The fast pace of technological advancements can make it hard to remember that it was only in 2007 that the first iPhone was released or just 2004 that Facebook was founded. Can you imagine your life without a smartphone in your hand or social media at your fingertips?
Mentoring software, which came onto the scene in the early 2000s, was revolutionary much in the same way; it provided an easier way for people to find a mentor and take part in mentoring relationships. While this software provides technology to help make the process more streamlined and accessible, though, the heart of a mentoring relationship is shaped by the people within it. Even with technology helping to facilitate matches and keep people focused on their goals, we can’t forget that the real magic happens during the mentoring conversations.
What makes mentoring such a special process? Consider these three things:
- Humanity and humility that people bring with them to their relationships gives mentoring its power.
- Conversations between people put ideas and learning into context.
- Support between mentees and mentors provides the strength people need to overcome hurdles and learn from mistakes.
When you pull those factors together, you can create powerful mentoring relationships that impact people’s lives and careers—not to mention the impacts that can occur within organizations.
To make the most of your mentoring conversations and build meaningful relationships, follow these three tips:
1. Create a Rhythm and Flow
Conversations between mentees and mentors represent the foundation of mentoring relationships and provide a mechanism for development to occur. The quality of these conversations will directly impact the value they have on the mentee’s development.
Mentoring conversations should have a rhythm and flow. This occurs by having a set pattern to the conversations that you can use time and again. Each time you meet with your mentee or mentor, talk about:
- what actions were taken since your last meeting
- what worked
- what didn’t work
- what you could try next
- where you go from here.
This becomes a cyclical conversation model that you can follow throughout the relationship. By focusing on the smaller action items, you will progress toward larger goals.
2. Turn Conversations Into Actions
Talking about issues and concerns with your mentoring partner creates the foundation of your mentoring relationship but talking can take things only so far. To make mentoring conversations more meaningful to personal development, end every critical conversation with a commitment to take a specific action. Here are three ways you can accomplish this:
- Mentees: Prioritize activities and ideas that can improve your skills or abilities and ultimately bring you closer to your mentoring goals.
- Mentors: Consider asking “Why?” for each idea or action that arises so you can ensure it helps move the mentee toward their stated goals. This will also give them the chance to express their reasoning and thoughts behind each action.
- Mentees: Attempt to apply new learning or awareness in a common and straightforward way. Take on actions that put the basic principles of your conversation into play and report back to your mentor regarding your experience and observations to stimulate further discussion.
- Mentors: Walk through ideas with your mentee so they can see how to apply them in the real world. Encourage open discussions on what worked and what didn’t.
Be a model.
- Mentees: As you engage in conversations with your mentor, consider how the concepts under discussion will affect your current behavior. If you were to adopt a new standard of behavior, what changes would have to take place?
- Mentors: Give honest feedback on your observations of their behavior and, if possible, share personal insights from your own experiences with adopting the new behaviors or techniques under discussion. Show them how you walked this path and what you learned from the experience.
3. Give Thanks
Taking the time to explicitly state why you are grateful to be in the mentoring relationship can be a great conversation starter. It can also help build trust and rapport between you as you openly express gratitude.
Do you tell your mentee or mentor the things they have brought to your life and the relationship? Do you take the time to share specific examples of what it is about your mentee or mentor that makes you appreciate them? Do you express how they have impacted your work?
People tend to feel closer to one another when they open up and express real emotions. That can play a key role in forging a solid foundation in your mentoring relationship.
Consider these conversation starters that you can use with your mentee or mentor to begin expressing your gratitude:
- I am grateful for . . .
- I appreciate when you . . .
- I find it helpful when you . . .
- I value you and try to show you by . . .
- Your partnership with me means . . .
- Our conversations help me . . .
- Your personality/attitude/insights/experience/openness helps me . . .
- This relationship has given me . . .
Expressing genuine gratitude can strengthen your relationship. It can also help you build your character as you strive to show appreciation as well as give you a renewed sense of commitment to your mentee or mentor.
As you continue on your mentoring journey, remember that mentoring is a personal relationship between humans and that fostering better mentoring conversations can help you achieve success.