Mentoring flying start

Why do you need to get off to a flying start anyway? Isn’t it best to allow the mentoring relationship to grow ‘naturally’?

At the outset of the mentoring process, there are some challenges you have to overcome before you can start getting the most out of mentoring. And those challenges, when you overcome them, become key success factors. These are barriers you need to break through, and the quicker you can do that, the better. You experience the rich benefits of mentoring more quickly.

This is especially important because mentoring requires a commitment of energy and resources from the mentors and mentees and also from the company. Because when you’re mentoring, you’re not working on operational business. It’s an investment for everyone; the sooner it can pay dividends for you, the better.

What are the challenges that you will face as a mentor and mentee trying to get your mentoring relationship off to the best start?


The three main challenges that mentors and mentees say they have at the outset of the mentoring relationship are:

  • Getting over time constraints
  • Building trust
  • Ensuring there’s a good personal ‘chemistry’.

All three are related to one another – it’s hard to build trust and the right chemistry if you don’t manage the time constraints effectively. It’s harder to find the motivation to manage the time constraints if the relationship feels uneasy or difficult.

So what can you take care of to get over these challenges and turn them into key success factors?

Two things to help with the challenge of Time Constraints.

The most important thing that can help you with the challenge of time constraints is effective preparation before the mentoring session and using pre-prepared tools to help you structure the content of your mentoring sessions.

Preparation of appropriate topics for discussion Effective preparation includes the mentee identifying appropriate topics for discussion and then forewarning the mentor so they have adequate time in advance to reflect and remember what are their experiences. Just this one step will save you an hour of time in the mentoring sessions.

Using pre-prepared tools. At PwB we introduce our mentors and mentees to mentoring tools that help them structure by giving them a plan and effective mentoring questions. The idea with these mentoring tools is not to provide a prescription for how a mentoring session must be run but to give an initial framework that can then be adapted and changed to suit the situation and the personalities of the mentor and mentee. It is always easier and quicker to adapt an existing method than it is to invent one from scratch. Just takind an initial framework and adapting it to your needs will save another 30 mins per mentoring session.

Two things to help with Developing Trust. Two things that you can do to help you trust your mentor or mentee

more quickly and fully are as follows:

Agree confidentiality. You should have a full discussion about the boundaries of confidentiality that you want to share in your mentoring relationship. Some of the mentoring partnerships that we work with even go as far as signing a symbolic ‘contract’ that outlines the guidelines that both have agreed to. Whatever you agree, however, please do refer to this as a living agreement rather than something that is set in stone. There might be occasions where you want to review or even change your agreement. Being open and discussing this, too, will help you both develop trust in one another.

Practice your active listening. Active listening is a technique that is well understood by leaders and managers. However, mentoring offers a perfect setting for mastering this skill whilst laying down the foundations of trust with your mentoring partner.

Two things to help with Getting the Right ‘Chemistry’

Isn’t chemistry down to ‘intangibles’ like how two personalities interact with one another? Is there really any way to promote compatibility in the personal chemistry of two people?

There are laws of interpersonal relationships that you can use to help you give your relationship the best chance of succeeding. This is about influence and rapport building so why not practice these leadership skills in your mentoring sessions to help you build positive interpersonal chemistry with your mentoring partner?

Giving uninterrupted, fascinated attention to one another. Practice giving high quality attention to the person speaking as it helps the other’s thinking process and feeds into people’s desire to be understood as an individual by others. This is one of the most underutilised and effective especially when many leadership styles focus on being competitive and having to come up with conclusions and

Creating an atmosphere of ease. This is one of the strange paradoxes of effective mentoring. The more under time pressure your mentoring sessions are, the more you need to ring-fence the time you spend in the mentoring session and infuse it with an atmosphere of ease. Practically, you can support this by turning off mobile phones and work stations and by redirecting your calls for the duration. That goes for all communications. It is so easy in a mentoring session to negatively affect the atmosphere of ease which contributes to effective chemistry.

If you look at the biographies of some of the most charismatic and influential leaders of history and current times, such as former president Bill Clinton, Princess Diana or the Reverend Desmond Tutu, one of the most common feedback people give about them is that no matter how long or short a time they had to spend with them, they created an atmosphere of ease and they give uninterrupted, fascinated attention in what that person has to say.

Practising this skill alone will transform your mentoring relationship – and probably your other relationships too.



Don’t just rely on promoting the relationship or delivering content to build an effective mentoring process. You need both, you need to work at balancing both actively, you need to check in with one another how it’s going.

The risk, if you concentrate on the relationship side of the balance, is that your mentoring sessions will become rather like a ‘small talk’ session, where neither the mentor or mentee advance in their development even though it can help you develop trust and good personal chemistry.

On the other hand, the risk of concentrating too much on the content side of the balance is that the mentoring sessions will become more of an information download session. Whilst this might help you deal with the challenge of time constraints, it can negatively impact on your ability to develop trust and personal chemistry.

All of these factors work together to ensure the mentoring relationship start off on the right foot and to get you off to a flying start in what should be a successful, fulfilling, growth orientated relationship.

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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