Whether you’re a mentor guiding someone through their career journey or a mentee seeking guidance, creating a mentoring meeting agenda and a set of mentoring topics can be a game-changer. It presents both parties with an idea of what to discuss and establish parameters around what you would like or not like to discuss.
In this article, we’ll explore why having a structured agenda can build productive mentoring relationships, and delve into the key mentorship topics to discuss whether you’re a mentor or a mentee.
Why Create a Mentoring Meeting Agenda
In order to put the right foot forward in your mentoring relationship, it’s best to plan out what you’d like to tackle in order to make sure you and your partner’s needs are being met. Below see how setting up an agenda can help you accomplish more in your mentoring partnership.
Efficiency and Focus
We’ve all been in those meetings where we show up a bit unprepared and end up talking about whatever comes to mind first, rather than the things that need to be discussed most. Mentoring meetings are precious opportunities for learning and development. An agenda ensures that time is used efficiently and that the discussion remains focused on critical topics.
An agenda helps both mentors and mentees establish clear goals for each meeting. This ensures that the mentorship relationship is purposeful and that progress is measurable. It can also help you to see where you’ve made progress in your goals and where you might be getting stuck in the process.
When both parties have a shared agenda, they can hold each other accountable for following through on action items discussed during the mentoring sessions. Accountability is a huge benefit of mentoring. Having someone else to hold you accountable can increase the likelihood of reaching your desired goals. It also strengthens the relationship between you and your mentor or mentee.
An agenda encourages equal participation, allowing mentees to have a voice in shaping the conversation and contributing to their own growth. Our mentoring experts at Chronus often recommend to our customers that mentees drive a mentoring relationship or conversation, but know that both parties must be engaging – asking the right questions and actively participating in meaningful conversations.
What are mentoring topics?
Effective mentoring encompasses a wide range of topics that can help mentees develop personally and professionally. Here are some good mentoring topics to consider:
- Career pathing
- Goal setting
- Network building
- Creating team member connections
- Work/life balance
- Building workplace culture
Topics to Discuss with Mentor
For a mentor, it’s important to enable and guide your mentee throughout the relationship. Some best practices include the three A’s of mentoring. Mentors should be available, analytic and active listeners in order to help their mentees grow. Part of this is asking the right questions and discussing the right topics.
Mentors can help mentees improve skill development related to their field. These topics might include technical skills, communication skills, problem-solving abilities, or industry-specific knowledge.
- Assessing skill strengths/weaknesses
- Building skills for the next career role
- People to network with for skill building
Questions to Ask
- What are 2-3 areas I could make improvements in?
- What skill should I be looking to grow most in the next three months? Six months?
- How do I improve leadership presence?
- Who should I reach out to in order to build skills faster?
Career development is a core element of mentorship. Discussing topics such as career goals, advancement opportunities, and strategies for professional growth can be invaluable.
- Assessing skills needed for next career advancement
- Network building around your career growth
- Building a board of mentors/sponsors
Questions to Ask
- Am I heading in the right direction for my next career/role?
- What have you done to make your job easier or more rewarding?
- When did you know it was the right time to ask for a promotion?
- How did you know when to leave a job/start a job?
Navigating an Organization Topics
Understanding how organizations function and how to navigate the corporate landscape is critical for career success. Topics might include office politics, building relationships with colleagues, and finding mentors within the organization.
- Being a steward of DEI in the workplace
- Challenges of existing workplace structure
- Playing a role in improvements
- Building relationships with colleagues
Questions to Ask
- What is your assessment of company culture here?
- What do you see as the culture’s strengths and weaknesses?
- How could the company be more equitable?
Make sure to fit your topics to the needs of your mentoring partner. Set the boundaries of the relationship and topics to be discussed together so that both are playing a role in determining the focus of the connection.
Topics to Discuss with Mentee
Making sure your mentee feels empowered to discuss the things that mean the most to them is important. That’s why it can be good to give them a nudge in the right directions with the following topics.
Mentees often face challenging situations in their careers. These can range from workplace conflicts to ethical dilemmas. Mentors can provide guidance and share their experiences to help mentees navigate such situations effectively.
- Handling trouble or disagreements with a colleague or teammate
- Spending your time productively
- Asking for a promotion or raise
Questions to Ask
- Are there any occasions when you feel you make up your mind too quickly? Too slowly?
- How is the culture on your current team? What would you change or amplify about it?
- How do you best collaborate with your teammates? A direct report? Your boss?
Feedback is a crucial aspect of personal and professional growth. Mentees should feel comfortable discussing their performance, strengths, weaknesses, and areas for improvement with their mentors. Feedback is not always given equitably in the workplace either. A Textio report found the following when it comes to who gets feedback:
“The best feedback is specific, relevant, and actionable; good feedback comes with clear examples and clear suggestions for improvement. But women receive almost twice as much unactionable feedback as men, and Black people receive more than twice as much unactionable feedback as their white and Asian coworkers.”
This is why feedback (when to solicit it and when to give it) is such an important mentoring discussion topic for mentors and mentees. Here are some ways to broach the subject with your mentoring partner.
- How often to provide feedback
- Different ways to ask for and receive feedback at work
- Who else to receive feedback from
Questions to Ask
- How often do you give feedback to your peers?
- How often do you give feedback to your boss?
- How comfortable do you feel giving feedback?
- Are there any changes you would like to see in me?
Developing leadership skills is essential for career progression. Mentors can discuss leadership qualities, strategies for leading teams, and ways to build leadership presence.
- Characteristics of great leaders
- Managing up
- Developing leadership skills
- Opportunities for leadership presence in the organization
Questions to Ask
- Have you led a project? Tell me about that experience.
