Mentoring is a learning process where helpful, personal and mutually beneficial relationships are built while focusing on achievement. Emotional support, both for personal and professional growth, is a key element.
Mentoring is a 4-step process (Wong & Premkumar, 2007). In-depth study and research and extensive experience in the field of coaching and mentoring has helped Strengthscape arrive at the PreNEC Model of mentoring.
Together, we may refer to these four steps as the PreNEC Model. Each step is a process driven element of the complex mentoring journey. This process can help transform mentoring sessions from mundane organizational requirement to high-impact interactions that have a lasting positive impact on the mentor, mentee and ultimately the organization. These steps are enumerated below both for the seasoned and first time mentors and mentees.
Step 1: Prepare. This is almost like tilling the soil before planting the seed. Preparation is a 5-step process.
- Set up time and space to meet
- Bringing focus and setting goals
- Setting logistics
- Mutual agreement to move forward, time and commitment for the next session
Preparation should be from both sides – the mentor and the mentee. The mentor should know about the mentee and also have subject expertise and knowledge. This is adequate preparation for the first-time mentors. Under-prepared mentors often upset their mentee (Zachary, 2000). Mentors should be aware about their own journey and the experiences before mentoring someone else. It is important to remember that a mentor should be – a “guide on the side” rather than a “sage on the stage” (Wong & Premkumar, 2007).
Step 2: Negotiation. This step is like planting the seed. It has three major steps each with a sub-step.
- Brainstorming to prioritize the set goals and list the learning outcomes
- Preparing a structure of action (plan) and setting criteriahilm for assessing progress in the same
- Conclude by deciding on mutual responsibilities and accountabilities and by setting boundaries
This phase begins with a free-flowing conversation between the mentor and the mentee and the aim is to have a shared understanding of the desired outcome and delineation of responsibilities. At the end of this phase, the mentoring partners should ideally have collaboratively explored (Wong & Premkumar, 2007):
- Desired learning outcomes
- Criteria for measuring success
- Mutual responsibilities
- Accountability assurances
- Protocols for addressing problems
- An action plan for achieving the learning goal
One of the most important outcomes is boundary setting by both the mentor and the mentee. Decisions need to be made regarding the accessibility of the mentor. Is the mentor available all the time? Both mentoring partners need to decide on when and where to meet, what the agenda will be for the meeting, and establish a mechanism to indicate a topic has been sufficiently explored.
Step3: Enable the mentoring relationship. This step is like watering the seeds for nurturing. During this step, mentees are gradually initiated into the traditions of a community of practitioners. This step has four sub-steps as follows:
- Mentee’s are mentored with examples. The mentor should reflect on appropriate and inspiring examples to be shared in the mentoring process.
- Implementing the action plan
- Feedback to the mentor about course of action
- Change/modification of the course of action
Further, in order to enable the mentoring relationship, the mentor should possess the following 5 specific process skills along with subject-matter expertise (Wong & Premkumar, 2007).
- Asking powerful questions to help mentee’s reflect on and bring clarity in their chain of thought. For instance, the mentor can ask questions like “Could you please tell me a bit more about what you mean by….?” Or “What you just said is more at the surface level. Can we dig deeper and understand the same from another perspective?”
- Reframing sentences so that mentors can bring in clarity in their thought, change the frame of reference of the mentee’s thought process from negative to positive and also encourage the mentee to think on what they articulated. For instance, the mentor may say “My understanding is….” or “If I am not wrong, I heard you saying that….”
- Summarizing to recap whatever has been transpired and also to check out assumptions in the process. For instance, the mentor may say “So, from this meeting we have gathered that….”
- Listening for silence is an important skill. Silence indicates boredom, confusion, discomfort or embarrassment. On the contrary, some individuals need time to absorb and think. This may also bring in silence.
- Providing feedback genuinely, indicating a future action. For instance, the mentor may say “I appreciate this. May be next time you might also try…..” or “You made a very good start with….what I would like to see is….”
An issue in the process is that the experts often have difficulty in verbally expressing their performance and experience; they characteristically know more than they can say. This is termed as tacit knowledge. Mentors can model reflection-in-action by pausing and verbalizing their thoughts about what they have done in order to discover how an action may have contributed to both intended and unintended outcomes (Wong & Premkumar, 2007).
Step 4: Coming to closure. Mentoring relationships are not continuous and have to end. This step is like bearing the fruit of the plant. It has four sub-steps as follows:
- Focused conversation about the learning that has taken pace during the mentoring process – what went well and what didn’t.
- It is important to celebrate the conclusion of a successful mentoring relationship.
- Verbal comments and written notes from the mentor offer support and encouragement
- Follow-up and action-plan for future
The mentor may frame sentences like “let’s look at the pluses and minuses of our relationship so that we can each learn something from the process we have undergone” or “although we haven’t been able to achieve all of your objectives, I think we were successful in one area. I attribute this success to your persistence and determination, characteristics which will be very helpful in your new job.”
Zachary (2000) advised that it is important to celebrate the conclusion of a successful mentoring relationship. Mentors could acknowledge and celebrate the mentee’s successful journey via both verbal and written expressions of appreciation (Wong & Premkumar, 2007). Verbal comments should be specific and focused on behaviors, for example:
“I admire …”
“You have a real knack for …”
“I especially appreciated it when you …”
Written notes from the mentor could also offer as a permanent record of support and encouragement. For example, the note could focus on:
- What you learned from your mentee
- An incident that has special meaning for you
- A motivational message for the future
- Closure links the present to the future for both mentors and mentees.
So here is how you can design your mentoring journey.
Want to learn more about coaching and mentoring? Contact Strengthscape today!