6 focus points for mentor meetings

Get your mentorship off to a good start with these 6 focus points for mentor meetings.

1. There should always be something at stake

The topic which the mentee brings to the meeting must be important and meaningful to the mentee. It is okay that there is something at stake. At the same time, the mentor should have a clear sense of being able to help the mentee with their problem. The mentor can help to get the discussion started by exploring new thoughts, emotions and actions.

The focus is on helping the mentee to identify realistic goals, and, not least, ways of realising them.

2. Find the focus for the discussion

The mentor’s and mentee’s perception of the key concerns at the meeting may differ. Agree from the start on where the focus of the conversation should be.

There will often be three perspectives in play. There will always be a personal perspective in that the purpose of mentoring is to support the mentee in his or her development.

In Djøf’s mentoring programme, the main focus is professional life or study life, so naturally enough there will often be a “career perspective”. We interact with other people, so there will also be a relational perspective. 

Sometimes, the mentee will not be entirely clear about where the real challenge lies. In fact, the root cause of the problem may be quite different to what the mentee believes. Together, the two of you will be determining the exact challenge the mentee most wants to address. 

3. How are we talking about it? 

The core focus in a mentoring session is to explore the problem before the mentee makes a decision about how to deal with it. In many situations, we are quick to the defence, to offer well-intended advice or to draw conclusions. This is not the aim of mentoring. In a mentoring session, both parties will benefit from more haste, less speed, and concentrating on examining and exploring the elements of the mentee’s challenge. 

We all know the problem of talking at cross-purposes, e.g. if one person focuses on the problems, while the other sees the opportunities. If that happens, we fail to listen because we are so taken up with convincing the other party, and may not be aware that we are talking about different things. Avoid misunderstandings by talking openly about how you will be examining the content of the meeting.

4. From words to action

Once you have jointly explored the problem, you can start exploring what actions your discussion might result in. The mentee can get a clear picture of the consequences of the conversation, and the decisions and actions the mentee wants to take after the session has ended. 

5. Take responsibility for the conversation

Bear in mind that the mentor is responsible for the conversation process and the techniques applied during the conversations. The mentee is responsible for taking the initiative for meetings and decides which topics to discuss, as well as for processing what was discussed and preparing for the next meeting.

6. Stay focused on the professional life/study life perspective

A mentor meeting is one of many discursive formats with the purpose of assisting, supporting and developing a mentee. Mentor meetings may have certain boundaries. Every now and then, topics or issues may arise which the mentor neither can nor should deal with. Basically, a mentor will be happy to share their insights and experience of professional life/study life, including as a way of gaining self-insight.

State clearly from the outset what the mentor meetings can deal with, and what needs to be addressed elsewhere. This is a good way to balance your mutual expectations as mentor and mentee.

Mentoring sessions in Djøf’s mentoring programme are obviously focused on professional life/study life, so if other topics are broached, you should ask: what are the implications for your professional life/study life?

Tips for mentees

  • The benefit you stand to gain depends largely on the effort you make; the more you put in, the more you will get out of it
  • Be aware of your own boundaries: Check how you are feeling as you go, and if you feel uncomfortable, then say so
  • Talk about what you are thinking, experiencing and feeling
  • Confidentiality is important to discuss as one of the ground rules: What does confidentiality mean to each of you?
  • Bear in mind that your development will take time, and that it is natural to revert to a problem you have discussed previously. Once you have gained greater self-insight, you will be able to see the problem from other perspectives
  • A lot of your effort will be put in between the meetings with your mentor.

Tips for mentors

  • Stay focused on the mentee
  • Don’t fixate on a specific direction for the discussion
  • The more you involve your mentee in reflecting on a given situation, the more he or she stands to gain
  • Take care to listen and understand as opposed to asserting yourself or providing answers
  • Refrain from seeing yourself as the expert
  • Make room for emotional reactions.Respect the mentee’s and your own boundaries
  • Be mindful about becoming emotionally involved. There is a difference between empathy and sympathy
  • Pay attention to the power balance between you, and make an active effort to achieve symmetry
  • Object if you feel you are getting into deep water or are confronted with topics you either know nothing about or do not believe properly belong in a mentor meeting
  • Be willing to learn more about yourself through your discussions with the mentee.

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