- What is your leadership style?
- Tell me about the best boss you ever had. What made him/her so great to work for?
Long-Term and Short-Term Goal Topics
Setting and achieving goals is a fundamental aspect of personal and professional development. Mentoring meetings are an excellent platform for discussing and refining both short-term and long-term goals.
- Breaking goals down into milestones and tasks
- Measuring success
- Work/life balance
Questions to Ask
- What goals are you looking to hit in the next three months? Six months? One year?
- Where do you see yourself in three years? Five years?
- What is your dream job?
Make sure to check in with your mentoring partner on the determined mentoring topics every quarter to make sure the priorities are still what the two of you decided they would be. If something changes, adjust your topics accordingly.
How to Discuss Sensitive DEI Topics in a Mentor Meeting
Some subjects are just hard to talk about. Whether with colleagues, friends or family, some subjects make us uneasy, which can lead us to avoid them altogether. But mentoring relationships are about the uncomfortable, just as much as the comfortable. Committing to mentorship means allowing yourself to be open to difficult mentor discussion topics, just as often as you dive into easy ones. While we can’t say sensitive topics will ever be easy to broach, we can help you navigate the waters with preparation and intention.
If you’re not sure about whether you should discuss a topic with your mentor or mentee, ask permission to ask. Just because someone is Black doesn’t mean they’ll want to discuss issues of race (e.g. police violence against the Black community). Just because someone is a woman doesn’t mean they’ll want to discuss issues of gender (e.g. #MeToo movement). Be considerate when opening the door for conversations that may be triggering or too difficult to discuss in the context of your relationship by offering the person the chance to opt out if they’d prefer. Authors David Smith and Brad Johnson offer the following tactics to broach the subject of concern:
- Would it be okay with you if I asked how you’re doing just on a personal level?
- I’ve been talking to other people who are experiencing (insert emotion) about (insert topic), and I don’t know if that’s something that you’re wrestling with, too?
From here you can gauge the person’s reaction and whether or not they’d like to discuss the topic further. However they’re feeling, respect this and proceed accordingly. Allow your mentor or mentee to share how they’re feeling or how they’re not, whether it be personal or professional.
You can help create room for these mentorship discussions and demonstrate a needed evolution in professional environments—the dropping of an expectation that you leave your emotions at the door. Shenequa Golding stated this so well, saying, “I don’t know who decided that being professional was loosely defined as being divorced of total humanity, but whoever did they’ve aided, unintentionally maybe, in a unique form of suffocation.”
Educate Yourself Before the Mentoring Discussion
Just like any other mentoring meetup, come prepared having done your homework and research. Don’t rely on your mentor or mentee, especially if they are a person of color, to educate you. There is plenty of content and research on matters of racial inequality, gender adversity, religious freedom and more in the world.
DEI Mentorship Topics for Discussion
Take the time to dig into the sensitive issues you think your mentor or mentee might be dealing with, and make sure you’re aware of the current happenings, as well as historic ones. There are many levels of diversity in our world.
- Sexual orientation
As a mentor or mentee, be open to learning about experiences and walks of life outside of your own. It will enable you to be a more empathetic and helpful mentoring partner.
Listen to Your Mentoring Partner
Being a continuous learner with a growth mindset will allow your perspective and worldview to continue to develop as you hear other people’s opinions and experiences. As a mentor or mentee, it is important to ask questions and listen to the responses of your mentoring partner.
Don’t rush to add your experience or commentary to the conversation. Allow them to share their interactions and reactions with you without interruption. Refrain from adopting a ‘devil’s advocate’ persona in these conversations.
Make space for your mentor or mentee to simply share their feelings and perspectives without making them explain every detail of reaction.
Ask questions and be humble when interacting in these discussions. Listen from a place of curiosity. Your mentor or mentee is sharing deeply personal thoughts and experiences with you. Internalize these things and proceed from a place of equal vulnerability.
Be a Safe Space for Your Mentoring Partner
Nothing about these subjects is easy or simple. Often, these sensitive topics to discuss with a mentor or mentee come with their own level of difficulty, internal scars or sadness. Let your mentor or mentee know that you are a confidant, and the things said within your relationship of trust are confidential and sacred. Allow the person to share their authentic feelings, even if they may be uncomfortable for you to hear or may challenge your own beliefs.
Be an ally to them, not just in mentorship, but in the workplace and the world beyond. Continue the conversation beyond one-time check in, if preferred. And allow them to speak or be silent on the topics when they choose. Your allyship and willingness to listen can be a great comfort to your mentor or mentee in a time where they feel unsure of what to do, what to say or how to proceed.
Using Chronus to Guide Productive Mentoring Relationships
When it comes to managing a mentoring program, you don’t have to worry about making sure your mentors and mentees remember all these mentoring topics they might use. With the Chronus platform, you can embed these topics into the mentoring connection plan to provide just-in-time guidance for mentoring conversations. Learn more about how Chronus mentoring software guides productive mentoring relationships.
Mentoring is an opportunity for genuine connection between people. While it is often thought to be in connection with skill development and career growth, make room for issues of personal concern and vulnerability. Allowing these mentoring topics to share the floor, alongside professional goals, will strengthen the connection between mentor and mentee, and bring a greater understanding between colleagues, peers and those who walk miles in different shoes, experiences and perspectives.
By discussing skill-related, feedback, and career-related topics with mentors and situational, leadership, goal-related, and organizational topics with mentees, the mentorship experience becomes more holistic and valuable. With a well-structured agenda in place, both mentors and mentees can embark on a journey of growth and development that leads to success in their chosen fields.