When mentors and mentorees begin their journey together, one of the big topics of discussion involves mentoring goals.
But what is a mentoring goal—and what are some good examples?
What are mentoring goals?
Mentoring goals are the long-term and short-term goals the mentoree sets for himself or herself. The long-term goal tends to be a larger goal (e.g. become a stronger leader) and the short-term goals are the “mini” goals that need to happen along the way in order to achieve the big goal (e.g. take part in a webinar series on developing leadership skills).
The mentoree gets final say on the goals, but he or she should seek input from the mentor. The first couple of meetings should involve this goal-setting discussion.
How many goals should a mentoree aim for?
Like so many things in life, it depends. Be realistic. The most successful mentoring relationships are ones where both the mentor and mentoree believe the mentoree is making progress, not feeling overwhelmed or disappointed.
How do you break down a big goal into mini goals?
Goal setting is an art, not a science. Everyone has their own strategy for making and achieving goals. That said, most of us can likely agree that the way to achieve big goals is to break them down into smaller parts. The nature of the mentoring relationship—the fact that it lasts 9-12 months—makes it ideal for setting mini goals.
The analogy we like to use is this one: if you decide to run a marathon, that’s a goal—a big one. The mini goals might include buying proper running shoes, downloading a running app, getting up an hour earlier each day to run, running a certain amount in the first month, running another amount in month four, and so forth.
Do the same with your goals. If your goal is to become a stronger leader by the end of your mentoring relationship, what steps do you need to take along the way? This might include…
- Reading certain books on leadership
- Attending webinars/seminars on developing leadership skills
- Volunteering for a leadership role in an upcoming project
You get the idea.
Note that the mentoree does the heavy lifting. The mentoree reads the books, attends the webinars, volunteers for the project. The mentor offers support, feedback, and advice, but the mentor is not coaching the mentoree on how to be a leader. That’s an essential difference between mentoring and coaching. In fact, one of the mini goals for the mentoree might be to engage the help of a coach for 6-8 weeks.
What if you realize that you have too many big mentoring goals?
That’s OK! One of the reasons we recommend breaking down the big goals into mini goals is because it will quickly become clear if you’ve taken on too much. It’s perfectly OK to revise your goals. A mentoring relationship should leave you feeling invigorated and accomplished, not stressed and frustrated.
What are some examples of mentoring goals?
Mentoring goals run the gamut, and over 25+ years, I’ve heard them all. Some common ones:
- Leadership skills
- Confidence skills
- Public speaking/presentation skills
- Life/work balance
- Becoming a better manager/working with teams
- Career trajectories/next steps/5-year plans
- People skills
What if the mentor and mentoree need help defining goals?
If the mentor and mentoree are struggling with this important step, they should reach out to the mentoring program manager (MPM). The MPM can provide guidance, objective advice, and a brainstorming session.
I'm an MPM and I'm still not sure my pairs are focusing on the right mentoring goals. Can you help?
Absolutely. In fact, we offer free one-hour "chats" to discuss these sorts of issues. You could compile a list of the mentoring goals that your mentoring pairs are focusing on for the current program, and I can review and let you know what I think. Details here.
Have you taken part in a formal mentoring program? What sorts of goals did you and your partner focus on? Share in the comments!