Resources and techniques for successful peer mentoring

Picture of virtual mentors
By Alex Burden, Professional Development Editor

27 October 2016

Our careers usually follow uncertain or undefined paths, but they are always marked with opportunities for personal growth.

The experiences and advice of others may be a timely interjection in our drive to continually develop at home, in the workplace or even socially.

You may have already signed up for the ICAS mentoring programme, or you’re considering whether it’s right for you: view our resources to find out how to use mentoring for your personal and professional development and the techniques that can be employed.

Resources for mentors and mentees:

How to use others' feedback to learn and grow | Sheila Heen | TEDxAmoskeagMillyardWomen

Harvard Law lecturer and founder of the Triad Consulting Group, Sheila Heen has written and talked extensively on the process of giving and receiving feedback. In this special Ted talk, she explains how to help someone or an organisation to grow through the feedback process.

Modern Mentoring: The Good, The Bad and The Better | Karen Russell | TEDxOverlake

Lawyer Karen Russell is the Firm-Wide Manager of Diversity Initiatives and also works as an Inclusion consultant to help firms develop best practice strategies, and was hugely influenced by her father former NBA legend Bill Russell, the first African-American coach in pro sports; he strongly believed in using a mentoring and teamwork model. Here she talks about what to expect on the pathway to mentoring.

Mentorship will change the world | Kam Phillips | TEDxCoMo

Founder of Dream Outside the Box, Kam Phillips, has created a program for youths to achieve imaginative career or extracurricular pathways, using her experience of growing up as a rural cowgirl and a first generation college student to help others achieve their dreams in interesting ways.

Here she speaks on the power of a mentor and mentee relationship, and how it can create the next generation of agents for change.

Good Practice have highlighted models that mentors can use to gain the most from their mentor-mentee relationship:

Give feedback with the BOOST model

The language that we use when giving feedback can be highly influential in changing learners' behaviour. Choose your words carefully to ensure positive learning outcomes.

We use negative constructions in our language all the time, and although we may not even be aware of it, it can have a major impact on the way that we or others behave.

Negative constructions often cause us to think of the exact opposite and unconsciously programme learners to expect failure. If you were told: "You'll find this very difficult" or "You'll get nowhere by doing it this way", you probably wouldn't have much confidence in your ability to succeed.

If, on the other hand, you focus on positive outcomes and use language that reflects this, you are much more likely to be able to create a mindset for success in yourself and in those you train.

This applies to trainer and trainee – as well as choosing your own words carefully, look out for the language used by trainees and encourage them to think positively.

Use the 'BOOST' model to give positive and constructive feedback.

BOOST Feedback Model

  • Balanced: focus not only on areas for development, but also on strengths.
  • Observed: provide feedback based only upon behaviours that you have observed.
  • Objective: avoid judgements and relate your feedback to the observed behaviours, not personality.
  • Specific: back up your comments with specific examples of the observed behaviour.
  • Timely: give feedback soon after the activity to allow the learner the opportunity to reflect on the learning

Model of personal reflective space

A crucial part of a mentor or coach's skill set is the ability to encourage and facilitate individual reflection. 

Clutterbuck and Megginson's 'Model of Personal Reflective Space' maps out the stages of reflection that an individual must go through in order to achieve an insight into experiences or issues and select appropriate strategies for action.[1]

Reflection is especially important in mentoring and coaching, as these development methods are based on increasing self-awareness through personal analysis.

Understanding the process of reflection

Clutterbuck and Megginson describe reflection as a form of interaction, drawing an analogy to a mirror and the movement of light that gives it its reflective quality. In this way, they explain, reflection is a 'dialogue with oneself'.[2] 

They suggest that this dialogue can be much more powerful when facilitated by a mentor (or coach), who has the skills to guide the process and ask questions to help the client to consider things that they perhaps would not have considered themselves.

Six states of the reflective process

There are six stages of the reflective process, according to Clutterbuck and Megginson. These are:

  • Disaggregation: In the first stage, disaggregation, the individual is still in a normal working state, focusing on getting things done rather than thinking about how or why. External energy is at an average level.
  • Framing: It is only when the individual acknowledges the issue that needs to be addressed that the reflection process can begin. This is the second stage, known as framing. Here, the individual takes the first steps to deal with the issue by acknowledging, defining and giving a structure to it. External energy levels begin to dip.
  • Implication analysis: During the third stage, implication analysis, the individual considers the implications and potential consequences of the issue, such as what will happen if they don't deal with it, what could happen, and what they want to happen. External energy levels continue to decrease.
  • Insight: By the fourth stage, insight, all energy is focused on internal reflection and external energy levels reach their lowest point. The individual has become deeply introspective, perceiving patterns or structures in the issue, viewing it from a new perspective, or becoming conscious of their motivations and behaviour. It is this profound personal insight that is essential for enabling the individual to create lasting and meaningful change.
  • Reframing: The individual then moves on to the fifth stage, reframing. Using this newly gained insight, the individual considers the various possibilities available to them for dealing with the issue. As they do so, their external energy levels gradually begin to rise again.
  • Options: The sixth and final stage, options, involves the individual weighing up each of these possibilities and selecting an appropriate course of action. External energy levels reach a peak when the individual is ready to implement these actions in order to deal with the issue.

Key areas for consideration

This model illustrates the importance of guiding the client through the reflection and application stages of the learning cycle, especially those who are activists by preference. Individuals can only fully learn from an experience by understanding what they have learned from it and how they can apply the learning.

It also highlights the importance of creating a suitable environment for reflection, allowing sufficient time and space for individuals to channel their energy towards internal thought.

By understanding the stages of reflection and the natural changes in energy levels that accompany them, mentors and coaches can guide individuals effectively through the reflection process and help them to gain maximum learning from experiences or issues.

[1] D Clutterbuck and D Megginson, 'A Model of Personal Reflective Space', in Mentoring Executives and Directors (Butterworth-Heinemann, 1999).

[2] See Clutterbuck and Megginson, as above.


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