Effective communication is at the foundation of any excellent relationship, so the same will hold true for the mentor/mentee relationship. Typically, communication occurs when a “sender” communicates a message and the “receiver” decodes, or interprets, the message.

Communicator’s Task

  • Share Thoughts – Share your thoughts about specific actions or behaviors. Be clear and concise.
  • Share Sentiments – Describe the feeling that was provoked by the actions or behaviors to encourage discourse.
  • Share Perspective – Interpret why the actions or behaviors have evoked the feeling and what it means to you personally.
  • Check for Comprehension – Ensure the listener understands the message.

Listener’s Task

  • Acknowledge Gracefully – Seek to understand what the communicator is articulating or experiencing. Listening is not a passive action, you must put forth your full attention.
  • Avoid Discrimination – Considering that listening is an active process, avoid reacting until you have grasped full the concept.
  • Elaborate Further – If needed, encourage the communicator to articulate his points if they were not entirely understood. This will evoke further conversation.
  • Check for Comprehension – Summarize the communicators thoughts to ensure they were understood.

Facilitating Discussion

Throughout your mentor/mentee relationship you will need to facilitate discussions during your weekly/monthly meetings. The best way to facilitate a discussion is to ask an open-ended question. It requires more than a yes or no response. An open-ended question causes listeners to stop and think before they respond, and when they must stop and think about it, it allows for the response to be productive throughout the course of conversation.

As a mentor, when you ask questions, it is just as important to listen to the answer, rather than thinking about what you are going to say next; just like a regular conversation. The more you listen as a mentor, the more you understand where your mentee is at, and you can adapt to guide him most effectively to the end objective. Additionally, listening will allow you to build on the mentee’s ideas, which encourages participation and makes your point more accessible than if you were to simply state your point. Below are examples of keeping the dynamics of facilitating alive based on whether your audience members are more extroverted or introverted:

- Extroverts like to think aloud. They speak as ideas form in their head and uncover truths as they speak. When facilitating with an extrovert, interrupt with a meaningful question after they come close to a good processing point. This can nudge their thinking in the right direction.

- Introverts prefer to keep their thought processes to themselves, and typically only share fully-formed ideas. As a result, it’s vital to validate an introvert’s contributions, even if they are imperfect, before redirecting the conversation. The fact that they shared means that point was important to them and disregarding it can cause them to disengage.

Keep in mind, this is a spectrum, and people normally fall somewhere in the middle. Recognizing the different aspects of each type will make the conversation much more meaningful and constructive.

The Skill of Asking Questions

The Power of Questions – We just discussed the importance of facilitating discussions through open-ended questions. Why do you think there is such an emphasis on questions? What do you think happens when a question is asked?... It creates curiosity! Curiosity motivates a student to learn because the content genuinely perplexes them which in turn will make the participants engage in the discussion.

Characteristics of a Question – Typically Who, What, and How, are good open-ended questions, but they are most effective followed up with a timely Why.

Purposeful Questions – At any given moment in mentoring you will need to tactfully ask your mentee questions, but it will depend on the timeframe of his phase and the conversation being had. Below are recommendations of questions that could be asked in any given mentor/mentee meeting:

Mentor/Mentee Relationship

  • How are you doing?
  • Are our meetings proving to be beneficial?
  • What can I do to improve?
  • What would you like to talk about?

Expectations of a Member

  • How are you doing progressing through your commitments?
  • Which areas do you excel at?
  • Which areas are giving you trouble?
  • How can I assist in helping you accomplish your commitments?

True PIKE Education Progress

  • Tell me what you covered this week (or last week) in new member education?
  • What was discussed during that session?
  • What were your take-a-ways from that session?
  • Was there anything you were having trouble grasping? If so what?
  • What are you learning about yourself through this education?
  • What is the experience teaching you at this point in time?

Goals

  • Have you been making progress with the goals you set?
  • Have you achieved any thus far?
  • Anything standing in your way to achieving any?
  • How can I help you accomplish your goals?
  • What do you believe is the best solution to accomplishing the goal(s)?

Benchmarks

  • What benchmarks have you set so far?
  • What are your desired outcomes for the benchmarks you have set?
  • What exactly do you want to achieve with this benchmark?
  • What would success look like for this benchmark?

Principal Mentor/Mentee Questions (Actions/Behaviors)

  • Is there anything other than your progress with the True PIKE Experience that you would like to talk about?
  • What has occurred since we last spoke?
  • What is your greatest success so far?
  • What has been your biggest frustration?
  • What has given you the most satisfaction about your time in the chapter and your progress with The True PIKE Experience thus far?
  • Describe how you are living out the value of your development in an applied way currently.
  • How have your actions/behaviors mirror the Pi Kappa Alpha values that you’ve learned thus far in your progression phase?
  • How do those values reflect your own personal values?
  • How can I help you? (General sense)

Giving & Receiving Feedback

Feedback is an integral part of the mentor/mentee relationship, as most of your interactions will require feedback to be given. Keep in mind that feedback is a two-way street, someone is giving the feedback, and someone is receiving the feedback. Although one would assume that feedback is mainly going to be given by the mentor, the relationship may require, and it is encouraged, that the mentee also provides feedback to his mentor. Below are general guidelines when it comes to giving and receiving feedback:

Giving Feedback

When giving feedback, follow these guidelines:

  • Constructive: Feedback is always constructive in nature. Our intent is to be supportive of each other.
  • Specific: Feedback should be specific. “You did not make good eye contact,” is not as helpful as, “You were scanning the room, and you looked down at the floor.”
  • Balanced: Always start with something the person did well and then what they need to work on.

Receiving Feedback

When receiving feedback, follow these guidelines:

  • Focus on the content: Focus on the feedback being given, not the person giving it.
  • Listen without interrupting: Listen to understand before you react and try to be understood.
  • Ask for specifics: If needed, ask for specifics if the feedback isn’t clear.
  • Say thank you: Feedback’s intent is to foster growth, so always follow-up with a sincere thank you.

This is part four of 10 in the mentor blog series. Be sure to check out the Mentor/Mentee Relationship Timeline blog to continue your development as a mentor in your chapter.

To learn more about the Pi Kappa Alpha mentor program, be sure to look at the mentor program handbook and its accompanying resources located in the myPIKE Resource Center (myPIKE > Resource Center > Pi Kappa Alpha folder > Chapter Officer Resources folder > VP of Membership Development folder > Mentor Program folder).

Devon T. Teixeira

Director of Membership Development