Successful mentoring sessions

There are common obstacles that crop up in many mentoring relationships, so being aware and ready for them is the key to getting past them.

Mentoring is a significant investment of time, preparation and budget, so it's important to explore ways that can help mentoring sessions become even more productive. Specific challenges we often see are:


The 3rd Session "Hump"

Whilst the first couple of sessions are all about getting to know each other, sharing CVs and establishing a relationship, the third meeting often suffers from what we call "The Third Session Hump".

This is a sense of resistance that can felt by one or, often, both parties. The mentee starts to feel guilty and a little nervous about taking up the mentor's valuable time and holds back from arranging meetings or chasing, whilst the mentor perceives this as a lack of interest on the mentee's part. A vicious circle can develop, which is very hard to manoeuvre out of and move past.


White Page Syndrome

With a whole session to fill, it can be tempting for both mentor and mentee to jump onto the easiest subject to discuss, rather than the most appropriate or helpful. The empty page, staring back at them, provokes a rushed decision, and in the end, no one feels that they are getting what they need out of the relationship.


But there are many ways to can prepare for and even sidestep these challenges:

Create an Atmosphere of ease

It helps if you can alleviate time pressure as much as possible. Even if you only have half an hour, ring fence that time and keep all Blackberrys, mobiles, laptops etc closed.

Prepare in advance

Deciding what topic you will address before you meet gives both of you time to mull over the subject and get into the right mindset. If mentors have sufficient warning of topics this will help them to structure their questions, or even disagreements, perhaps asking why the mentee chose to ask about their experience leading multinational teams when the micro-politics of multi-national teams might be more appropriate.

Structuring your preparation also helps. Our Mentoring Toolkit takes you through this step by step. Just having something you can adapt, change, disagree with or modify, can save you time and help you move forward

Choose Appropriate Discussion Topics

Even when the mentee focuses on a small and specific detail, a discussion can quickly broaden. But the risk with starting broad is that the focus of the discussion remains hypothetical without the opportunity to mine for gold...the real knowledge.

One metaphor which helps when choosing topics for discussion is to imagine the mentor is a library, full to the ceiling with 20.30 or even 40 plus years of experience packed into books. And, like every good library, those books are arranged into sections such as Change Management, Leadership, Strategy or Project Management.

You'd never go into a library and ask to read the entire section at once. Instead, you would focus on the appropriate section and take a book off the shelf, perhaps Leading Change Management Processes from the Management section, for instance.

Even then, you would read the chapter list and focus on one chapter at time, perhaps honing down on something like Managing Resistance When Leading a Change Management Process.


Ask questions

Agree that no question is a bad question, and that both parties should ask lots of them. Apply the answers to understanding them in the context of the ‘big picture', not just the specific context of the mentor's experience.

Choose appropriate environments

A session on work/life balance might work better out of the office, but one on project management would perhaps be better suited to a boardroom where you have the necessary tools on hand.

Setting more long term objectives and goals

This means that that both parties are aware there are objectives they are working towards and are not just having a nice chat. Long term aims and goals are set on the Big Mentoring Kick-off event.

Participants are given a Toolkit which offers a framework so that it becomes easier and less time consuming to prepare for mentoring sessions, and you learn how to apply what you learn about a specific issue or circumstance to the bigger picture.

Ensure there is a good balance between content and relationship

If talk is too centred on small talk and chat then you need to focus back on content. Likewise, too much content means you need to spend some time nurturing the relationship. It's a delicate balance, but it helps to keep sessions productive and dynamic.

Projektgruppe wissenschaftliche Beratung GbR
Dr. Andre Lehnhoff Managing
Wendy Kendall Partner of PwB
Ohlanden 35
25582 Hohenaspe
Tel.: +49.4893.220256
Fax: +49.4893.220256
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Projektgruppe wissenschaftliche Beratung GbR

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