Getting the Most out of Mentoring

I strongly believe in the power of mentoring in developing leaders. During my years with mentoring I have found that there are things you can, as a mentee, can do to get the most out of the mentoring sessions.

I have developed a MENTOR-model:

M – meet
E – explore
N – needs and requirement
T – time and resources
O – options
R – review

 

Meet. It is important to prepare everything ahead of the mm-meeting (the meeting between mentee and mentor), f.ex. when and where it should be, how much time you have,do you have an agenda and what are the mentees goals. Send it to your mentor before the meeting.

Explore. At the mm-meeting it is important to get an overview of the current topic, what have the mentee done since the last meeting. Check whether the goals and agenda has been changed.

Needs and requirement. Now you should find out what the mentee requires to achieve its goals, which

challenges that exist and what is it the mentee really, really want.

Time and resources. To move forward, it is important to find out when the mentee wants to achieve his/her goals and what resources are important for this (people, equipment, etc.)

Options. All the various measures to achieve the goal will be discussed here and you will find the ones that is appropriate.

Review. Finally, it is important to summarize what you have agreed on and what the mentee has to do until the next mm-meeting. And not least, check if the mentee has regained the goal for the meeting.

I have also put together some questions for each step, this will come in an article no. two.

The Mentor´s way Rule #5 – Balance Empathy and Action

By Rik Nemanick, Ph.D.

As trust grows between a mentor and a protégé, the mentor will notice a change in the types of issues the protégé wants to discuss. The issues often become more complex, demanding, or recurring. Because of their more challenging nature, they usually also are more emotionally charged. In fact, this change is often a signal to a mentor that trust has built to the point that the protégé feels comfortable brining these more sensitive issues into the mentoring conversation. They signal a turning point in the partnership that many mentors miss.

Up until this point, many of the issues a protégé brought to the mentoring discussion were simpler, with easier solutions that a mentor and protégé could devise quickly. However, as the protégé and mentor wade into the deeper waters of the more complex issues, the answers won’t come as quickly or easily. And, many of these issues carry with them an emotional component that wasn’t present in the earlier issues. When mentors miss the signal the emotions present, and continue to try to focus on the issues at hand. However, they usually trip over the protégé’s emotions, and see the protégé stall out in progress. What these mentors miss is the fact that the protégé is looking as much for empathy as for a solution.

Empathy, which is the ability to understand and share someone’s feelings, is often confused with sympathy, which is feeling pity or sorry for someone. Protégés look for empathy from a mentor because a mentor has already been in the protégé’s shoes before. When a mentor empathizes with a protégé, she is connecting with a time when she felt how the protégé feels now because she has had a similar experience in the past. The ability to empathize often separates a mentor from a coach; coaches oftensympathize with someone because they haven’t been in a similar situation before. Mentors often have the ability to truly empathize with a protégé, which can strengthen the connection between them.

Empathy benefits a protégé in many ways. When facing a difficult or intractable issue, a protégé often feels like she or he is the only one who is struggling. A lot of comfort comes from the protégé knowing that she or he is not along and is not the only one who has faced this issue before. The protégé also is looking for some validation that it is okay to feel this way. No one wants to feel out of control or in the grip of emotions. We all want some rational basis for why we feel the way we do. By empathizing with the protégé, the mentor is giving the protégé time and space to acknowledge and express the feelings.

When we are grappling with a difficult issue, emotions often keep us from a rational appraisal of our situation. Emotions live in our more primitive brain, and have a way of creating noise that inhibits our more rational brain from gaining the perspective needed to solve problems. Acknowledging and expressing emotions helps calm down the primitive brain and allow the reasoned brain to begin to see the situation differently.

The mistake many mentors make is to drive by the emotional content of the protégé’s issue and go straight to problem solving. Doing this can cause the trust a mentor and protégé have built to plateau, or even erode. Without adequate empathy, a protégé can feel belittled (my issue isn’t important), ignored (my mentor isn’t listening to me), or foolish (I’m the only one who has been tripped up by this issue).

The ability to feel and express empathy is difficult to teach, but it can often be improved. There are many ways a mentor can empathize with a protégé.

