-line mentoring:

  • Test technology beforehand – audio, camera, internet
  • Be prepared for technical difficulties – secondary contact method?
  • Always have an agenda – or a clear purpose
  • Dress appropriately – smart casual as a minimum
  • Choose a quiet location
  • Take note of the background behind you – use a stock background if yours is not suitable
  • Limit distractions as much as possible
  • Look at the camera and speak clearly
  • Learn how to mute your microphone
  • Be on time! Or contact your mentoring partner beforehand to advise of changed plans.

Considering arranging your first meeting in a neutral space such as on campus in the library or at a mutually agreed café or public space.

Ask open questions to create conversation. This avoids your questions being answered with yes or no and stopping the conversation flowing and exchange of information.

Your mentee may be nervous and therefore conversation may be a little difficult whilst you are building your relationship.

Conversation starters - ask your mentee:

  • What do you do outside of study?
  • What sport you follow?
  • What is your favourite movie?
  • Why did you choose your course?
  • What aspect do you enjoy most about your course?
  • Tell me about what you least enjoy about your course?
  • What would you like to do when you graduate?

Don’t forget to tell the mentee about yourself too.

  • How you got into your current role
  • What you studied
  • Why you wanted to be a mentor
  • What your interests are outside of uni

Feel free to organise some activities for your mentor meetings such as job shadowing, attending professional conferences or networking event.

Communication styles that assist the mentoring process

An incorporation of two communication styles - facilitative and authoritative - will support your mentoring experience.

Facilitative skills

  • Affirming their worth
  • Giving good attention
  • Expressing care or concern
  • Appropriate sharing and self-disclosure
  • Encouraging celebration of personal attributes
  • Provoking self-discovery through reflection
  • Asking clarifying questions
  • Prompting to say more
  • Using reflective listening to help someone express their feelings

Asking questions that help:

  • Generate options and possibilities
  • Evaluate the pros and cons of options of actions
  • Consider consequences of decisions before taking action

Authoritative skills

  • Giving feedback
  • Challenging perceptions
  • Describing how others may perceive a situation or behaviour
  • Imparting information
  • Expressing your perception
  • Sharing your own experience
  • Giving your opinion or stating your point of view
  • Explaining
  • Providing background
  • Identifying other resources
  • Describing possible consequences of a particular action
  • Suggesting
  • Advising
  • Recommending

The mentor’s strength in communication is their ability to shift styles easily, switching from giving advice to eliciting information, or from challenging someone to being supportive, or they can choose to be silent and simply listen.

The supportive style is the foundation of the mentoring relationship. It is used to build rapport and trust. The emphasis is on listening and reflection eliciting the mentee’s perception of situations and their self-appraisal.

However, everybody has their “blind spots” and sometimes a person must be challenged with perceptions or opinions contrary to their own. Mentors must be able to use authoritative styles to impart information, identify potential risks and recommend action. Learning and growth do not always come easily and without this kind of feedback a person could be blissfully ignorant of opportunities to develop.

Part B taken from: Rolfe, A. (2012) Mentoring Mindset, Skills and Tools, Mentoring Works