Tag Archive | mentoring

The Mentor’s Toolbox: Mentoring Strategy

One of the keys to a successful mentoring program is having a clear strategy that covers every aspect of the whole mentoring process. The strategy is basically a plan that shows how the mentoring will be done right from initiating the program to the end of it. It defines the overall approach to be used, length of the program, areas of focus and how problems and/or conflicts will be handled, if they arise.

You can map out the strategy by first breaking the mentoring process into stages or phases with goals for each stage and methods to be used at each stage. For instance a two-year work-place mentoring program in a technical environment can be broken into four 6-month periods during which specific skill areas are explored thoroughly. The first two periods may involve face to face interaction where mentor and mentee do tasks together or spend a lot of time together in discussion. The third period may involve field/site visits for the mentee to observe practically how things are done, and the last period may involve assigning new tasks for the mentee to complete independently and give weekly reports.

Strategies may also vary from simple to complex depending on the nature of the mentoring process. For example the strategy for mentoring a teenage girl on general life skills may be as simple as meeting once a week to discuss specific areas of concern and answer her questions. The weekly discussion points can be pre-determined or can be raised spontaneously as you go. On the other hand, the strategy for mentoring college undergraduates may include things like experimental projects, library research, counseling sessions and so on, which are more detailed and written down.

A good mentoring strategy should have the following elements:

  1. Clear goals to be achieved by the time the program ends. It could be a single goal or more than one, depending on the needs of the mentee(s). Having clear goals will help both mentor and mentee to focus and not deviate into other matters that may not be of any use to the mentoring process. Goals also provide a benchmark against which to evaluate the success or otherwise of the mentoring process.
  2. Methods to be used and when, e.g. discussion groups, site visits, research, etc.
  3. Time scales. Although some mentoring relationships can go on for life, most formal mentoring is done within a specified period of time during which certain goals must be met. Putting time scales also allows for reviews or evaluations to be done at the end of the period so that a decision can be made whether to ‘release’ or extend.
  4. Clear roles/responsibilities for both mentor and mentee. This enables mutual respect, which is important in any kind of relationship. Each party knows what is expected of them and this reduces the chances of misunderstandings.

Mentoring Younger Women

I’ve thought of this many times before – how I’d love to teach younger women some of the things I have learnt while growing up. All of the mistakes I’ve made so far have been very painful; some I’d rather not acknowledge to anyone apart from God. However, I have learnt that my pain, when looked at through the eyes of wisdom, can easily be the stepping stone to someone else’s gain. In the ways in which I see my pain as gain, I see opportunities to edify another woman who needs to know that she doesn’t have to make all the mistakes I made. In fact, if I could really have my way, she wouldn’t make any mistakes at all. She would be perfect.

However, life does not always work that way. We do make mistakes often – some grievous, others less disastrous, but with consequences nonetheless. The hope we have is that we can influence a new generation by preparing them for later life. This will involve opening up our lives to let another woman look inside and learn what they need to learn.

Mentoring younger women needs to be a part of our Kenyan culture once again. My mother’s generation used to do it in their own way, especially when it came to preparation for marriage life. No wonder their marriages seemed to have less volatility. There was a lot of mutual understanding and cooperation between spouses such that even if they had major issues (which I’m sure they did) they dealt with them in a way that didn’t necessarily spell divorce. However, it’s not just marriage life that needs advance preparation. It’s everything else that encompasses a woman’s life from tips on career to choosing friends, dressing, self-expression, leadership, and a host of other things. Come to think of it, a lot of things that I consider to be my repertoire of life skills came from time I spent with other women e.g. older sisters, teachers, friends in college, and of course, my mother. That is not to say that this is the only channel of learning or wisdom for a girl but it is a vital one that will not only prepare her for adult life but will also communicate subtly that she is cared for.

I remember episodes of my childhood when I would spend time with my older sister (I have seven). I’d listen to her opinions of things in life and watch how she handled relationships with people, or how she made decisions about her education and career. She was always serious and practical, but also very compassionate and loved to help needy people. I learnt the value of helping others because she would always come to my rescue whenever I was in trouble, even if I did something very silly. She would often encourage me in my choice of career even when it seemed things wouldn’t work for me. As a result, I learnt to be strong and stable throughout life. I knew that someone always had my back.

If each of us could choose to ‘have someone’s back’ today, there would be a better experience of life, I’m sure of it! Could you do that?

Women’s Groups can be vehicles for mentoring

Women in Kenya are known to be adept at forming groups, organizations, chamas, clubs and all manner of gatherings for one cause or another. In fact, we are so good at it, we have managed to attract the attention of major financial institutions, donors and the government to either finance, support or provide input into our activities. Look at how banks like Equity, Co-operative and K-Rep have introduced and marketed products that specifically target women. These institutions seem to have noticed something significant about what women do when they come together and that we can no longer be ignored. It is said that whatever you do for a woman, whether she is a mother, sister, aunt, grandmother, or daughter, you have done for the whole family. Due to her nurturing and relationship attributes, she is more likely to draw everyone else into the loop of whatever benefit she is enjoying so that they are also blessed.

The reason why I’m saying all this is to remind us of our potential and opportunities as women, and to tie it in with mentoring. Take, for instance, the chamas we are so well-known for. How can we use these forums for mentoring? Is there a way we can devote some of our time to speak to girls in school and college concerning what we have learnt even within the chama? For instance, you could dedicate one of the monthly meetings to visit a school or children’s home and organize a talk, film, games, or other appropriate activity. You could choose to invite an expert in a certain field to guide the talk, e.g. a banker, an entrepreneur, a pastor, a career coach, etc. If it’s not a school or home, you could organize girls in a certain community or estate to gather at the nearest community center or hall and have your activities there. It may require some bit of financing but if you have a welfare kitty within the chama, you could dedicate a certain percentage towards mentoring activities and even have members contribute to it.

