The first three months of a new mentoring relationship are critical. Ideally, the mentoring program manager (MPM) should check in with all participants to see how everything is working out.
Here are questions the MPM should ask mentorees and mentors after 90 days. Consider this a starting point: you can revise and/or add other questions as you see fit.
Questions for Mentorees:
- How has the relationship changed from when you first met to now? Forward motion is the goal of any mentoring relationship. As long as the mentoree feels she/he is making progress, all's good. However, if the mentoree indicates things are stalled, probe further. Note: slow progress is still progress. Stalling, however, could indicate a larger issue.
- What is the primary role of your mentor at this point? The mentoree should always be doing the heavy lifting while the mentor serves as a guide, a cheerleader, and a trusted expert. That said, the mentoree shouldn't feel like she or he is facing things alone. The mentor does need to have a presence in the relationship.
- What has surprised you thus far about this experience? After three months (provided the relationship is on the right track), the mentoree should have gained some insights into mentoring in general. Listen for phrases that indicate growth and transformation are happening. Again, if the mentoree indicates the relationship has sputtered, it's time to discuss this larger issue with the mentoree and mentor together.
- What has been the most difficult aspect of being in a mentoring relationship thus far? No relationship, no matter how positive, is always sunshine and rainbows. Challenges are normal.
Be aware that the mentoree might not feel comfortable sharing negatives, however (out of fear of being seen as "difficult" or incompetent). Remind the mentoree that it's OK to vent and that you're providing a safe place to do so without repercussions.
- What would you do differently based upon what you know today? One of the main goals of any mentoring relationship is to gain a deeper understanding of oneself. After 90 days, the mentoree should be able to reflect and acknowledge things he or she might have done differently. Again, the mentoree might need some encouragement to open up—make sure you provide that encouragement.
- How have you received support from your manager in your participation in this program? Has that been sufficient for you? What else would you like to see from your manager? In order for the mentoring relationship to succeed, the mentoree and mentor need support from upper management. For example, the mentoree's manager shouldn't complain when the mentoree takes time to meet with his or her mentor. If the mentoree does indicate this is an issue, it's your job as the MPM to address this with the mentoree's manager.
- Do you feel you are getting what you should at this point from the relationship? (And do you think your mentor would agree with you?) Consider the 90-day check-in as a way to assess and recalibrate, as needed, and remind the mentoree to think of it the same way.
- Is there anything you need from me that can assist you in your mentoring relationship? Don't rush through this question. Express that you want to become a better MPM for the whole program. Be open to hearing feedback and be ready to act upon that feedback.
Questions for Mentors:
For the mentors, you'll ask some of the same questions (and for the same reasons) as we discussed above. I'm bulleting these questions:
- What has surprised you thus far about this experience?
- What has been the biggest challenge in your relationship?
- What would you do differently based upon what you know today?
- Is there anything you need from me at this point to assist you in your mentoring efforts?
But you should also ask these two mentor-only questions as well:
- What have you gained so far in this relationship? Have you shared this with your mentoree? Mentors are often surprised at how much they get out of the relationship, even within the first three months. It's important for mentors to share what they've gained, not only with their MPMs, but also with their mentorees, since this can be an opportunity for discussion and further enlightenment.
- What do you anticipate will happen in your relationship during the next three months? The mentoree is driving this relationship, but the mentor is still the one who should be overseeing/supervising the journey. A good way to make sure the mentor is doing what he/she signed up for is by asking this question. If the mentor hedges or fumbles through an answer, remind the mentor about the critical role he/she is playing in the relationship.
What other questions are important to ask mentors and mentorees during the 90-day check-in? Share your thoughts in the comments below.