How to Turn Mentoring Conversations into Action

Chris Browning
Written by
Chris Browning

Walk the Talk in Your Mentoring Relationship

Why do people participate in mentoring relationships? To become a practitioner in a certain area? To become a better employee in some way? To prepare themselves for a successful career? To gain new skills? The answer to all of these is yes; indeed, the reasons why people participate in developmental relationships are vast. That said, the reasons for participating in mentoring all have a common thread: improving or changing a behavior in some way.

Mentoring ConversationsConversations between mentees and mentors represent the foundation of mentoring relationships and provide a mechanism for development to occur. The quality of your conversations will directly impact the value it will have on your development. To help illustrate my point, think back to a past mentoring conversation. Did you leverage this conversation to help you change or improve your behavior? Or could it be better described as a well-intentioned conversation that was interesting but that didn’t produce any real change in your work habits or behaviors?

You aren’t alone if your mentoring conversations didn’t result in actionable change. In fact, this phenomenon is quite common. Engaging in conversations that do not focus on actionable change gives the illusion of transformational learning without delivering any actual change in behavior. What ends up unintentionally happening is that people embrace new concepts and begin calling old behaviors by new names. As a result, it could feel like you are making progress when in reality you could be simply changing your terminology. This can cause developmental confusion; you may think that you are making improvements when in fact you might be misapplying new concepts by layering them on old behaviors.

In order to make mentoring conversations more meaningful for your development, I recommend that you end every critical conversation with a commitment to undertake some type of specific action. The following conversational strategies will help you as you seek to make your dialogues actionable.

1. Be goal-oriented

Mastery is only achieved through repeated attempts to perfect one’s ability or skill in an area of development. Mentoring conversations are greatly enhanced if participants begin and end them with their ultimate objective in mind.
How you can apply this: As you consider what action you can take to improve your skill or ability, give high priority to those that will bring you closer to your overall goal.

Mentoring Conversations2. Be practical

Personal and professional development is a process that takes repeated effort over time. I’ve often found that small attempts to take action provide fertile ground for deeper dialogue.
How you can apply this: Look to apply your new theory or concept in a common and straightforward way. Take on actions that put the basic principles of your conversation into play and report back to your mentor or mentee regarding your experience and observations in order to stimulate further discussion.

3. Be a model

Transformative learning occurs when people apply new concepts and turn them into new behaviors. Typically, when someone in a mentoring relationship becomes more behavior-focused during their mentoring conversations, their mentoring partner(s) often begin to exhibit the same type of results-centric behavior.
How you can apply this: As you engage in conversations with your mentee or mentor, consider how the concepts under discussion will affect your current behavior. If you were to adopt a new standard of behavior, what changes would have to take place?

Keeping conversations productive and focused on behavioral change throughout the life of your mentoring relationships will ensure that you and your mentoring partner(s) gain the most you possibly can from your developmental relationship.

Looking for more information on how to make your mentoring conversations more actionable? Watch our “Getting the Most from Mentoring Conversations” webinar.

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