Mentoring conversations

Friday, 3 January 2020

At @tes_engineering mentoring is essential to how we work and grow.

Mentoring can vary a lot; often the key duties are:
  • 👂  Be a person to speak to and listen
  • 👐  Offer Tes Engineering support and comfort
  • 🧭  Help people navigate the organisation 
  • 🏋🏻‍♀️  Help people grow capability
  • 🎆  Celebrate success!
There is also massive value from being a mentor. You get to
  • 📤  Share your experience
  • 🏗️  See people grow and see how people grow
  • 👁️‍  Gain insight and empathy 🗨️

Mentor chats

Mentoring revolves around having frequent chats with the person you are mentoring. It might be a free style catch up, or follow a questioning structure. Maybe the right conversation needs structure to help with growth. Without a chat there will be no mentoring - it all starts there.

Conversations are dynamic. Mentors aim to choose a good format and adapt to suit the situation and the mentee's needs.  There are a couple of formats I've found really useful to lean on to get a chat going and to build shared knowledge and rapport.

Catch up style

Catch ups are great to keep remote and timezone distributed people in the loop
  • 🎁 Share what’s going on in your world / team
  • 🐢 See where the conversation takes you
  • 👂 Keep listening

Ask 4 questions

The 4 questions structure is great to help someone gain a different perspective and talk things through. It's my go-to choice.
  • ⚕️ 1. How are you?
  • 👍 2. What’s good?
  • 👎 3. What’s not so good?
  • 🧩 4. Is there something we have not talked about that we should?

Focus on growth and skills acquisition

Growth and skills based conversations are best when supported by goals or a direction.
We have engineering skills maps and 6 monthly reviews to help our people think how they would like to grow. Mentors then can assist in finding ways forward.
  • 🗺️ Look at progression and acquisition
  • 🛣️ Ask them about how to progress a step
  • 🚧 Discuss blockers
  • 🎊 Throw in a good challenge
I've found this style also works well for on-boarding and assisting new joiners learn about their role and how things function.

Why do I like these?

A key to helping someone grow at work is helping them feel safe and happy. No one learns much for long without these. Mentoring conversations should start by helping someone into this position.


Beyond that, you, as a mentor need to build rapport and trust, so you can be told and tell critical information that might otherwise go unsaid.

Active Listening is a great way to do this, as well as a way to learn and guide without dominating a conversation.

(credit to

There's a lot more to the power and value of mentoring, and there is a lot of depth in way you can use conversations to support guide and grow. Hopefully these patterns will get you started.

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