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Mentoring: communicating the creation of a mentoring space

3 May 2022

At its heart, mentoring is all about communication. It’s a two-way relationship between mentor and mentee, that is built on open communication, respect and trust. And as charity communicators, these are skills we use in all sorts of scenarios within our day-to-day roles.

As CharityComms’ mentoring manager what I’m often asked for are the specifics, like what it means to be a mentor? What is involved? What do I need to do?

A big part of being a mentor is really about creating a mentoring ‘space’ with your mentee and communicating what that means. It should be a space to explore, talk, be listened to and move forward. Mentees often already have their own ideas and answers – they just really need the opportunity to vocalise where they’re at and what they’re thinking. A space where they can talk with someone that understands communications and the charity sector, ideally has relevant experience in the area they are grappling with and importantly is someone that works outside of their organisation. The role of the mentor really becomes about engaging and showing interest, forming part of the equation, and helping to create and hold a space for the mentee to have open and productive conversations to explore and move forward.

Committing to the process from both parties is crucial. One way to do this is to work through a mentoring agreement with your mentee right from the offset, you can use the suggestions below to help:

Set a clear mentoring objective to focus on in your sessions together

This one is really important. Encourage your mentee to communicate what they hope to achieve and how from the mentoring relationship. There can be a tendency from the mentee to try and bring up several different objectives. Try to steer the agreement to one aim that is achievable – this will help to keep future conversations focused and gives your relationship a foundation and a starting point. Focussing in on one objective can be challenging for mentees sometimes, so it’s good to take your time exploring and defining this objective at the start. It creates an anchor point that you can both keep returning to. Notice what comes up in your initial chat with each other, reflect back to the mentee and make a plan together about what you can work on.

Agree how often you will meet

Try and put dates in the diary for your next 2-3 meetings. You can plan these meetings around your schedules and when works for you both. On average people tend to meet every 4-6 weeks, but you can use your instincts here about what feels right / needed.

Decide over what time period you will meet

Aim to set a rough end date, so you have a time-scale in mind and you have a start, middle and finish to the mentoring relationship. You can review this once the relationship gets going and you’ve had a couple of meetings. You might find you have a couple of really productive meetings and actually that is all your mentee needed. Or life/work changes might come into play and you might find you need more time together than you originally thought. Agree to keep communication open about this with each other, so you are both on the same page.

Agree to feedback openly to one another

Be honest about what is and isn’t working. Communicate in your first session together how you will deliver this feedback. A good routine to get into is to write to each other following each meeting and let each other know what you think is going well and what you could work more on. You might want to openly encourage your mentee to let you know what isn’t working for them. If you are using the CharityComms scheme for mentoring and have any concerns, you can always communicate this via the CharityComms Mentoring Manager.

Turn up and respect each other’s time

As a mentor, part of ‘holding the space’ is to commit to the process and make the mentee feel you are there. Keep in communication with each other – life and job changes happen. Keep each other in the loop, so you both know where you stand and if this means any changes for the mentoring relationship e.g. needing to close it or meet at different times.

Don’t forget confidentiality

During the course of a mentoring relationship, issues of a confidential nature are often discussed. It’s a good idea for mentor and mentee to acknowledge this in the first meeting. Talk about what your mentoring relationship means. Have a broad discussion about what you might be covering in your sessions and what you’d like to remain private between mentor and mentee.

Charity communicators tend to be excellent mentors – as the skills for holding the ‘mentoring space’ are really engrained in our day-to-day roles. Open communication, respect and trust are key skills worth reviewing and building on throughout our career and can be applied in our roles as leaders, managers and peers too. Many of our mentors often feedback to me that they learned just as much as their mentee during the mentoring process. Mentors don’t need to hold all the answers, but they play a key role in holding the mentoring space.

CharityComms are currently looking for mentors across all comms disciplines and at all levels. We’d love to hear from you if you’d be interested in getting involved.

Just some of the benefits of being a mentor:

  • Share your knowledge and experience while helping others develop and grow
  • Strengthen your communication and interpersonal skills
  • Gain a fresh perspective by being introduced to new ideas and ways of working
  • Engage with someone in a different job role from your own and learn from them
  • Boost your own confidence and motivation

Banner Image: Amar Preciado on Pexels

Lally Wentworth

mentoring manager, CharityComms

Lally joined CharityComms in December 2008 to develop and manage the CharityComms membership scheme. She now runs our peer support scheme, including matching communications professionals working in the charity sector in mentoring relationships as part of their professional development.