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M2.04 Conducting the mentoring process

1. Use mentoring techniques and methods for achieving learner’s learning outcomes and goals

Mentoring can be used for a wide variety of situations and different points in someone’s working life for example:
  • Induction for a new starter;
  • Individuals working towards promotion;
  • Staff who have changed roles in the department or across the organisation;
  • Staff on structured learning programmes;
  • Changes to job roles for example following a restructure;
  • Continuous Professional Development (CPD).
There are different ways a Mentee can be supported, encouraged and given constructive feedback. With each technique, it is important to be aware of its purpose, appropriateness, the likely impact and its value to the Mentee.
Techniques can include:
  • Giving advice – offering the Mentee your opinion on the best course of action;
  • Giving information – giving information on a specific situation (e.g. contact for resource);
  • Taking action in support – doing something on the Mentee’s behalf;
  • Observing and giving feedback – work shadowing and observation by either or both parties. Observation coupled with constructive feedback is a powerful learning tool;
  • Reviewing – reflection on experience can develop understanding allowing one to consider future needs, explore options and strategies.
The selection of techniques can be guided by a number of factors, such as:
  • Values and principles underpinning the Mentoring scheme – in this case, encouraging self-sufficiency and empowerment;
  • Shared understanding between Mentee and Mentor of the purpose behind the Mentoring relationship;
  • Quality and level of the professional relationship;
  • Level of experience and need of the Mentee;
  • Level of Mentor’s own awareness and comfort with the Mentoring process.
Mentoring is an empowering experience for the Mentee; it is therefore vital that the strategies chosen encourage the Mentee towards autonomy. The Mentee is expected to negotiate the forms of support needed at the initial contracting stage; by making use of processes that are self-helping such as learning logs, self-review journals, reviewing meetings and feedback. The relationship can be used to develop skills for both parties and is dependent on clear communication. This all-important communication can benefit from analysing a number of key skills, active listening and questioning.

The skill of Active Listening
Active listening is the ability to listen and internalise what is being said; essentially listening and understanding. You can use your whole self to convey the message of an active listener involved in the discussion, showing interest, gaining trust and respect.
This can be achieved by using verbal and non-verbal communication. Non-verbal communication has more impact than words alone, so facial expression, eye contact, non-verbal prompts (e.g. head nodding) and body posture (leaning slightly towards the Mentee, showing interest) will contribute towards building upon the professional relationship and improving discussions.
Your surroundings can also be utilised to create a climate appropriate for discussion to occur. The aim is for a quiet, pleasant and relaxed environment with no physical barriers (e.g. a desk between Mentor and Mentee) to be used to conduct the meeting in.

Using the art of questioning
Questioning, if used effectively, is a very useful and powerful tool. It allows the Mentee-Mentor relationship to develop, assisting the Mentor in understand the Mentee’s situation or dilemma, assisting the Mentee in exploring and understanding their experiences with the hope of formulating avenues and actions for the future. There are many reasons to ask questions, they may be:
  • To satisfy curiosity
  • To obtain or clarify information
  • To assist in exploring an issue
  • To look at possible alternatives
  • To check understanding
  • To challenge contradictions, views etc.
  • To move the discussion forward
  • To direct the discussion
With the effect questions have and their power, it is important to select those which are of greatest use. Questions can essentially be broken down into two types, closed or open questions.
Open Questions: These are questions which require more than just a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ response and usually begin with ‘How?’ ‘Where?’ ‘What?’ ‘Who?’. Questions beginning with these can be used to:
  • Gain information – ‘What happened as a result of…?’
  • Explore personal issues – ‘What is your view on…?’ ‘What are you expecting to achieve?’ ‘How are you feeling having...?’
  • Consider and explore avenues – ‘What are the possible options for...?’ ‘What may help when...?’ ‘How would you deal with...?’
Closed Questions: These are questions which evoke a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ response and in doing so narrow down the opportunity for the Mentee to expand, closing down the discussion e.g. ‘Do you…?’; ‘Did you…?’. Continual use of closed questions will restrict the discussion, resulting in the Mentee saying less and the Mentor asking more and more questions. The overall effect is poor communication and a difficult environment to work within. There are times when closed questions are useful. They can be used to summarise and confirm a discussion, bringing parties up to speed and to the same level e.g. ‘So, you are saying that you don’t have an issue with...?’.

Avoid asking multiple questions. These are a number of different questions asked within the same sentence. They are unclear, cause confusion and stop both parties from focusing on the meeting.