Guidelines, Tips and Ideas to Mentors and Mentees

Introduction | How to Get it Started | Checklist for the first encounter(s) |
The Mentoring Process | Tips | Conclusion of the Pilot Phase |


The purpose of this paper is to provide guidelines to mentors and mentees who are participating in the JPO Mentoring Programme. The guidelines should not necessarily be followed strictly, but rather provide inspiration and ideas on how to get the mentoring relationship started, what basic rules and values to adhere to throughout the process, and provide some tips to both mentors and mentees on what to expect and how to proceed.

Once mentees and mentors have been matched, the benefits derived from the Mentoring Programme will very much depend on the relationships that are built. Apart from ad hoc follow-up from the mentoring focal point at the JPO Service Centre, participants will only be contacted by the JPOSC to conduct a mid-term evaluation and when Phase I of the Mentoring Programme will be rounded off by a final evaluation.

Based on the experiences and feed-back from this year's mentors and mentees, we are commencing a new round of mentoring relationships. For those mentors who are interested in continuing as mentors for another year with a new mentee, this will be encouraged.


How to Get it Started

Once you have been informed who your partner (mentor or mentee) is, we recommend that the first contact is made at the mentee's initiative. In order to facilitate the first encounter(s), it might be a good idea to follow some or all of the points mentioned in the Checklist for first encounters below.

One very important step to ensuring the success of a mentoring process is to clarify expectations from the outset. It is of primary importance to clarify the expectations of the mentee, who is at the core of the mentoring process, but it is also important to clarify the expectations of the mentors, who also go into the mentoring relationship with more or less clear ideas on what to expect. Although original expectations are clarified at the beginning of the relationship, needs may still change over time, and therefore it may be useful to revisit the issue regularly throughout the process.

One of the characteristics of a well-functioning mentoring relationship is that it is based on an atmosphere of confidence, trust, openness and understanding between the mentor and mentee. Without such atmosphere, real issues will not be raised and honest feed-back cannot be provided. Hence, it can be a good idea at the beginning to spend time to get to know the counterpart. For this purpose, you may wish to start talking on issues not necessarily related to work: Family, friends, education, career, victories and defeats. Other subjects could be: How the mentees got to where they are today and whether this is where they want to be? What are their goals - where would they like to be in five years? What do they read, where do they go on vacation, which obstacles in their daily work would they like to get rid of and which possibilities do they think that would open for them?


Checklist for the first encounter(s)

  • How do we meet (telephone, e-mail, in person)?
  • What is the expected duration of the meeting?
  • What would we like to know about each other?
    • Socially (education, job history, personal life, personal interests)
    • Ambitions in the job (job satisfaction, career goals, greatest successes, visions, clarity regarding goals)
    • Development goals (what would be good to improve in relation to present and future jobs? What should the help concentrate on?)
  • What will make this mentoring relationship satisfactory and useful to both parties?
  • Which expectations do you have of each other (values, rules)?
  • How and how often should we meet in the future - is it ok with ad hoc contact if the need arises?
  • Should we have an agenda for the next encounter?
  • Are there any areas we should work on now?
  • When, by what means and how often to have contact?

It will take some effort in most cases to build a relationship of trust and openness. When people do not meet in person, feelings cannot be decoded and facial expressions cannot be read. This of course hampers communication, but on the other hand, long-distance relationships are playing an increasingly important role in our work and lives, and this means that we are becoming better at this type of communication. If possible, however, we encourage mentors and mentees to arrange for at least one face-to-face meeting - preferably relatively early on in the mentoring process. If necessary, and within reasonable limits, JPOs are entitled to use their DTTA for such travel, which should preferably be combined with other official business or leave travel.

Finally, it is recommended that participants inform colleagues and superiors openly about their participation in the Mentoring Programme as early as possible. Mentoring relationships can in some cases create insecurities amongst those who do not participate. Usually it is grounded in the lack of knowledge - colleagues may be disappointed that they are not participating and superiors may fear a challenge to their leadership. It is therefore a good idea to share information on the Programme with those around you.


The mentoring process

Once the first encounter has taken place, you should have a clearer idea about what you can expect and what your partner expects from you. It may be a good idea to follow some of the first encounter guidelines for the subsequent encounters (e.g. who takes initiative, arranges next encounter, should there be an agenda for the subsequent meeting, etc.). What works best will probably be individual, but it is a good idea to check regularly that you have a similar understanding of how things should proceed.

It is important, in order to achieve the greatest benefit, that the mentees are clear on what they wish to obtain from the mentoring relationship, and also, that they are realistic about what a mentor can do for them. Mentees should also be careful as to how they spend the mentor's time. The mentors, on the other hand, should be flexible in respect of initial expectations and how things progress - mentee needs may very well change in the process and original expectations may need to be adjusted several times. Mentors should be willing to share their own experiences and to refer to others for advice on issues they are not themselves familiar with.

From other mentoring programmes, the experience is that for in-depth conversations, it is advisable to set aside 2-3 hours. This, again, is individual, but is something for both mentees and mentors to keep in mind when planning for a mentoring session. Also based on other mentoring programmes, we advise mentors and mentees to be in touch at least every one-two months, in order to keep the momentum of confidentiality and openness.



Tips to the Mentee:

  • Be receptive to challenges and be willing to discuss your issues openly
  • Make sure to make use of your mentor
  • Respect the time of your mentor
  • Keep a positive outlook/view on yourself
  • Be active in your own development and be willing to run a few risks in order to develop
  • Be confident in and trust your mentor
  • Do not expect too much of your mentor

Tips to the Mentor:

  • Create an open space that will enable the mentee to approach you
  • Listen
  • Be open and honest
  • Be willing to share your own experiences
  • Keep yourself in the background and focus on the mentee
  • Ensure confidentiality and respect
  • Be aware of expectations and limitations

It might be helpful to some to keep a log book or diary of the mentoring process. We can forget the most important thoughts a brief moment after they have come to mind, and a log book can help ensure continuity from one meeting to the next. Furthermore, a written account of what has been discussed can be very useful for the mentee to look back in and reflect on at later stages.

As a mentoring relationship is a development process both for mentor and mentee, there will be situations for both parties where one would have wished to have acted differently. This is natural in a development process, and instead of blaming yourself or your mentor/mentee, it is advisable to accept the unfortunate situations as part of the process and to learn from them. To admit and discuss errors in a mentoring relationship can be a starting point for gaining more insight. Therefore, tell your mentor or mentee how you think the relationship is working, and ask them how they think it is working and what could be improved in the future.

Finally, it is recommendable at the end of each encounter to arrange for an approximate time for the next encounter.


Conclusion of the Pilot Phase

The pilot phase of the JPO Mentoring Programme was concluded with a formal evaluation in March 2004, where both mentors and mentees were asked to evaluate the process by filling out a short evaluation form.

If, for some reason or another, the mentor or mentee decides to break off the mentoring relationship before time, we would ask both parties to inform us and complete an evaluation form at that point.

In any case, it is recommendable for mentor and mentee to discuss, prior to the end of the relationship, what both have learned, what worked particularly well and what would need particular attention in a possible new mentoring relationship.

For any questions or concerns arising throughout the JPO Mentoring Programme, you are welcome to contact the Mentoring Programme focal point at the JPO Service Centre at any time:

    Fleur Vernat
    Public Relations and website Officer
    UNDP JPO Service Centre
    Midtermolen 3
    2100 København Ø
    Tel: +45 3546 7149
    Fax: +45 3546 7171


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