Business mentoring is attracting more and more attention. More and more companies, also in Poland, have decided to launch a mentoring program. More and more NGOs are offering open, free mentoring programs. More and more people are considering finding a mentor.
Each novelty, on the one hand, attracts, on the other, fills with some anxiety. Because if we haven't experienced something - we don't know what to expect. In addition, many people, before deciding to choose a mentor, want to collect as specific and verified information as possible and find answers to their questions. Is this a good solution for me? What will I get from it? Will these benefits compensate for the time and effort invested? Or is it just another fad?
In the case of mentoring, one of the most frequently asked questions is: what does a typical mentoring session look like? What does it look like in practice?
So let's see what you can expect from a mentoring session, what is its typical course, what the mentor and mentee do, and whether you need to prepare for such a session in any special way.
What does a typical mentoring session look like?
Here, we will describe what a mentoring session looks like when the mentor and mentee are already in the process, i.e. they have had their first familiarization session and a well-defined goal of mentoring cooperation.
How long is a typical mentoring session?
Usually, a mentoring session lasts from 1h to 1.5h. This is a very individual matter, as it largely depends on the frequency of meetings between the mentor and the mentee and on the individual preferences of the mentee. The less frequent mentoring meetings take place, the longer a single session can last and even go beyond 1.5 hours. In addition, as part of the support provided to his mentee, a good mentor can also organize special activities that go beyond 1.5 hours. Of course, they take place by mutual consent.
Can a mentoring session take place online?
The pandemic has changed the way we all work. It also influenced the work of mentors and coaches to the same extent. However, it did not affect the quality of this valuable method of personal development. And most importantly, there is already research available that confirms that neither coaching nor mentoring has suffered from online quality.
The form in which you will meet with your mentor depends on the arrangements made between you at the beginning of the cooperation. You can only meet in person, you can only collaborate online, and you can operate in hybrid mode.
The most important thing is for a good mentor to make the most of the possibilities offered by the chosen mode. For example, an online conversation can make the mentee aware of the importance of facial expressions, body language, tone of voice, and even the position of the camera and the light in the room. The mentor can even "react" to it live by taking different poses and asking the mentee how he feels in this situation and what impression it creates.
What does the agenda of a typical mentoring session look like?
Below you will find the flow of a typical mentoring session in the form of a list of points. In the following, comments on individual points are provided to show different variants and options depending on the development of the situation during the session or where you are in the entire mentoring process.
Here is the agenda for a typical mentoring session:
Opening by a mentor and "small talk"
Selection by the mentee of the goal or topic for the meeting
Deepening the topic together thanks to the techniques used by the mentor, and if necessary - clarifying or even changing the topic
Generating possible options and solutions together
Selection by the mentee of a solution for final implementation and possible determination of an action plan for the mentee
Session summary with a focus on "Aha!" moments or discoveries that appeared on the mentee side during the session
Optionally agreeing on "homework" to be completed by the mentee before the next session or agreeing on the mentee using selected tools, tests, and knowledge sources
Closing the session by the mentor, precise confirmation of the date and place/form of the next meeting
If there was a commitment to take specific steps on the mentee's side in previous sessions - the mentor will check the status at the beginning of the starting session. One of the important roles of the mentor is to support the mentee in the implementation of the agreed plans and wisely motivate, and sometimes even push. In addition, looking into the reasons why the mentee has NOT done something can also reveal new and important insights for the mentee. So the first "aha!" may take place at the beginning of the session.
If the mentee bursts into the session with momentum, chasing after another call or meeting in a hurry - the mentor will first help to slow down and stop. It can be a quiet relaxing conversation or a moment spent in silence taking deep breaths together. It is also important to use a sense of humor and create opportunities for a healthy laugh together with the mentor. Thus, a good mentor is also a cheerful mentor with funny stories, parables, or jokes at hand.
As part of working on the selected goal or topic of the meeting, the mentor can, for example, use the GROW coaching model (or other coaching models) and work mainly with questions.
