A mentoring cheat sheet (for both sides of the relationship)

A mentoring cheat sheet (for both sides of the relationship)

This year we’re having a monthly series on mentoring. Head here to read the previous posts.

I’ve mentored too many people over the years who have asked me for mentoring because they know they’re in over their head, they know they need help, but they have no idea what to ask me.

In a mentoring relationship, it’s generally the mentee’s responsibility to take the initiative–not the mentor’s. But I felt terrible for these women who asked for help because they needed it, but didn’t know where to go from there.

If you’ve been in this situation, here are three questions I ask when someone needs help finding a way forward:

Three questions to ask your mentee:

1. What are you working on right now? It doesn’t matter the person is seeking your guidance on finessing a presentation at work or figuring out the terrible twos.  This question helps them focus and prioritize.

2. What are your next steps? The very act of asking will get them thinking about how to move forward.

3. How can I help? Maybe they need a crucial tip or the right contact, some feedback on their strategies or just confirmation they’re heading in the right direction.

If you’re the one seeking guidance from a mentor, it’s easy to turn these questions around.

Three things to discuss with your mentor:

1. Here’s what I’m working on right now. Tell them where your gaze is resting and where your priorities lie at the moment, what your big picture looks like and where you see yourself in it.

2. These are my next steps. What current projects are you giving the most attention? What’s your plan for moving forward? How have you decided to deploy your resources–time, money, energy–to accomplish these things.

3. Where can you help? Tell your mentor what you’re looking for. Do you want encouragement, or critical feedback? Do you want them to introduce you to someone who can help your career, or review your essay before you submit it to the magazine? Do you need granular advice about making it through the witching hour?

Don’t let a mentoring relationship get stuck because you don’t know how to move forward. If you’re feeling stuck–whether mentor or mentee–try using these three questions to get the ball rolling.

Have you been in a mentoring relationship that’s gotten “stuck?” 

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9 comments

  1. Tim says:

    Anne, another question I’ve found helpful is to ask my manatee simply “How’re you doing?” and then spend the time working through the answer. It can lead to some great places.

      • Tim says:

        Not at all, SB! As I mentioned in a comment on one of Anne’s earlier mentoring posts, I can’t see myself calling the person I mentor my mentee. That sounds like what you pop in your mouth after eating a garlic and anchovy pizza. Manatee is much more mellifluous. And besides, everybody likes manatees.

        P.S. There’s another great mentoring post over at Natasha Robinson’s place: http://ow.ly/pcby2

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