The Mentoring Conversation

April 8, 2014

While the concept of mentoring is rather simple, sometimes the act itself can seem somewhat daunting. What exactly should a good mentoring meeting look or sound like? 

In his chapter, An International Perspective on Mentoring, from the book The Handbook of Mentoring at Work, David Clutterbuck (a keynote speaker at last years UNM Mentoring Conference) breaks down some characteristics of successful mentoring conversations from the perspective of a mentor. According to Clutterbuck (2007), successful mentors:

  • Begin by establishing or reestablishing report.
  • Ask or allow the mentee to explain what the issues he or she is having and what kind of help is wanted.
  • Hold back on overtly drawing from their own experiences or giving advice until the issue had been explored in sufficient depth for both to understand.
  • Summarize the dialogue discussed so far.
  • Reinforce the mentee’s self-belief in his or her own ability to manage the issue.
  • Help the mentee think through options, actions, and time lines.
  • Ask the mentee to summarize the discussion so far.
  • Ask the mentee to consider how committed they are to the proposed course of action. (Clutterbuck 2007)

These conversation points show that in a successful mentoring conversation, the mentor needs to do more than just lecture. He or she should aim to understand the mentees problems, assist in coming up with solutions, and prepare the protégé for future challenges. 



Ragins, B. R., & Kram, K. E. (2007). An International Perspective on Mentoring. The Handbook of Mentoring at Work: Theory, Research, and Practice (pp. 633-655). Los Angeles: Sage Publications.