  1. Emphasize the “safe place” aspect of mentoring. By reminding the protégé that the mentoring conversation is a safe place, the mentor is giving the protégé permission to get feelings out and express them without judgment. Such a validation can allow the protégé to let go of some of the emotion.
  2. Use feeling words to identify and validate the emotions. Often naming an emotion goes a long way to making a protégé feel understood. By saying, “I can see that this makes you very frustrated,” creates an opening for a protégé to acknowledge his or her own feelings. It helps to build up your emotional lexicon to give you words to name emotions. You can find a starter list here.
  3. Relate your own experiences. The feeling of empathy comes from being able to relate to someone else’s experience. As a mentor, you are more likely than others to have faced similar issues to your protégé. You can share your experiences using “Feel, Felt, Found.” “I can see that you feel ____. I have felt that way when____. What I have found is that _____.”
  4. Test to see if the protégé is ready to start considering solutions. The longer the issue has been festering, the longer it may take for the protégé to let go of the emotions. You don’t want to hurry a protégé along too quickly if the emotions haven’t been fully explored or expressed. Check to see if the protégé wants to think about solutions yet, or if the time would be better spent talking through the emotions.

The caution for mentors is not to get caught up wallowing with a protégé. If the turn is never made to actions a protégé can take, the emotions can begin to overwhelm the conversation and become a whirlpool that continues to pull downward. It is important to find the balance between empathy and action.

Look here for the original blogpost, and to Rik Nemanick´s homepage

The Mentor´s way Rule #4 – Good Questions Beat Good Advice

by Rik Nemanick, Ph.D.

Often when we think of mentors, we think of people who dispense wise advice. After all, your mentor is someone who has more experience than you and can give you guidance on what to do. Many mentoring partnerships begin with a piece of sound advice that helps establish a mentor’s credibility. Over the long run, however, advice can become a trap for a mentor. Mentors who only give advice miss an opportunity to teach a protégé to think for him or herself. It is difficult to build this capability when giving advice. Advice is the end of a conversation; a question is the beginning of one.

As trust grows between a mentor and protégé, their conversations will turn to more complex issues, many of which may be vexing for a protégé. While a protégé may be seeking a simple solution to the problem, there is rarely a silver bullet. Instead, what a protégé needs is a safe place to explore the situation and get another perspective on it. When a mentor asks good questions, the protégé is asked to step out of the situation and examine it from a distance. This process of exploration helps a protégé find alternatives that she hasn’t considered yet or find a new way to approach the problem.

Questions also help a mentor keep from treating symptoms of the issue. Often the protégé is raising an issue that is a symptom of a larger issue. When advice is given before the issue is explored more fully, the protégé may address the surface issue without getting to the root cause.

Just as good advice can establish a mentor’s credibility, it can also erode that credibility. It is easier to give advice on less complex issues. For instance, you may share a few of your time management techniques with a protégé who is struggling under the weight of his commitments. That advice establishes you as someone who can help with his or her issues. Over time, however, your protégé may trust you with more complex issues that do not have easy answers. Your protégé may have a hostile relationship with his boss and wants your thoughts on what to do. When you suggest talking with the boss, your protégé says, “I’ve tried that; he doesn’t listen.” With that advice, you may lose some of that trust and credibility you have built. A better question would have been, “What have you tried so far?” and, “What did it sound like when you tried to raise the issue with the boss?” Those questions will get you more mileage than advice.

Finally, questions keep the ownership of the issue and solution with the protégé. If a protégé tries your advice and it fails, she can blame you. On the other hand, if the protégé arrives at a course of action through a conversation driven by good questions, she is more likely to take ownership of the solution and try harder to make the solution work.

There are two basic classes mentors ask. Exploratory questions are meant to get the protégé to describe the situation. You are trying to pull the protégé out of the situation to examine it from a distance. With these questions, you are trying to establish the groundwork:

  • Who is involved in the situation?
  • What is each party’s interest?
  • What is the primary challenge?
  • What constraints does the protégé face?
  • What time constraints are at work?

Through these questions, you can probe the situation and try to understand all of the moving parts. Sometimes, as a protégé answers exploratory questions, she starts working toward solutions. Other times, she needs more of a spark to move her outside her comfort zone.

