The role of mentor

In the mentoring role, you are a confidant and critical friend to your mentee. You have your own professional background, but you need to strike the right balance in bringing your personal experience into play.

Prepare for your role as mentor

You’re not a boss, family member or colleague. You’re a confidant and critical friend in your mentee’s professional life.

As a conversation partner, you are also your mentee’s learning partner. As a learning partner you’ll master the art of knowing when to ‘take the lead’ and when to ‘walk alongside’ your mentee: when taking the lead, ask probing questions to spur your mentee’s self-insight. Try asking: What makes this topic important to you? When you ‘walk alongside’, you’ll be supporting and encouraging your mentee. This is achieved by being appreciative and, occasionally, by sharing your own experiences. 

Give your mentee an opportunity to reflect, and you’ll be paving the way for greater progression over the longer term. You can encourage reflection by the questions you ask, but also by slowing the pace of the conversation or by taking a time-out. Make time for contemplation.

6 focus points

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

The first meeting

The first time you meet, you will need to clarify what you expect of each other and of the mentorship process. Clarify your mentee’s aims for the mentorship, agree on the practical details, and check whether the right dynamic is in place for embarking on a mentorship.

The purpose of the initial meeting is to chart the course and build mutual trust. As a mentor, it is vital to create an honest and trusting dimension from the start. Spend time getting to know one another and agree on mutual aims and boundaries for your mentoring sessions.

Initially, it is important to listen and ask the mentee to expand on their aims for the mentorship:

  • What are the mentee's main challenges?
  • How can the two of you address them?
  • Find out what goals your mentee wants to achieve. 

It is also a good idea to establish some ground rules such as:

  • How long will each meeting last?
  • How often will you meet?
  • How will you communicate between meetings? E.g. if one of you needs to cancel.

It's a good idea to read through the terms and conditions before the first meeting. 

After the meeting you should use the first meeting for deciding on whether you have a sound basis for a mentorship. After the initial session, both of you should be filled with energy and an expectation that your meetings can make a difference. Arrange for the mentee to get back to you very soon with a decision on whether to go ahead with a mentorship.

Structure of the conversation

As the mentor, it’s your responsibility to keep the conversation on track. You might like to open each meeting by talking about what has happened since you last met. Next, you can ask what the mentee would like to cover in the present meeting. Along the way, it may be helpful to talk about how your discussions are working out. What is the mentee’s impression of how the two of you interact? Keep an eye on the clock, so the two of you have time to round off properly.

During the mentoring meetings, it is your responsibility to ensure that your mentee’s concerns are addressed in depth within the given time constraints.

You may both find it useful if the mentee emails you an agenda a week prior to each meeting. That way, the mentee will automatically start reflecting on agenda items before you even meet up. However, bear in mind that your mentee’s need for inputs from you may change in the intervening time. Any sudden changes in the mentee’s work life could impact the original agenda.

Here is an outline structure for your mentoring conversations:


You might like to open the meeting by inquiring about events and thoughts since your last meeting and since the original agenda.

Agree on the topic

The mentee may need to change the original agenda. There may be several topics at issue, in which case, you could ask: Is this the main dilemma – should we discuss this one? What do you feel is most important for us to cover today? 

You should also discuss how the two of you can address each topic. Obviously, this will depend on the context of the given topic. Does it call for a discursive approach, an analytical approach, a stream-of-consciousness approach with no constraints, scenario-mapping or something else altogether? Inquire as to what the mentee needs most in the given context.


By ‘time-out’, we mean a brief meta-conversation about how the conversation is going. Take time out from the topic to renegotiate the what and how of the conversation. Is this discussion keeping your mentee on track? Invite your mentee to characterise the conversation in their own words before the two of you go any further by asking: Are you gaining anything from this discussion? Am I challenging you enough? Should we take a different tack? 


When you have about 10 minutes left, ask your mentee to sum up what you have discussed in terms of these four headings:

  • Summary: Invite the mentee to sum up the discussion. What ground has been covered? 
  • Insights: What insights have been gained?
  • Ideas: What ideas have emerged?
  • Actions: What are the mentee’s next steps going forwards?

Clarifying values

As mentor-mentee trust builds up, so does the mentee’s courage to confront more deep-seated issues. Take note if your mentee repeatedly conveys a sense of conflict between his or her own personal values and those encountered at work. 

The purpose of identifying the mentee’s values is to build their self-insight and explore the connection between the mentee’s own actions and  the values in their workplace. Exploring the mentee’s attitude to key issues at work expands the mentee’s self-awareness. This enables the mentee to go down new actionable angles and avenues.

Use the Djøf resource together to explore which core values are in play in relation to the topics or situations the mentee often returns to. The key issue here will often be what makes the mentee feel more or less comfortable.

Formålet med at identificere mentees værdier er, at styrke mentees selvforståelse og undersøge sammenhængen med mentees egne handlinger og værdierne på arbejdspladsen. Ved at undersøge mentees indstilling til vigtige emner i arbejdslivet vokser mentees selvbevidsthed. På den måde skaber mentee nye handlemuligheder for sig selv.

Brug redskabet til i fællesskab at undersøge, hvilke kerneværdier, der er på spil i de emner eller situationer, som mentee ofte har fokus på. Ofte vil det handle om, hvad mentee trives bedst med eller ikke trives med. 

Sådan gør du:

  • Bed mentee lave en liste over 6-8 værdier, som mentee synes er de vigtigste i arbejdslivet og hverdagen. Det kan fx være selvledelse, samarbejde, frihed, sociale relationer, service, indflydelse etc.
  • Så beder du mentee tegne en trekant og vælge de 3 vigtigste værdier fra listen, og placere værdierne på spidsen af trekantens 3 hjørner
  • Find midtpunktet på trekantens ben og markér det
  • Find nu den værdi, der forbinder to værdier. Spørg: Hvad er relationen mellem værdi 1 og 2, mellem værdi 2 og 3, og mellem værdi 1 og 3?
  • Bed mentee reflektere over, hvad værdierne betyder for mentee
  • Fortsæt med at danne nye trekanter i trekanten indtil de samme 2-3 værdier begynder at dukke op i hjørnerne. Når værdierne begynder at dukke op i flere trekanter, er der tale om kerneværdier.

Det kan vise sig at være vanskeligt for mentee, at se forbindelsen mellem værdierne. De kan endda virke kontrastfyldte. Lad mentee reflektere og tænke højt. Sammen kan I drøfte, hvad der ligger bag valget af den værdi, der forbinder to andre værdier.

Det er mindre vigtigt, om mentee når at finde sine kerneværdier. Det er samtalen om værdierne og den adfærd, situationer eller holdninger, værdierne fører med sig, som er vigtig.

Vædiafklaring - mentorforløb


The final phase

In the final phase of the mentorship, as the mentor, you can wind down and write yourself out of the equation. Take the back seat now, and allow the mentee to ask the questions and come up with the answers unaided. In the final phase, the aim is for the mentee to be fully fledged and take to their wings on the learnings gained from the mentorship.

By the final phase, the mentee will have gained broader and more complex self-insights. Your role at this stage is to boost the mentee’s confidence in their own solutions and actions:

  • Allow the mentee to ask the questions and find the answers.
  • Boost the mentee’s self-esteem.
  • Use time-outs actively to encourage reflection.
  • Let the mentee decide what they need to do more of, and what they need to stop doing altogether.
Faser i mentorforløb - den sidste faste


The model shows the different phases in the mentor-mentee relationship through a typical long-cycle mentorship. Model devised by Djøf in 2016.