More information on coaching models can be found at the following link:
If the mentoring relationship has been going on for longer, the parties have gotten to know each other well and have already worked together on several issues related to the mentee's self-awareness, then when looking for options and solutions, the mentor can share his specific experience or mistakes he made and the conclusions drawn from it. This is especially the case when the mentee explicitly asks the mentor to tell their story or share their experiences.
Examples of over 50 questions you can ask a mentor can be found in the post below:
As part of exploring options and looking for solutions, the mentor may also familiarize the mentee with a new technique or tool during the session. is the development of specific competencies. An example could be playing a role or participating in a selected meeting together.
More information on the variety of activities a good mentor can offer can be found at the following link:
At the end of the session, the mentee does a summary of what he or she is taking away from the session and a mutually agreed plan for the next steps. This is also the moment when the mentor helps bring out or reinforce the "aha!" discovered in this session.
Depending on where you are in the whole process, the mentor may suggest checking the status of the main goal of the entire cooperation and its possible revision if new circumstances arise. Sometimes the entire mentoring session can be devoted to a retrospective and to summarize and consolidate the changes that have already occurred as a result of all the cooperation so far. It can also be used to celebrate successes together and celebrate "milestones" already achieved by the mentee. The mentor may also periodically ask the mentee for feedback, which is intended to best adapt his style to the needs of the mentee.
Usually, at the end of the session (but not only), the mentor can also remind the mentee about his strengths, talents, and everything he has already achieved. Especially when the session falls on a day that is very hard or depressing for the mentee.
Sometimes it is also worth deviating from the established plan and allowing yourself to "be human". I mean especially the days when the mentee is in poor shape (they happen to everyone - the mentor too!).
It is then worth staying together in a comfortable, non-judgmental atmosphere, without pressure, without purpose, without expected results. With mindfulness for yourself, talk, or sometimes ventilate. Because sometimes you have to stop to be able to move in the right direction - not necessarily in the one in which we were rushing so far. And sometimes the greatest value we can give to another person is our presence and attention. And instead of advising the greatest gift is our: "I am with you, you are not alone with this". It's just that and that's it.
How should a mentee prepare for a mentoring session?
A good mentor in the first session should precisely explain what is the responsibility of the mentee and what is the responsibility of the mentor in this relationship. This is an indicator of when and how the mentee should prepare for individual sessions.
In order for mentoring cooperation to be beneficial for the mentee, the mentee needs to know how he wants to use the session each time. It is important that he generally feels the owner of the goals he wants to achieve and does not succumb to the easy temptation of giving it to the mentor and the attitude of "you are more experienced, tell me what to do". Because a good mentor knows that (too often) you shouldn't give the fish - you should point out the right rods that the mentee can take with him for the rest of his professional career or his life.
On the mentee side, trust, openness, and honesty are also needed. Otherwise, you will only be moving on the surface. A good mentor will make every effort to earn the mentee's trust. And it probably won't happen in the first session - trust is born over time. But later on, it depends on the mentee how much he will open up to the mentor.
The mentoring process is also as effective as possible when working with "live examples", and real situations from the mentee's life - not abstract theories or concepts. Again, this requires openness and honesty on the mentee's side. In the beginning, perhaps even some courage and a deep understanding of the importance of confidentiality in this relationship.
For the success of the whole process, it is also important that the mentee keeps the commitments made, implements the agreed steps between sessions, and checks for himself what works for him and what does not.
Finally, I would like to remind you that a mentor is also a human being. Firstly, he may be wrong, secondly, he may have a bad day, and thirdly, in the current Polish reality, he often performs his pro bono role. If at some point YOU decide to cooperate with a volunteer mentor - please remember to respect and appreciate it.
Even as simple as not being late for scheduled sessions, not rescheduling sessions at the last minute, keeping promises, or a simple "thank you" or "Thank you. You helped me look at things in a completely different way" or "Thank you. Today I learned something important from you."