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Mentors Series: The role of a Mentor - How to manage your mentee

15 December, 2017Phil Renshaw

The mentee is ultimately responsible for their own change and learning. Hence mentees hold the responsibility for setting up the mentoring conversations, as mentioned in my previous article. Your mentee may not know this, so it is essential as a mentor, to guide them. Explain how you want the relationship to work and why. Don’t leave them guessing – after all, it’s your first mentoring step!

If the mentee does not follow the agreed routine, understand why this might be by asking questions – do not make assumptions. There is a supportive element involved. The mentor should enquire and follow-up if there are unexpected delays in communications – this may be a signal that help is needed.

If you feel the relationship is not working, for example if your mentee seems not to heed any of your advice, this is a topic for discussion from which you can both learn.


What can you offer

Key things that mentors offer often add value to the mentor at the same time.

  • Connecting people is a leadership skill
  • Build their network to build yours
  • Telling stories to generate learning is a skill – it’s not all about you!
  • Motivate them and colleagues will hear about it
  • Show them how to be an effective listener and questioner

We’ll talk about some of these skills in more detail in my next few blogs.

Offer strategies not solutions

There can be a tendency for mentees to want to discuss only negative things. The mentor needs to draw out the positive aspects of the mentee’s career and develop activities to help build on these aspects.

Some useful questions:

  • What assumptions are you making?
  • What is different about your context compared to someone else’s or to mine?
  • Where is your energy right now?
  • What would you recommend someone else did if they were in your circumstances?
  • How does this make you feel?

meetingWhat can the mentor learn?

Think about how you can learn from your mentee. Reflect on their perspective on life, consider why they think the way they do and ask what value there might be in pursuing their solution rather than your advice. Should you even offer advice if they appear to have a way forward?

Effective mentoring enables individuals to acquire the knowledge, skills and techniques needed to perform effectively in their occupational role by motivating, inspiring, challenging, stimulating and guiding. Do you know how to motivate and inspire? Has anyone evaluated your capabilities at this? If not, here’s the start of your learning.

You need to stress the confidentiality contract between you and how it is to work. Remember, you may have obligations to the organisations that employ you. In the extreme, if your mentee is involved in fraudulent activity then in financial services you would be obliged to share this with your organisation and/or the regulator. With more experience you can take the lead on this – it’s mentoring.

Some things to watch out for

  • Guide don’t judge
  • Prepare don’t just turn up
  • Validate don’t assume
  • Develop don’t criticise
  • Identify the positives don’t fixate on the negatives
  • Be aware of your own biases and ways of thinking and working. Be interested in finding out about the differences between your different contexts. And the similarities too.
  • Give the mentee time to reflect. Let them go away, think about the discussion, and continue later.
  • Offer advice in terms of ideas that may or may not work depending upon the situation. What worked for you, may be a bad approach for someone else
  • Your mentee is different to you…and may be promoted above you. That’s a great result!


Gain valuable insight into mentorship and its benefits with Phil's previous articles:

How to find a mentor

Having a mentor - what is it and what's the point?

The role of a mentee - how to manage your mentor