As both a professional coach and mentor I am constantly asking myself ‘what makes a good coaching or mentoring session?’ Whilst I believe the best person to answer that question is the client, and it will be different for every client every time, it is also important that we are self-aware and have the ability to assess whether we are delivering effective mentoring to our clients. Whilst there are many factors that contribute to a great mentoring session here are my top three key ingredients:
The rapport between you and your client is excellent
First and foremost a great mentoring relationship is one where there is excellent rapport between you and your client, one where your mentee trusts and respects you, feels understood and not judged. If rapport is present then in your mentoring sessions dialogue will seem easy and even enjoyable, your client will open up, be prepared to talk about their fears and shortcomings as well as their strengths. But don’t take rapport for granted, it can take effort to build – great rapport comes when you are prepared to put your own judgements aside, step inside their shoes, really learn what is important to them and understand how they view the world.
The mentee has been encouraged to reflect and think through their own solutions
A mentoring session in which you impart your own ideas and solutions will do little more than give your mentee some short term solutions to their immediate challenges. But what happens when a different challenge arises? Will they have learned to think for themselves or will they put the challenge on hold until they have spoken with their mentor again? Excellent mentoring which develops long term capability and confidence involves questioning to help the mentee think through challenges themselves, come up with their own solutions and take responsibility for choosing a course of action.
The mentee has deepened their own self-awareness
Helping your mentee to take action is great, but long term development of your mentee will only happen if the conversation includes discussion around their own motivation and behaviour – what are their strengths, areas for development, what is important to them and what impact do they have upon others?
So what can you do to help develop your mentee’s self-awareness? You can encourage them to reflect on their own strengths and areas for development and as a mentor you can also act as a mirror to reflect back what you see. How a mentee ‘shows up’ in their coaching session is likely to be a reflection of how they operate in their working life. How well were they prepared for their session? Were they on time? What is the impact of their speech and body language having on you? Feeding back their impact on you can have a profound impact on their learning – after all, they may never have been made aware of this before.
Louise Yates, Clear Perspectives Ltd and a Mentor for Community & Business Partners on the Growth Mentoring Programme