Catalyst questions try to engage the protégé in deeper thinking about the situation. These questions try to get the protégé to see things from different perspectives, see options beyond their current thinking, or challenge assumptions that are constraining thinking.

Catalyst questions come in many varieties, including the following:

  • Logical: What could have caused that to happen?
  • Enabling: You have mentioned that as a barrier; what could you do to start climbing over or working around that barrier?
  • Comparison: How have others handed similar situations?
  • Contrasting: How is this situation different than one’s you have experienced before?
  • Visionary: What does success look life for you?

While good questions do beat good advice, there are three times when advice makes sense. As mentioned earlier, a mentor can use advice early to establish credibility. Helping with an early issue gets you a small win that can help build trust. Advice can also be used for less complex issues, often closing knowledge gaps a protégé has because he lacks experience. Finally, advice can be used to clear log jams. When a protégé has looked at an issue from many angles and still cannot come up with a course of action, advice can be presented as the first option to consider. Often by hearing that there is someaction the protégé can take frees them to consider other alternatives.

 

Look here for the original blogpost, and to Rik Nemanick´s homepage

The Mentor´s way Rule #3 – Create a Safe Place

by Rik Nemanick, Ph.D.

Many mentors think their primary job is to give advice to their protégés. While advice can be an important tool of mentoring (although not as powerful as asking questions as we’ll see in the next rule of mentoring), the mentors that are most successful focus on building trust with a protégé. Every time I talk to mentors and protégés who had effective and satisfying experiences, they point to the trust that they built as the foundation of their partnership. Trust is the true currency of mentoring; building a “trust account” between a protégé and mentor becomes a powerful platform that can help a protégé grow in many ways:

  • Expressing emotions. All protégés have situations that are laden with emotion. They may be holding onto fear, frustration, anger, or doubts that get bottled up, creating a block to their growth and progress. A mentor who creates a safe place allows these emotions to be expressed without fear of judgment or reprisal. Like a pressure relief valve, expressing the emotions allows the protégé to blow off steam and think more clearly about the situation.
  • Dealing with difficulty. Pent up emotions are usually tied to difficult situations. They get pent up because the protégé doesn’t feel like she or he has anywhere to examine the situation and formulate a strategy for dealing with it. A mentor can provide a third-party perspective because he or she usually doesn’t have a stake in the situation. It is the safe place that allows constructive problem solving to take place.
  • Taking risks. The power of mentoring opens up when a protégé begins to learn. True learning occurs when a protégé moves outside of his comfort zone. If what was comfortable was already working, the situation wouldn’t be causing stress for the protégé. Creating a safe place allows a protégé to try new things and take risks, knowing that he will have someone to support him. A mentor gives a protégé confidence to try new things, helps a protégé cope with setbacks that come with risks, and celebrates with the protégé when the risks pay off.
  • Building the relationship. The trust built between a protégé and mentor pays off over time. The bonds that are built through a trusting partnership may help a protégé today, but they are even more valuable down the road, often when active mentoring has come to an end. The trust capital that a mentor and protégé built in the past creates a reserve that can be tapped when the protégé faces new challenges over time.

Trust grows slowly and naturally over time. There are some things that mentors and protégés can do to both accelerate that growth and protect it from damage:

  1. Get to know the whole person. Many mentoring partnerships draw their boundaries around their professional selves. To find those commonalities that are the seeds of trust, devote time getting to know the whole person. Ask about family, hobbies, interests, and aspirations. I often advise partners in formal programs to spend their second meeting having a meal together and getting to know each other.
  2. Build momentum early. The conventional wisdom holds that mentors and protégés should meet about once a month. That advice works once trust has been built, but works against growing trust more quickly. At the beginning, mentors and protégés are better served by meeting more frequently and building some momentum. Getting into the habit of meeting and discussing issues creates a solid foundation for mentoring more quickly. Meet every other week at the beginning of a partnership, and drop back to monthly after a few months when you feel that trust has grown sufficiently.
  3. Look for small winsTeresa Amabile has written about how powerful small wins are, creating the energy that fuels progress. Small wins also can help build a relationship in its early stages, creating an emotional bond that cements trust.
  4. Build the mentor’s skills. Trust can erode when working with a mentor who isn’t skilled. As issues become more complex, the solutions become more nuanced. The advice-giving skills that worked for a mentor early on may begin to erode trust, causing a protégé to lose faith in the partnership. Spend time building your mentoring skills by reading articles and books, attending seminars, and seeking your own mentors and learning their craft.
  5. Maintain confidentiality. The quickest way to drain your trust account is to break the confidence of your mentoring partner. Mentors and protégés need to establish early on whether their conversations are confidential, and what limits (if any) there are to that confidentiality. Being explicit up front will open the door to difficult conversations that will rely on the trust that confidentiality brings.
  6. Be patient. Not all of us trust at the same speed. Some of us trust more quickly than others. Recognize that your mentoring partner may not trust as quickly as you do. If you trust more quickly, you may want to slow down and engage in more trust-building behaviors to let your mentoring partner catch up with you. Trust takes time to build, and the investment you make early will pay dividends over time.

