Mentoring is a relationship entailing formal or informal processes whereby a mentor provides intentional guidance, motivation, and encouragement. Mentors also share knowledge, experiences, and perspectives to empower the mentee in the advancement of specific goals that improve their lives and careers. Mentorship allows both mentor and mentee to build networks of resources, develop best practices, and sustain connections for lifelong learning.
A key to successful mentorship is engaging in intentional conversations that contextualize the knowledge or perspective you share. This helps to frame larger issues you and your mentee are exploring, gently guiding your mentee through processes and actions. Intentional conversations are guided by questions that are appropriate for the context of the goal. Mentoring relationships are based on intentional, goal-driven conversations. Follow these six strategies for more productive mentorship.
Download the PDF: Intentional Conversations
1. Listen actively and question constructively.
Empathy is important, but a mentor should remember that their role is to guide and gently challenge a mentee to constructively face obstacles. Listen actively and ask pointed questions to help maintain productivity.
2. Ask open-ended questions.
Drive conversation forward, use "what," "when," "how" and "who" questions to think more critically and spur deeper conversation. Questions regarding a "yes" or "no" answer do not drive conversations forward.
3. Don't tell a mentee what to do.
Share advice through constructive self-disclosure to facilitate problem-solving. Keep shared experiences relevant, offering alternate perspectives for consideration.
4. Provide guidance to solve a problem.
Share experiences, talk through situations and suggest courses of actions to lead a mentee toward their goals.
5. Support holistic mentoring.
Address and respond to both the content and the feelings or emotional state triggered by or behind a problem. Addressing both allows mentees to develop the tools and resources for similar problems in the future.
6. Recognize your limitations and use available resources.
Topics or discussions may move from the general and impersonal to more personal or complex. Supportive mentors know when and how to make referrals to broader university resources.