Tools for mentors and mentees 4

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 deliver the results required, it’s essential that conversations between mentor and mentee encourage reflection leading to insights, foster generation of ideas – and support weighing up options and alternatives.

This is the fourth in a 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 ‘Tools for mentors and mentees 3’, I focused on tools to help mentees to generate ideas.

I think it can be a good thing to pause between idea generation and idea evaluation:  we can self-censor, rule out promising ideas prematurely and look for other ideas rather than develop what we have. What’s more, with the benefit of a break between idea generation and evaluation, ideas can develop and we can see things more clearly.

In this post, the focus is on supporting the mentee as they sort, sift and scope out their options and ideas – and move forwards. The mentor needs to tread carefully; finding a balance between being supportive and encouraging yet gently ensuring the mentee takes time to carefully weigh up options and alternatives, pros and cons.

1. Ranking
Looking at all the options the mentee has generated, they can then try to rank them. It can help to do this against different criteria, e.g. ‘will develop my skills’, ‘raise my profile’ and ‘take me out of my comfort zone’. Tip: ask the mentee to put each idea on a Post-It/sticky note and encourage them to weigh up each option, moving them around until they have a prioritised list.

2. Matrix
A 2 x 2 matrix can help if the options are different, using their two most important criteria for the axis. Other criteria for the axes may be the effort required (high / low), how long it may take (quick / slow), or impact (high / low). The well-used SWOT analysis is a 2 x 2 matrix. Lucid Meetings has an introduction.

3. Grid analysis
When there are several factors to consider, a more in-depth decision matrix or grid can help, especially if there’s no clear preferred ‘winner’ from the possible options generated. This might seem daunting at first, but it’s simple to use and helps decision-making.

This tool can be drawn up by the mentee as they a) list their options on vertical rows and b) identify the factors that matter as column headings. Score each option 0-5 (5 being very good). It’s OK to score different options the same, e.g. 3. Next, consider the factors, repeat the 0-5 step, where 0 is not important and 5 is very important. Finally, when the score for each option is multiplied by the value of each factor, the option that scores highest is revealed. Many years ago, a mentor got me creating a grid like this to support making a decision – and I’m glad they did. Mind Tools has a handy video on the decision matrix, along with a worksheet.

4. De Bono’s Six Thinking Hats
Edward de Bono said we can change our thinking by adopting different mindsets, points of view – or wearing different ‘thinking hats’. His Thinking Hats have proved popular, in organisations big and small, in education and enterprise. If you’re a mentor reading this, I recommend watching the handy explainer video from The Art of Improvement and suggest you ‘road test’ the technique on an issue you’re facing. See how it works for you and if it does, prepare some notes, questions and visuals for when you meet your mentee..

Finally, the mentee needs to commit to action and be held accountable throughout the mentoring process. However, I think that’s the subject of a future post…


Dawn is the author of ‘The Feedback Book’ and ‘How to be Zoomly at work’







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