 

Look here for the original blogpost, and to Rik Nemanick´s homepage

The Mentor´s way Rule #2 – Stay Out of the Driver´s Seat

The old aphorism, “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink,” is the foundation of the second rule of mentoring. Many a mentor has fallen into the subtle trap of driving the mentoring process, only to reach a point of disappointment and frustration when the protégé’s energy and enthusiasm begins to wane. The drive that was there at the beginning starts to give way to other demands in the protégé’s world. For some, the newness of mentoring wears off, sapping some enthusiasm. For others, day-to-day responsibilities begin to take over, and mentoring becomes a luxury the protégé cannot afford. In any case, mentoring meetings become less frequent and tangible progress on mentoring goals slows.

When the drive fades, many mentors see a vacuum that they are tempted to fill. The temptation is palpable, since the mentor is losing the connection that had been built early in the process. They see the progress slowing and want to step in to get it back. There is also a self-esteem component at work: is my protégé losing interest because I’m not a good mentor? Some mentors step into the gap by driving the meeting schedule. Others begin to take over on the protégés goals, giving more advice and taking a more active role in the steps the protégé is taking. Both of these actions can lead to either a protégé disengaging from a mentor entirely or, worse, a protégé being dragged along by an enthusiastic mentor who has taken the wheel.

Unfortunately, driving the mentoring process generally backfires on the most well intentioned mentor. The fact is that mentoring isn’t for everyone at all times. There are some protégés who are attracted to the idea of mentoring, but really don’t have the time to devote to it. They have other pressing issues that take up more of their time and attention, making mentoring a tertiary priority at best. This protégé may start working with a mentor with the best intentions, only to disappear two or three months in, leaving the mentor wondering what went wrong.

There are some simple things a mentor and protégé can do early in the process to help keep the mentor out of the driver’s seat.

  1. Agree on a meeting schedule early in the process and turn over responsibility for the schedule to the protégé.
  2. Let the protégé know the best way to get on your schedule and give her or him permission to book meetings. If you have an administrative assistant, tell him or her that the protégé is allowed priority access to your schedule.
  3. Protect meetings with your protégé. When you have other priorities that compete with your meeting schedule, set a higher bar for what would cause you to reschedule.
  4. Promise to respond to requests from your protégé within a short timeframe (e.g., one or two business days). Too many protégés are left hanging by busy mentors.
  5. Don’t chase the disengaged protégé. If it has been a while since you have met, send a gentle reminder. You can open the door to reconnecting periodically, but don’t start chasing the protégé.

These deceptively simple logistics guidelines will help you transfer ownership of the mentoring process to the protégé, which is where it belongs.

Look here for the original blogpost, and to Rik Nemanick´s homepage

Mentor´s Way Rule #1 – Chart a Course

by Rik Nemanick, Ph.D.

One of the things that separates mentoring from coaching is the time scale in which the two operate. Coaching tends to be focused on the here and now, closing immediate gaps and accomplishing short term goals. Mentoring is focused on the long term, the protégé’s journey that may last years. Understanding a protégé’s goals and aspirations will help create a context for more meaningful conversations. Spending the time up front to explore these goals will guide the mentoring interaction, helping the mentor to ask better questions, give better advice, and create an overall direction for the partnership.

