To Mentor or to Mentee..

Humans have a need to learn and to help others. This is why we are curious and talk to each other, why most of us enjoy experiencing new things or places.  However, Clutterbuck (2014) warns us that sometimes our need to help others, to pass on our wisdom, outweighs our recipient’s desire to learn, or hinders their learning as ‘to do the role well requires a capacity to hold back and allow people to learn for themselves’. He goes on to say that the ‘key capability of the effective mentor is being able to adapt to a much wider range of behaviours.’ (Clutterbuck, p.1).

An effective mentor leads the mentee from analysis to understanding and insight, to

plans for action and then reflects with them afterwards to examine, to see what could have been done differently. There are a number of ways in which this can occur, but most occur naturally within a reflective space. ‘Deep reflective thinking is […] essential to the effectiveness of our conscious brain…we become dysfunctional if our minds do not carry out the essential task of analysing, structuring, organising and storing.’ (Clutterbuck, 2014, p.14)

A mentor uses their experience to ‘inform the questions they ask and to challenge assumptions the team member [mentee] may be making’ (Clutterbuck, p.16) …the prevailing message of developmental mentoring is ‘ Look into your own experience. Learn your own lessons. Build your own wisdom.’ (Clutterbuck, P.16) There is no need to delve deeply into a mentee’s personal and professional life: understand where they are coming from and where it is they want to go and why. Reinforce critical reflection in the mentee by recalling what they have done and encouraging them to relate that to how they may progress. Eventually they will do that themselves automatically.

In ‘Everyone needs a mentor’ (2014), Clutterbuck describes the difference between mentoring and coaching (something that is hotly debated) as ‘…the coach concentrates on technique and motivation, the mentor provides a very different kind of support; one based on reflective learning and something akin to pastoral care.’ (Clutterbuck, p.1) This statement was reflected at the 2018 University of Wolverhampton Art of Mentoring Conference, where the opening talk was a reminder that mentoring:

My Bell mentored Hemingway on how to defeat the dog…

  • empowers
  • demystifies
  • gives opportunity and support
  • provides belief
  • assists identity
  • challenges inequality
  • provides role models

Mentoring is transformative, it is a personal investment by two people of their time, energy and knowledge that will ultimately enable each other and become a shared quality experience. Before I go on to looking at the different models of mentoring that one can use, I will allow David to speak once more:

Developmental mentors do give advice, but they do so only when they are sure the mentee can’t work things out for themselves and they broadly limit their advice or guidance to helping the mentee understand the context of a situation, rather than telling them what to do. … But the core question the mentor needs to keep asking themselves is: ‘Is this going to help the mentee work out what is the right solution for them?’ (Clutterbuck, p.18)

So, let’s get started…

The first phase of a developmental mentoring relationship consists of rapport building and direction-setting. Honesty and understanding are fundamental to the success of this phase. The mentor needs to help the mentee to relax and explore what they want to achieve and the best way of attaining their goal. A checklist for the first meeting could consist of the following:

  • Where shall we meet, how often and for how long?
  • What do we want/need to know about each other?
    • Social
    • Career ambition
    • Development goals
  • What will make this a satisfying and useful and satisfying relationship for both mentee and mentor?
  • What expectations do the mentee and mentor have of each other (ground rules and verbal contract)?
  • What are the priorities?
  • Will agendas be useful?
  • Are there any issues to begin to work on straight away?

Mentoring models

The middle phase of the developmental mentoring relationship can follow a structure such as:

  • Establish a relaxed, but professional atmosphere
  • Gain consensus on the purpose of the meeting
  • Explore the issues from the mentee’s perspective
    • clarify and elucidate
    • challenge assumptions
    • stimulate analysis
    • draw on own experience
    • build confidence/motivation
    • agree options for action/consideration (eg learning/tasks)
    • agree actions by both mentee and mentor
    • agree milestones
  • Summarise

At the Art of Mentoring conference mentioned above, delegates were introduced to two methods with which to accomplish the ‘ongoing’ middle phase. The EMCC (European Mentoring and Coaching Council) discussed the exchange between mentor and mentee as:

Mentor:  engage (with the mentee) – question (and keep mentee on track) – listen (don’t interrupt, remember you are there to listen) – reflect (think about what they have said) – draw on (own/others/shared experience) – give advice – action (agree plan)

Mentee:  engage (with the mentor) – question (to clarify understanding and ensure it relates to your wants/needs) – listen (carefully) – reflect (think of what they have said) – action (agree plan)

The other model was introduced as originating with John Whitmore – OCC. This was the GROW model of Mentoring:

Goal – what does the mentee want to achieve?

Reality – what is the reality of the situation?

Options – what options can be considered? – this is an opportunity to brainstorm and record the most wildly considered options then wheedle them down into single digits

Will – this is the most important…of all the options left, from 1 to 10, 1 being the least and 10 being most, what option is the mentee most likely to do?

Both of the above models encourage the mentee to speak and reflect as the mentor guides. The mentor is not there to provide solutions, just to encourage the mentee to find the best way for themselves.

I hope this introduction to being a mentor/mentee has proved of interest and some use. Please let me know how you get on.


The GROW Model of Coaching and Mentoring –

The GROW Model –

Clutterbuck, D. (2014) Everyone Needs a MentorGriggs, A., Stop speaking and listen! The Heart of Powerful Conversations –

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s