The 3 Steps of the Mentoring Process
Mentorship has long been a part of coaching. Knowledge, attitudes, skills, and habits have been passed down from one generation to the next through a process of explanation and observation – the more experienced coach (the mentor) explaining, and the less experienced coach (mentee) observing. Once the mentee had heard and seen enough, he or she was able to perform the task. After performing the task, the mentee would receive feedback from the mentor.
Before we get to the mentoring process, let's take a look at the 4 mentorship principles:
Emphasizing the relationship between the more experienced person (the mentor) and the less experienced person (the mentee):
The mentor is more of a facilitator – creating a safe, open environment in which the mentee can both learn and try things for himself or herself. Building trust and rapport with the mentee is a major part of the role of the mentor.
Giving the mentee a significant role in directing the process:
Thoughts and perceptions are the basis of all behaviour, and learning new behaviour requires engaging the mentee and altering his or her thoughts. To accomplish this, the mentor engages the mentee through a process of questioning that guides the mentee to discover solutions himself or herself. In some sports, the hierarchical nature of coaching staffs may lead to a perceived power imbalance between mentor and mentee. In situations like this, the mentor should try to downplay the perceived imbalance by working with the mentee as a peer.
Emphasizing the personal development of the mentee:
This includes improving self-awareness and self-knowledge, developing individual skills and talents, building capacities to coach, and fulfilling mentees’ aspirations. Mentorship is not about mentors cloning themselves; rather, the focus is on mentees developing themselves, with the guidance of the mentor, into the coaches they want to be.
Formalizing the process:
A formal process of support for mentees augments the informal mentoring that takes place during practices and competitions. The formal process includes a preplanning meeting, observation, and reflective conversations.
Starting with a formal process guides both parties through the uncertainties of the process while providing opportunities to develop a relationship. Structured events give the mentor opportunities to develop a positive, supportive, and open relationship with the mentee.
Mentoring is a three-step process1:
1. Planning meeting:
In this meeting, mentors help mentees plan a task or session by asking them to do the following:
- State the goals of the task or session
- Summarize the task or session
- Clarify the roles of those involved in the task or session
- List the actions of those involved in the task or session
- Itemize the challenges and opportunities associated with performing the task or session
- Identify what successful completion of the task or session would look like
The mentor observes the mentee and gathers information on how well the mentee’s plan worked. The mentor shares this information with the mentee during the reflective conversation.
3. Reflective conversation:
In this part of the process, the mentor summarizes and gives feedback on the information gathered in Step 2, and the mentee responds to the mentor’s summary and feedback. Discussing the information should get mentees to reflect on what they learned from the task or session and on how to transfer these learnings to their next coaching tasks or sessions.
1 Adapted from Costa and Garmston, 1994 & 2016.
For more on the mentoring process, consider the “Mentorship” module, part of the National Coaching Certification Program (NCCP) multi-sport modules series available through your Provincial or Territorial Coaching Representative.