One thing mentors learn is that protégés come to mentoring at very different stages of career exploration. Some will approach mentoring with very clear goals for their career (“I want to be the vice president of sales for the company’s South American region in five years”), while others have no idea what is possible for them or where they are going to be in five years. Both of these protégés are on a journey, but they are at different points on different paths. They can both benefit from mentoring, but their mentoring will look very different if their mentors take the time to learn where they are and where they are trying to go.

Below is a brief description of four phases of career exploration. At the beginning of the mentoring process, spend time finding out where your protégé is in terms of these phases to help establish where you want to take mentoring. Use the phase to set a one year mentoring goal that will guide your conversations.

  1. The Explorer. The first phase is the protégé who has a drive for something, he just isn’t sure what he wants. He may not be sure what is possible or where he should take his interests and talents for a satisfying career. For this protégé, the focus of mentoring is on Exploring, looking at the larger map of available career choices and finding out more about the possible destinations. The goal for this protégé is to spend a year exploring and finding a destination that will be satisfying.
  2. The Scout. This protégé has a good idea where she wants to go, but isn’t sure how to get there. She wants her mentor to work with her constructing a plan for the future that will be motivating and achievable. She may need to test out a few different paths to see which one works for her. The Scout’s goal is to spend a year building and testing a plan, perhaps taking the first few steps on the plan by the end of the year.
  3. The Navigator. This protégé enters mentoring with a destination in mind and a plan on how to get there. He wants a mentor to help him test his plan to see if it is sound and realistic. He also wants someone to hold him accountable for making progress down the plan and provide encouragement along the way. The Navigator looks at his path and decides how far down it he and the mentor will get in a year.
  4. The Homesteader. The fourth phase of exploration is the protégé who will be in her current role for the foreseeable future. She may be newer to the role and is just learning it, or may have arrived at role that is a great fit for her current needs. For her, mentoring is about growing within a role, keeping from getting stagnant and complacent. She wants to challenge herself to grow and keep her skills fresh, since she doesn’t know when she might want to start exploring again. Her goal for mentoring is to expand her skills and her roles over the course of the year to ensure she continues to learn and engage.

While these phases are presented as a logical sequence, most protégés do not experience them that way. As they learn and experience more, they change their understanding of where they want to go and what it takes to get there. And, circumstances may change around them that may reshuffle their priorities. A strident navigator may get transferred within her company, derailing her plans and forcing her to reassess her goals and path. An Explorer may spend a year exploring options, only to find that he had the ideal job the whole time and switches to becoming a Homesteader.

Spend the time at the beginning of the process finding out where your protégé is and where he or she wants to go. Then, check in every three to six months to see how things have progressed. After that, enjoy the ride with your protégé. Remember, your protégé is in the driver’s seat.

Look here for the original blogpost, and to Rik Nemanick´s homepage

The Mentors Way: An introduction to the Eight Rules of Mentoring

by Rik Nemanick, Ph.D.

It has been eleven years since I started working on my first mentoring program at Anheuser-Busch. It was a modest program (twelve mentoring pairs) for the IT organization, and it started me on a course of learning more about mentoring. Over that time, I have trained over 2,000 mentors and have observed what works and what doesn’t in mentoring. Over the next few weeks, I am going to share these this learning here.

About two years ago, I took up running. I started running casually with a friend, two to three miles at a time. It wasn’t long before I was signing up for 5k’s and 10k’s, leading to my running two half marathons in 2011. Along the way, I sought out advice and mentoring about running. One piece of advice stuck with me about long distance running was this rule: run within your heart rate. The rule means that if you run too fast at the beginning of the race (pushing your heart rate too high), you won’t have enough energy in the last few miles to keep up your pace. While the rule seems simple, it is a powerful tool when running long distances and gets you into trouble when you break it (as I found out both times).

I have organized my learning about mentoring into rules that are intended to do the same thing: give mentors simple guides for approaching their mentoring partnerships. These rules are written for mentors who are in mentoring partnerships that will last a year or longer. Like a marathon (or, in my case, a half marathon), what you do in the beginning will have an impact later in the relationship. Following these rules early will help mentors establish productive, trusting partnerships that will benefit themselves and their protégés over time.

