At different times and in different situations I’ve been fortunate to benefit from the wisdom of mentors – and been privileged to have mentored others. I also help clients get their mentoring programmes working well.
For a mentoring relationship to flourish and deliver the desired results it needs to be more than ‘just a chat’ – much more. That’s where the tools come in: they expand and enrich the discussion, enable greater clarity and are memorable.
This is the third of a short series of posts to support mentors and mentees. If you want to read the posts from the start, please read ‘Tools for mentors’, which focuses on getting the process off to a strong start and ‘Tools for mentors and mentees 2’, which suggests how some simple tools can support getting down to work in the mentoring alliance.
In this post I want to focus on tools that can help the mentee generate ideas, options and alternatives. This can be particularly useful if the mentee is stuck, uncertain or unaware of their options. Tread carefully: let the mentee work at their own pace rather than thrusting them far outside their comfort zone. They may need time to reflect on their ideas and options. Idea generation needs to be distinct from idea evaluation: we can self-censor our ideas right away and end up with the predictable – or nothing at all. Evaluation tools will be the subject of a forthcoming post.
No artistic ability needed: drawing is simply another way of getting something out of our head and onto paper (or tablet). Doodles are fine. This could be simple stick people, e.g. the mentee and a colleague who aren’t working well together. Or it could be a metaphor, such as a brick wall that the mentee perceives blocks their progress. A ladder or mountain could represent stages of progress towards goals and success. If you want to try your hand at cartoons, there’s no shortage of ‘how to’ tutorials, such as ‘Cartoon Fundamentals: How to Draw a Cartoon Face Correctly’. I’ve found Graham Shaw to be helpful for getting started – you can see his video here.
2. Take another view
Invite the mentee to look at the situation through the eyes of someone they admire. For example, “What would Beyoncé do?” As the mentee comes up with more people they admire (or their favourite fictional character – Harry Potter?), more options are generated.
3. Random connections
How is the mentee’s current situation like…a building? A pair of shoes? A means of transport? Jazz? The ancient Greeks? A drink or food? Random connections can jolt our thinking, getting us past our assumptions.
4. Different settings
Some people happily generate ideas in the typical office environment (or working at home) – some need to get away from it to free up their thinking. A walk around a nearby park, along a riverbank – out in nature – can help new ideas flow. [At time of writing, lockdown may restrict outdoor activities. Please check locally.]
In my next post on Tools for mentors, I’ll suggest ways of weighing up options and alternatives.
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