Establishing the Baseline with a Mentee
As a mentor, you have a number of ways to help a client see herself and become aware of the impact of her experience and how that may manifest in behavior and habits. The following is just one three-step process you can use in a two- to three-hour session.
Step 1: Gathering the personal map
Ask your client to bring every bit of objective and subjective data she has about herself to the session. This data may include psychometrics (MBTI, DISC, OPQ and the like, reasoning tests, talent assessment data), personal appraisals, career review documents, CV, and prior training record.
Wherever your client sits, notice where she is facing. Use a table to the left of her if you can or the left side of a large table. Ask her to use the data to write 20 or 30 sticky notes that summarize the information about herself that is indicated in that data. Ask her to position them on the table and organize them as she wants. Use prompt questions to help, but let her describe her data in her own words.
Step 2: Identifying high points and low points
Stand where you have enough room for both of you to walk and create a timeline by putting pieces of evenly spaced paper on the floor from left to right that represent each decade from 0 to the client’s current decade (0, 10, 20, 30, 40, and so on). Get your client to stand on the 10, look back to the 0, and consider her first ten years of life. Ask her to just talk you through her key informative experiences as she recalls them — the high points and low points.
Let your client decide what to include. Some people will want to highlight significant life events at each decade; others will want to highlight only those from working age. Work with what your client gives you. There’s no need to dig around in the recesses of her childhood. This isn’t therapy — you’re simply encouraging the client to reflect and identify the indicators that have informed her experience to date. You may want to write them down for her as you go along.
When she has arrived at 10 and is complete, ask her to walk to 20, look back to the 10, and consider the decade 10 to 20. Go through the process for each decade, noting the high points and low points as you go. If the client isn’t currently of an age ending with 0, end by asking the client to consider the period from now back to her last decade marker. When you have elicited the timeline, ask your client to look back along the timeline while you read through the notes at a storytelling pace so the client hears her story retold. She may want to add other things.
Ask your client to combine the two sets of information (the sticky notes and the timeline), and ask her what she notices about her strengths and high points. What made them high points, and what is the client noticing about her own abilities? Really help the client see and feel her strengths and wisdom.
Coach her at a slow enough pace for your client to hear the volume and weight of her success. Coach and encourage her to breathe it all in by saying things such as, “Notice how you were good at x from a very early age. You must have been unconsciously competent at that for a very long time. Some people spend years trying to acquire that skill. Can you see how valuable that is in you and for other people?”
Your job in this part is to help her really get a sense of the value she brings. You may sometimes see a client stand a little taller and straighter when you do this. Just notice it for yourself — no need to comment on it.
Ask what she notices about the low points when the feedback indicated she wasn’t operating at her best. Really help your client see her whole self and understand the learning she needs to do. If she is struggling to see her contribution to the low points, ask her things such as, “So, when you consider that low point, what can you take from it that may help you now and in the future?,” “What is there for you to learn here?,” and “What would others say if you asked them?”
By now, your client is really becoming aware of patterns in her past behaviors and possibly gaining some new insight into how others experience her. You want to keep her there a little longer. Just give her plenty of space to notice her whole self.
Step 3: Discovering desired improvement
The next step is to help your client determine what she may need to do more of, try out, or change. Where does she want to direct her strengths to increase her own behavioral flexibility? What would she like to create in her relationships? What may she need to work at and with whom? Encourage her to begin to create specific outcomes and to articulate how she will know that the improvement she wants is on track or has been made.
Ask her to create a visual map that shows what she wants to improve and what can create more success. Help her recap what she has learned about herself; where things have worked out and where they haven’t. Suggest that she considers how she can use the insights she has noted. Encourage her to share her self-discovery with others beyond the coaching to garner their support in managing her own areas of development as she tries new ways of delivering and makes small or major adjustments.
This subject also relates to you. This isn’t just information. Self-awareness is a cornerstone to help you deliver flexibly and enable others to succeed. You need to be able to catch yourself when you have patterns of behavior that don’t support you and to notice what you do that works so you can do more of it. Do the work if you want results.