Here is a preview of the eight rules:

  • Rule 1: Chart a Course. Good mentoring starts with an exploration of where the protégé wants to end up. These goals become the foundation of the partnership.
  • Rule 2: Stay Out of the Driver’s Seat: Mentoring should be led by the protégé. Mentors need to let the protégé know it is her or his job to drive the partnership.
  • Rule 3: Create a Safe Place. Trust is the key to mentoring. Mentors need to focus on developing trust with a protégé so that the true benefits of mentoring can be realized.
  • Rule 4: Good Questions Beat Good Advice. The best mentors challenge us to think. A mentor who only dispenses advice misses opportunities to expand a protégé’s thinking.
  • Rule 5: Balance Empathy and Action. Part of being a trusted advisor is giving the protégé a place to vent frustrations, but not allowing them to consume the protégé. Good mentors find the balance between showing empathy and encouraging the protégé to take action.
  • Rule 6: Create Accountability. One of the hidden powers of mentoring is the accountability that it creates for the protégé to take action. Mentors can create a subtle accountability that encourages action while still offering support.
  • Rule 7: Get Help When Needed. Many potential mentors do not step up to the role because they fear that they have to have all the answers. Great mentors know when to reach out and help a protégé find the answers by tapping into others who can help.
  • Rule 8: Pay Attention to Transitions. Mentoring has a natural life cycle, and there will come a time in most partnerships when the mentor needs to step back and play a less active role with the protégé. Good mentors recognize this transition as a sign of a protégé’s growth and use it as a time of reflection, celebration, and transition.

Over the next few weeks, I will explore each of these rules. I welcome your comments and thoughts on the rules.

See more about Rik Nemanick here

Wants to help grow successful small businesses in America?

For all my American readers out there, want to do some volunteering as a mentor? SCORE is a nonprofit association dedicated to helping small businesses get off the ground, grow and achieve their goals through education and mentorship. They have been doing this for nearly fifty years.

They provide:

  • MENTORS who share their expertise across 62 industries
  • Confidential businessCOUNSELING in person or via email
  • Free business TOOLS, templates and tips online
  • Inexpensive or free businessWORKSHOPS (locally) and webinars (online 24/7)
Because of their work they are supported by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), and thanks to their network of 12,000+ volunteers, they are able to deliver services at no charge or at very low cost.
This is a fantastic organization with over 12 000 volunteers helping entrepreneurs in over 340 chapter across America.
Here is one of the success stories.

Off Broadway Dance Company

Owners Pat Balderas and Geri Messer created Off Broadway by purchasing the Manhattan Dance Company in 2011, and they have been growing steadily ever since. They maintain their studio in the Common Space in order to keep costs down and fees low. Many of their students are working women, who attend class on evenings and Saturdays.

Owner/Founder
Geri Messer & Pat Balderas
My Location
Common Space 1700 N Reynolds Rd Rm 207

Toledo OH 43615

United States
How SCORE Helped

The adults taking tap dance lessons at this studio located in the Common Space are often also the stars in performances given throughout the community.  Their big event is the Annual Showcase staged each year at the Maumee High School Performing Art Center.  

These folks are serious about tap dancing; most of them attend two or three lessons each week, and progress from “beginner” to “advanced” under the guidance of the area’s finest teachers.   This makes Off Broadway unique in the Toledo area.

Pat and Geri had the help of SCORE mentors Dennis Snell and Alan Messer, who have guided them in their growth and in planning for the future.  Space will soon become an issue; there were two classes each week when they started (with 30 students), and the walls are now bulging with eight classes (and 55 students).

Adults range in age from 22 to 72, and most look forward to participating in the Company’s performances. They have an extensive community outreach program, going to nursing homes and the like.  But they also are becoming well known as performers at various functions in the area.  And that Annual Showcase attracted 700 paid attendees last year!

Pat and Geri emphasize that we are “all adults taught by adults; this is not an exercise class; we don’t dumb it down; this is really a professional operation.” But they are quick to say that not everyone wants to be a performer, and others who are interested in learning the skills of tap dancing are certainly welcome!

Go to their excellent web site: www.offbroadwaydancecompany.com for more information. 

 

If you want to know more, read more success stories or maybe become a mentor, click here