Level up your mentoring Practice Dr Kay Guccione

This is a practice development resource for mentors, and assumes that you have already done some introductory mentor training, and have done some mentoring in practice. It also assumes a shared understanding of mentoring as a specialist educational practice, based on a Humanist philosophy of learning, which involves more than simply the passing of advice from mentor to mentee. Below, I offer five ways you can become a better mentor.

If you were hoping to find out how to recruit a mentor for yourself, please see this resource.

1. CHeck for solid foundations

As a specialist practice, mentoring includes a diverse repertoire of different ideas, processes, techniques, and structures you can use. A google search for ideas for mentoring or coaching, will bring up tons of resources for you to use. What's important is how you deploy these tools. A good mentor works in collaboration with their mentee, in partnership, as an ally. They respect the needs and the choices of the mentee and place these at the centre of the partnership. And they trust their mentee to make their own decisions about their own life, taking a non-judgemental stance, and remaining open minded to different ways of achieving a goal.

A good mentor listens more than they talk. They act as a sounding board for the mentee's thoughts and ideas, amplifying the learner voice.

2. set clear expectations

Using a mentoring ‘agreement' or ‘contract’ is an essential professional and ethical competency for mentors. Don't be inclined to leave important details like the purpose of the mentoring partnership, the aims, what will and won't be delivered, and issues of confidentiality to chance or assumption. Failure to set out an agreement before starting the process, is a common cause of dissatisfaction in a mentoring partnership a major cause of disengagement from mentoring. Use the Mentoring Agreement:

  • to outline clearly the purpose of the relationship, and where any professional boundaries lay;
  • to specify what you as a mentor can offer;
  • to state explicitly what you and the mentee should expect of each other in terms of time and effort; and
  • to agree the focus the mentoring sessions will take.

3. regular practice development

As well as learning from and with your mentees, there are many tools and models you can try out, and perhaps add to your regular repertoire. Keeping up your good standing as a mentor, adding new techniques and ideas, and making sure your methods are still relevant is essential good practice. Below, I have created some short blog and video resources (captioned), that take a look at some of the commonly experienced tensions and challenges mentors face in supporting and developing their mentees. They offer ideas that you can try out in practice, from asking better questions, to giving better feedback, to supporting stressed colleagues.

4. feedback is key

In mentoring the flow of learning is two-way. Collaborate with your mentees to understand what works for them, and to develop your understanding of the impact of your mentoring style and approach. Feedback from your mentee, requested in the spirit of learning, and reflected on with an open mind, is a core way of enhancing your practice.

Try using or adapting the following prompts, and think deeply about the answers you receive from your mentee:

  • Their key learning from the mentoring session, and why they feel it added value.
  • What they have put into practice since meeting and how it went.
  • What they would like to focus on in the next mentoring session and anything they would like to move away from.

5. Practice Supervision

'Supervision' is a conversation with an experienced other, that serves the dual purpose of professional learning, and debriefing to ensure mentor wellbeing. It supports you as the developing mentor to understand what you are doing well and what you might seek to understand more about. Supervision also enables you to explore your position and power and it provides space to talk through any ethical dilemmas and boundaries, to reorientate after an emotionally demanding experience.

Whilst professional supervision services are available to invest in, a mentor-to-mentor peer conversation, or small group supervision can provide a really enriching experience too. Why not bring two or three colleagues together for a conversation about the challenges you have seen in your mentoring work?

Overall, to get the most out of the partnerships you build, enjoy your mentoring work!

Creative Commons License: This page is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at kay.guccione@glasgow.ac.uk

Created By
Kay Guccione


Created with images by Riz Mooney - "untitled image" • Clark Tibbs - "Do Something Great" • Damir Kopezhanov - "untitled image"