You’ve decided you need mentoring. Congratulations on taking the leap.
You’ve found someone who would be an excellent mentor for you.
What now? Do you jump in and hope that things will turn out?
No. You need to define what you want from the mentoring arrangement. Agree on it with your mentor then document it.
What Is A Mentoring Agreement
A Mentoring Agreement allows you to record what you will achieve.
There are lots of examples of these agreements available. The majority capture the same information.
Below is the key information for you to collect.
Mentee and Mentor Names
These are the people who are part of the agreement. The mentee is the person who is receiving the mentoring.
This makes it clear who is taking part. It provides a commitment to the process from both people.
This arrangement should not be everlasting. There should be a pre-determined end date that you work towards. This is the date when the Goals of the agreement should be complete.
There is nothing preventing you from entering another agreement once this one ends. It should be a new agreement with new, or revised, goals, and a new Completion Date.
An end date in any agreement focuses people attention and helps deliver results. With no time constraints, it is very easy to procrastinate. How often do you find yourself delaying work until “tomorrow”?
It is important to define the goals of the agreement. This is not only the goals for the mentee, but also for the mentor. Remember the best mentoring arrangements provide benefits to both people.
When deciding on your goals make sure you follow the SMART principles
These are the goals you will work towards during the arrangement. In each of your meetings you should be reviewing progress against these goals.
Scheduling regular reviews is a must for success in mentoring. Without this, you will not achieve your goals.
Frequency of Meetings
The key factors in the frequency of these meetings are
- The goals;
- Availability of the mentor and mentee;
- Length of the Mentoring Agreement.
If you are working on short-term goals, less than 3 months to complete, then you may need a meeting weekly. These meetings may need 30 minutes each time
If your goals are medium-term, 3 – 6 months, then meeting every other week may help. You may want to schedule 45 minutes for these meetings.
For long-term goals, 6 months – 1 year, you may only need to meet once a month. Allow 1 hour for these meetings.
You also need to take into account the amount of time you both have available. If one of you can only be available for 1 hour once a month, then there is no point in arranging for weekly meetings.
Once you have decided on the meeting frequency schedule them. Don’t put it off. Create the calendar entries as part of the drafting of the Mentoring Agreement
When an appointment is on someones calendar they are more likely to attend. There will be times when an appointment will no longer be suitable. In those cases change the appointment date/time. Where possible you should change the date/time rather than cancel the appointment. A cancelled appointment is a wasted opportunity.
Type of Communication
Decide how you are going to communicate. Is it going to be in-person meetings? Via video-conference? Phone calls?
Where possible ensure your communication is face-to-face rather than audio only. We express a lot of our messaging through body language and facial expressions. Not being able to see someone limits the information flow.
Location of Meeting
This is another important decision. When meeting in person then location can make a big difference. Below are some common locations, but each has its own drawbacks.
In Person Meeting
Meeting in a board or meeting room tend to be formal. This leads to a limiting of discussion. The mentee is likely to feel restricted in expressing their thoughts
You could meet in the office on the mentor. Here it is easy to become distracted by other people, or notifications from computers. This disruption destroys the flow of the meeting making it disjointed and bitty.
Another possible location is a local coffee shop. These are great for providing a relaxed atmosphere, which sets both people at ease. This allows for an open discussion. There are downsides. If it is a busy shop then there is likely to be a lot of noise and disruption. If it is a quiet place, then is it possible for other people to listen in on what you are talking about?
Video-Conference or Phone
Meeting via video-conference or phone introduces its own complications. Both parties need to examine where they will be calling from.
You need to make sure that the background noise is manageable. A loud background makes it hard for someone to hear you.
It is important to check the location of the camera. Make sure there are no distractions, or sensitive information, in the background.
The danger with this style of meeting is the adage “technology breaks”. Always have a fallback plan for these meetings. That could be to switch to a telephone, or postpone the meeting
Your meetings should have a structure, without one they risk becoming ineffective.
A suggestion for this is :
- Review progress. Did things go according to plan? Celebrate success. Explore where things did not go to plan;
- Challenge what is being done. Use this part of drive development of new skills and ways of thinking;
- Come up with some specific tasks to action before the next meeting. This should include reading or research in different, related areas. The aim of this is to engage in new learning;
- Summarise meeting
- key learnings from the meeting;
- Actions for the mentee and mentor;
- Confirm next meeting.
Other Meeting Opportunities
There are lots of other opportunities for engagement between a mentor and mentee.
- Adhoc meetings, when obstacles arise;
- Co-location, to allow easy and frequent communication;
- Job shadowing where the mentee follows the mentor for a period of time;
- Appropriate delegation, where the mentor delegates challenging tasks to the mentee;
Mentoring involves people opening up and expressing their inner thoughts and feelings. It is important that you are aware of this, and also the need for confidentiality.
If you do not think your discussions will be private then you are not going to open up in your communication. This means the mentoring is not providing the results that you need.
Both people should sign the agreement. This indicates that they have read it, understand it and commit to the goals. It also ensures they are aware of their commitment to the success of the agreement.
Mentoring is a formal process. It is best performed when you outline the commitments and the goals. Writing these down is a good way to ensure both mentee and mentor understand what they are agreeing to.
Regular meetings are the best tool to review progress towards the goals. Using a structured agenda allows for focussed and clear communication.
Mentoring is a two-way street. It is something you should enjoy and embrace the opportunities that it opens up for you
If you would like to know more about why you need a mentor please read this post.
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Also published on Medium.