People are unpredictable.
When you’re entering a new relationship, you’re entering the unknown. It’s no wonder that when managers embark on mentoring, they’re keen to amass key mentoring tools and techniques that might help them.
And the reality is there are many mentoring tools and techniques. In their excellent book, “Techniques for Coaching and Mentoring“, David Megginson and David Clutterbuck – the Kings of Mentoring – fill 13 chapters with different mentoring techniques. They explore these techniques and other perspectives further in their companion book, “Further Techniques for Coaching and Mentoring”. In total, the two books represent over 1,000 pages of mentoring techniques. Phew!
Both books are wonderful resources, but all that information is potentially overwhelming for a busy manager who’s new to mentoring.
At the heart of any mentoring relationship is a conversation. So the core mentoring tools and techniques are ones that enable and facilitate conversation. Like Megginson and Clutterbuck, I draw on a range of frameworks, approaches and techniques. But for managers new to mentoring, I like to keep it simple by providing them with a core set of conversation tools to start with.
Key Mentoring Tools and Techniques
1. Help mentees identify what success looks like
As the Cheshire Cat wisely says in Alice in Wonderland “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there”. Helping mentees picture what success looks like is a great starting point for any development initiative. One simple way to help mentees define what success looks like is to wave a magic wand.
So the mentor might ask “If you could wave a magic wand and things went perfectly, what would it look like?” The mentor then encourages the mentee to describe the positive, tangible, detailed signs of the picture to bring it to life.
2. Help mentees identify what’s already working
As a society, we are naturally deficit-focused. Our focus is typically on what’s not working, what problems we need to solve, what challenges we need to overcome. Even the optimists among us need help to focus on what’s already working. Mentors have a valuable role to play to help mentees identify what’s working. One simple technique is to use a scale of 1 to 10.
So the mentor might ask, “If you imagine a scale of 1 to 10 where 10 is the picture of future success you just described and 1 is the worst it has ever been, where are you today?” The mentor then explores why they are as high as they are on the scale, so the mentee can identify what’s already working that they can then build on.
3. Help mentees produce ideas and alternatives for making progress
One powerful role a mentor has to play is to hold a mirror up to the mentee to remind them of their achievements and the skills and qualities that will help them make progress. Providing genuine positive feedback on what impresses them about the mentee will help to generate ideas and options for making progress.
Another valuable mentoring technique is to encourage the mentee to reflect on any similar challenges they or others have tackled in the past and what or who might be able to help. So the mentor might ask “Have you ever faced something similar? What helped then? Who else do you know that has dealt with a challenge like this? How might they be able to help?”
These 3 key areas are a simple starting point for a mentoring conversation but often the simplest techniques are the most powerful.
Try them out with your mentees or your team members and let me know what you think.