You've had a productive mentoring session, and you're excited about the possibilities. You're approaching the end of your one hour (or 1.5 hours), and you want to make sure both you and your partner are on the same page regarding next steps. Of course, this leads to some important questions…
- Who is responsible for creating a list of next steps—the mentor, the mentoree, or a combination?
- Should you create a tentative agenda for the next meeting, or should the mentoree be responsible for formulating an agenda right before the next meeting?
- What if the mentoree has questions in between sessions?
- How will you measure progress?
We recommend the following mentoring activities as you near the end of each session.
1. Create a list of action items that resulted from the conversations you've had during the session.
The list should outline specific tasks the mentoree is willing to commit to. You could even divide the action items into two lists: the must-do tasks, which the mentoree must complete before the next meeting, and the "it would be nice to get done" tasks.
The list is important because it provides accountability—the mentoree knows what he or she needs to do, and the mentor knows what to expect.
Note: It's certainly possible that the mentor might have an action item or two, but the bulk will belong to the mentoree. Nevertheless, for each action item on the list, it makes sense to…
- Clarify: Know exactly what needs to be done and by whom.
- Include a timeframe: Indicate how long it will take to complete this item.
- Commit, commit, commit: Make sure that you are fully on board with this action item, meaning both mentoree and mentor should agree this action item has merit.
- Deadline: Set a date for completion. Mentorees might not be able to complete all action items by the next meeting, which is fine. But those action items shouldn't get lost in the shuffle. Including a deadline diminishes this possibility.
2. Agree on the date and time of the next meeting.
This is critical. Don't say, "Oh, we'll figure something out. Let's get in touch in a few days to compare schedules." Mentors and mentorees should come to the meeting with their calendars, and they should get the next meeting on the books prior to leaving the current session.
And if something comes up during the weeks in between meetings, agree on how you want to communicate (email, phone, Skype, text). Occasional communication in between sessions will be necessary from time to time.
3. Draft a tentative agenda for the next meeting.
Base the agenda on the action items, but do keep in mind the agenda will be fluid. The mentoree should be responsible for finalizing the agenda prior to the next meeting.
4. Provide feedback to each other about today's mentoring session.
Discuss what worked, what you could improve, how it felt being in this session, etc. Some sessions will feel productive, others not as much, and that's OK (and to be expected). But for the most part, both mentor and mentoree should walk away feeling good about the session.
Here are some signs that your mentoring relationship might need some assistance from the mentoring program manager:
- One or both of you often leave the sessions feeling frustrated.
- The meetings don't feel productive at all.
- You dread getting together.
- There's a high number of cancels/no-shows by one or both of you.
- You feel you're "spinning your wheels."
- You're having a hard time gauging any progress or forward motion. It doesn't feel as if the "needle" is moving at all.
Remember, when you're meeting with another person twice a month for nine to 12 months, challenges will come up. These challenges don't need to doom or define your relationship provided you address them right away. Your mentoring program manager has the role for a reason. Take advantage of his or her expertise.
Here's to your mentoring success!