A Guide for Both Mentors & Mentees

Discover why some choose to mentor others and some common steps to finding a mentor.

Mentorship is a relationship in which a more experienced or more knowledgeable person helps to guide a less experienced or less knowledgeable person to get "somewhere" faster than if the mentee were working on their own.

I've been mentored by some very kind people and I have mentored and continue to mentor a lot of people.

My motivation is my own...I have my own reasons, as do each mentor out there mentoring others.

Here are some of the reasons that I have seen that mentors have chosen to take on mentees (try and figure out which reasons might apply to you as the mentor or when asking a mentor to take you on as a mentee) (not listed in any particular order):

  1. Friendship. They are doing it out of friendship or they just plain like you;
  2. See Something. They "see" something in you that is worth their time;
  3. Persistence. The mentee wouldn't go away (they were just persistent in asking for the mentor to take them on as a mentee and they're lucky to get the mentor without necessarily being worthy of it);
  4. Certification Requirements. They are doing it to fulfill requirements for a certification that they are going after;
  5. Your Community Involvement. They see that you are giving heavily back to the community in your free time (ie. you are already coaching/mentoring others for free or helping to organize events/meetups/etc.) and this resonates with their value system;
  6. Two-Way Learning. They see that you are doing something unique or different or have a skill that they don't have and see the mentorship as a two-way learning opportunity;
  7. Community Leader. They have chosen to be a leader in the community (e.g. mentors at coaching clinics at the conferences or through the Scrum User Groups);
  8. Off-Load. They work with you at a company and feel that if they mentor you that you can take on responsibilities that they currently handle;
  9. Company Requirement. The company that they work for has assigned the mentee to them or the company requires them to mentor a certain number of mentees;
  10. Mentoring Business. They've created a business in which they charge for mentoring;
  11. Keeping Active. They are in semi-retirement and wish to keep active;
  12. Need Followers. They have developed some framework, method, model, practice, etc. and they need to grow their number of followers;
  13. Business Driver. As a method to drive new business to their coaching or training business (for example, some CSTs will take you on as a mentee and allow you to co-train a CSM course if you organize and market a CSM course and fill up the class with paying students);
  14. Skill Development. To develop their own skills by practicing on others for free in a controlled environment;
  15. Self-Gratification. They believe they have something beneficial to offer to the mentee that would be self-gratifying.
I've asked those that have mentored me why they did so (for free) and the answers were always the same...because they saw that I was doing the work necessary to develop myself, doing good work on the job, and also in helping others in the community. These reasons resonate well with me.

I lead the first mentorship circle (that I know of at any rate) for any Scrum User Group in the USA (at the NYC SUG).

When a candidate (potential) mentee is introduced to me through the SUG or an existing mentee, etc. or contacts me out of the blue on LinkedIn and asks to be a mentee or if I'm asked for help at a conference, etc.,

I've learned to screen out the candidates in the following ways:

  • I ask them: What is it that they truly want to get out of it? What would be the best vehicle to help them get there? What value would they bring to a peer mentorship group
  • I ask myself: Would 1:1 mentorship be more appropriate? Are they worthy of my time (see reasons above)? If brought into a peer mentorship group, would they be so disruptive or lost (due to their level of knowledge) or bored (because of the subject matter the group focuses on), would the peer mentorship group not be warranted?
  • I ask the group: Do they want the new addition? What value/risk do they see?
  • I do 1:1 mentoring first: I might try two 1-hour sessions with the candidate first before inviting them to the mentorship circle.
  • Mentorship Agreement & Interests Survey: For the mentorship circle, all candidates are screened with an online form that asks the candidate to rate how they feel about the mentoring relationship and goals and what topics they are most interested in. The questions around the mentorship relationship are scored by the candidate on a scale of 1 to 5 (e.g. 1 means they don't agree, 5 means they fully agree). If the candidate answers 1-3 on any of the questions, I talked to them before allowing them to join to see if we can come to an agreement on how to proceed and what the relationship is all about.
  • Admit on a trial basis: The mentorship agreement should include a clause stipulating that the mentor can cancel the relationship at any time. If the mentor feels that he/she or the mentorship circle cannot assist the mentee in reaching their goals or if the mentee provides no value to the group but is actually disruptive (e.g. hijacks the sessions, etc.) and refuses to abide by the group's rules, then the mentorship agreement should be terminated, a retrospective should be done between the mentor and mentee, and the parties should go their merry ways independently.

Finding a mentor, the right mentor, or the right mentorship circle is not easy.

Here are some options:

  • Join a Local SUG's Mentorship Program. Contact your local Scrum User Group and ask them if they have a mentorship program.
  • Create a Mentorship Circle (In-Person). If the local SUG doesn't have a mentorship program, you might want to start one...that's what I did at the NYC SUG...I've found that the mentor gets back just as much as he/she puts into mentoring.
  • Join a Virtual Mentorship Circle (Videoconferencing). You could join a mentorship circle that meets by Google Hangouts. I lead/facilitate one for the NYC SUG but there are many others. In my group, this is a combination of peer mentorship by each of the members of the group + mentoring/training by me.
  • Join a Social Channel Group. You could join a free Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, or Slack group that provides peer mentorship. There are various ones centered around the journey to obtain the CSP, CTC, CEC, and CST certifications, and others centered around how to increase your knowledge once you have the certification.
  • Join a Paid Mentorship Group. You could join a paid mentorship group like AgileMentoring. com (run by Ron Jeffries CST & Mike Vizdos CST).
  • Join a Paid Coaching Circle Group. You could join a paid coaching circle like the one run by Olaf Lewitz (he's a CEC)
  • Join a Coaching/Leadership Certification Program. You could join a coaching certification program (e.g. ORSC, CAL2) that provides coaching/mentoring as part of the certification process.
  • Go to Work for the Mentor. You could go work for a CST, CEC, SPCT, SPC, CLPT, CLP, etc. and learn on the job.

Jonathan Emig

March 18th