Your First Mentoring Meeting

Mentor's Viewpoint

The quality of the relationship between the mentor and the mentee is what holds the mentoring partnership together. From the beginning, steps need to be taken to foster the understanding of roles and clarification of expectations. You will need to engage the mentee in the very first conversation, setting a positive tone and expectation for active participation for the entire relationship. Connecting with the mentee and thereby being able to connect future learning to the mentee and his or her life experiences will foster the sustainability of the learning. Checking out the assumptions of both partners will help you manage expectations as well as build a foundation for candid communication and trust

Consider these strategies and mentor approaches for navigating through the agenda of that first meeting.

Mentor's Strategies for an Effective Mentoring Conversation
Agenda Items Strategies for Conversation Possible Mentor Approaches
Take time getting to know each other. Obtain a copy of the mentee's bio in advance. If one is not available, create one through conversation. Establish rapport.
Exchange information.
Identify points of connection.
Talk about mentoring Ask: Have you ever been engaged in a mentoring relationship? If so, what did you learn from that experience? Talk about your own mentoring experiences.

Determine the mentee's goals

Ask: What do you want to learn from this experience?
Give the mentee an opportunity to articulate broad goals.

Determine if the mentee is clear about his or her goals and objectives.
Determine the mentee's relationship needs and expectations. Ask: What do you want out of this relationship? Be sure you are clear about what your mentee wants from the mentoring relationship.
Define the deliverables and a time table. Ask: What would success look like for you? What is your timetable for achieving it? Do you have an area of expertise that is relevant to the mentee's learning goals?
Share your assumptions, needs, expectations and limitations with candor and confidentiality. Ask for feedback.
Discuss: Implications for the relationship.
What are you willing and capable of contributing to the relationship?

Discuss options and opportunities for learning.

Source: (Zachary, L. 2002)

Ask: How would you like to go about achieving your learning goals?

Discuss: Learning and communication styles

Ask: What is the most useful kind of assistance I can provide?

Discuss the implications of each other's styles and how that might affect the mentoring relationship.

This chart, Mentor's Strategies for an Effective Mentoring Conversation, is also included in your Mentoring Workbook to serve as a meeting guide.

Click here to read "Tips for Starting Off Right," an article that makes the point that how you relate to your partner may be even more important than the material you cover. Expressing a genuine interest in your partner is the most critical goal when you first meet.

A Consensual Mentoring Partnership Agreement

We discovered in Overview of the Mentoring Process, that successful mentoring relationships start with a clear agreement about goals, procedures, and limitations. The greatest value of a mentoring agreement is that it will go a long way towards building trust and preventing the sadness of disappointment that can arise when either the mentor or mentee has different expectations for the relationship. Making the relationship explicit will clearly define what the relationship is, articulate specific expectations, define how success will be evaluated, and help determine if it is an appropriate relationship for everyone involved.  

After your initial discussion, you are ready to prepare a formal agreement in the form of a Mentoring Partnership Agreement.

To see a "Sample of a Completed Mentoring Partnership Agreement", click here. A copy is also your Mentoring Workbook.


Here are some suggested components as well as corresponding open-ended questions that will facilitate the preparation of your agreement:

  • Well-defined goals (What does each participant want to accomplish?)
  • Boundaries and hot buttons (What are the not-to-exceed limits? What hot buttons exist?)
  • Confidentiality safeguards (What do we need to do to protect the confidentiality of this relationship?)
  • Success criteria and measurement (How will we know if we have succeeded?)
  • Accountability assurances (How do we ensure that we do what we say we are going to do?)
  • Ground rules (What are the norms and guidelines we will follow? Who will be responsible for what?)
  • Mentoring work plan (What are the steps for achieving our goals?)
  • Consensual mentoring agreement (What do we need to include to ensure that this agreement works for us?)

Click here to read "Creating the Foundation for Your Mentoring Relationship," an article that illustrates how a good agreement provides the framework for the scope of the relationship and acts as a contract between the mentee and mentor.

After you have completed your initial conversation with your mentee, and using the guidelines provided in this discussion, you will be ready to prepare a formal, written agreement in the form of a Mentoring Partnership Agreement. Your Mentoring Workbook contains a blank Mentoring Partnership Agreement for you to review and then complete during your first meeting with your mentee. Are there any areas that you would like to add?

Developing the Mentoring Action Plan

Our overview of beginning the mentoring process suggested the development of a Mentoring Action Plan during your second meeting with your mentee. It will take more than your encouragement to make the mentee responsible for the achievement of their goals. To be successful in the mentoring relationship, mentees must have a development plan based on their self-identified needs and backed by resources, including your sage advice. This will require quite a bit of introspection on their part as they develop their own personal vision, synthesize it into a personal vision statement, and use those goals as the foundation for your work together. Our mentee training will provide them with the resources to accomplish those tasks so that they are fully prepared for their meeting with you, their mentor.

Click here to read "Creating Practical Action Plans," an article that demonstrates how you begin with an end result in mind and move backward to the construction of specific steps to achieve that result.

As a mentor, you should be familiar with the plan guidelines, as you will be preparing the Mentoring Action Plan together. The key elements include the following:


Mentoring Action Plan Guidelines

Career goal

What is the goal that the mentee wants to achieve? The goal should be written in the form of an expected outcome rather than the process.


A reasonable date by which you both feel that the goal can be achieved.


The skill, experience or competency that the mentee wishes to gain, written in measurable terms.


Detailed, sequential steps to achieve the objective.

Target dates

For each action step listed, assign a target date for its completion.

Resources needed

Any person, place or thing the mentee feels necessary to accomplish each action step. Indicate any pertinent learning opportunities.

Progress and/or concerns

A record of progress or an indication of barriers or concerns that have led to a revision of the action steps.


The information highlighted in these guidelines should be recorded on your Mentoring Action Plan. A blank template can be found here and in your Mentoring Workbook.

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