You could also invite your daughters and nieces for your meetings every once in a while. This is a great way for them to learn how to manage finances, understand some aspects of group leadership, learn new values and generally enjoy a special outing with mum or auntie.

Another good example is the self-help groups that are common in rural areas. Apart from the main goal of being a vehicle for raising the income of members and the community, it can also be a place where future business women are raised by transferring knowledge and skills to girls. This can be done during school holidays and can be a good strategy for keeping the girls away from idleness that leads to things like promiscuous behavior that causes early pregnancies.

For a long time we have pushed for women in this country to take leadership positions and yes, a lot of ground has been covered. We thank God for the women in parliament as well as the ones heading their own businesses and other organizations. However, I keep asking myself these questions: What about the next generation of women leaders? Have they been trained for leadership? Who is mentoring them to become great women who can be emulated in society?

The groups that we have formed as women are excellent existing structures that we can use to mentor the younger generation. Rather than re-inventing the wheel, let us use the resources that are already at our disposal to do something great. Let us move away from providing just for the present, to providing for the future, which is what makes us stand out as prudent.

Mentoring is not very far from us. It is right at the doorstep of our monthly gatherings. We just need to open our hearts to the idea, start where we are with what we have, and I’m sure we’ll be amazed at how much we can accomplish together.

What is your experience on being mentored?

People go through different experiences in the mentoring process; care to share yours?

It may have been at school, college, home, work or church. Sometimes what we share openly and honestly can help somebody else either understand or stop struggling with their own issues. When another person realizes that someone else is facing what they are going through, it helps them become stronger.

This is not to indicate that I am looking for negative experiences only; on the contrary the more positive experiences shared, the more encouragement is passed on.

Your sharing can take the form of a comment or if you feel you can write a whole article on it just send it to me (yourwritingworld@gmail.com) with the subject MY MENTORING EXPERIENCE and I will be glad to publish it here. You may or may not include a name or pseudo-name.



In my research, I have discovered that there are different types of mentoring relationships, determined by the kind of arrangement between the two parties – the mentor and the mentored.

First of all, there is Individual vs Group mentoring. Individual mentoring refers to a one-on-one relationship where focus is on one person at a time.

Group mentoring, on the other hand, refers to situations where more than one person is being mentored at a time. This happens a lot in the education and social spheres where a special mentoring program is created to achieve certain objectives in the lives of a group of people. The program may be run by an institution such as the government, a community organization, an NGO, or a school.

There is also Formal vs Informal mentoring. Formal mentoring occurs when there is a deliberate intent to learn, grow or develop wisdom through conversation (from http://www.mentoring-works.com). It is usually more structured and organized, with each party being informed of their boundaries and expectations from the other party. In most cases the mentee is matched with a mentor according to needs, goals, expertise, experience and other factors determined in the mentoring program. Most youth mentoring programs are formal ones. Some people call it Planned mentoring.

Informal mentoring occurs without deliberate intent, as when you happen to listen to a radio program, motivational speaker, friend, or colleague at work and apply their advice or teaching. It usually happens just by chance, even without the mentor being aware. Some people call this Natural mentoring.

Mentoring can also be viewed in terms of context. There is career mentoring, commonly referred to as career coaching, which can occur at the workplace or in the context of work and career.

Mentoring for personal development is usually geared towards becoming a better person as a whole, in terms of character, attitude, and lifestyle. Life-skills training programs fall into this category.

I hope this gives you a better understanding of mentoring.

Next, we will look at the role of the mentor and the mentee.

Essential Qualities of a Good Mentor

If you want one year of prosperity, grow grain,
If you want ten years of prosperity, grow trees,
If you want one hundred years of prosperity, grow people.
(Chinese proverb)

Mentors do not come easy, especially in this century where people are more glued to electronic devices and software applications than to people and relationships. Time for people seems to be such a rare gem nowadays, even within established relationships like families. Yet, we all need to grow in different faucets of life – relationships, career, character, etc.

However, there are some areas of life for which we surely need someone more experienced or knowledgeable to guide us safely to a desired destination. For that reason, mentorship will always be a subject worthy of our attention.

Six qualities I have found to be very valuable for mentoring are:

  • Honesty
  • Reliability
  • Availability
  • Humility
  • Ability (specific to the area of training)
  • Commitment

This list is by no means exhaustive; it only points out the most important qualities that should apply to any kind of mentor in any field. Depending on what kind of mentoring you require, you may need to add a few more qualities so as to receive maximum benefit out of the relationship.

One way to determine well what you need from your mentor is to clearly define your expectations right from the start. Let him/her know what you want out of the relationship, and when. For instance you could say, “At the end of one month, I would like to be able to write quality content for a business website.” From that expectation it is clear that you need a mentor who is competent in website content and is available for that period of one month.

You may not be able to find all of the above qualities in one person but at least you get the idea – don’t settle for just anyone out there to be your mentor. Have certain standards you are looking for.

Let’s Share!

Kindly share with me your thoughts, experiences, or opinions on mentoring. You can do this by filling in the comment box or taking the poll below.

I will be glad to respond as soon as possible, which usually means the next day.