This post was updated on the 27th of October with insights from our last sharing session.
WANBAM started in 2019 with a group of volunteer mentors. As we build and grow the program, we collaborate to create and test mentorship resources. While we created this with our mentors in mind, we hope these insights can assist other programs.We have produced two mentor resources:
- Guidance Sheet: Optional prompt questions for mentoring sessions, structured as six-monthly 30-90 minute sessions.
- We asked our WANBAM community what resources they would recommend. Here’s what they said
WANBAM holds sharing sessions with our mentors at the beginning of every mentorship round, where we discuss insights and useful resources on mentoring. This resource document builds upon these discussions and will be refined over time. Additionally, mentors made recommendations on specific resources they find helpful. Those have been added to the second resource above.
It is important to note that WANBAM mentees consistently rate their mentorship very highly. This is not intended to recommend a “one-size-fits-all” mentorship style but to provide insights into what our mentors have found helpful. We are incredibly grateful to our mentors for their expertise and guidance.
On setting goals with mentees:
Mentees have varying goals and support needs. For the WANBAM program, the first meeting is ordinarily to get to know one another and explore how to work together productively. The second meeting delves further into goal-setting. While optional, this encourages mentees to consider how we can best assist them and make meetings as productive as possible for both parties. When setting goals, our mentors have found the following helpful:
- Consider having a mentorship goal and sharing it with your peers and/or mentee. For example, if you are working on active listening as a mentor, it may be useful to share this with others and seek feedback on it during the cycle. For some mentors, this adds an extra layer of growth.
- Ask your mentee to reflect on their goals prior to your meeting and then refine them together. This gives mentees time to reflect on and research their ideas independently.
- Consider how you can realistically assist and set expectations with your mentee about how much help you can provide. Setting expectations in advance about the time you have is incredibly helpful in ensuring mentees feel supported while protecting your time.
- Break goals into long and short-term goals: Set goals for the duration of the mentorship while encouraging the mentee to think of how this can inform their longer-term aspirations. For example, if you have a mentee who wants to be promoted to Head of Staff in the longer term, short-term goals may be to identify opportunities for skill development and create a plan.
- Consider working together: A great way to tie mentorship to your own personal development is to include your mentee. For example, if you are both developing your management skills, you could pick a resource to explore and discuss together.
- Encourage mentees to focus on their well-being and sustainability when goal-setting. A resource we have found helpful to spark these discussions is Sustainable Motivation by Helen Toner.
- Provide examples of the types of goals you would be happy to assist with: This can be particularly helpful when a mentee feels stuck or uncertain. For example, “I’d be happy to recommend the following resources. Would it be useful for you to explore them, and we could discuss what really resonated with you during our next meeting?”
- Using Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) can be helpful. You can find more information about OKRs here.
On building a relationship with mentees:
Our mentees report that a core value of mentorship is having someone who listens and is genuinely invested in their progress. Our best-reviewed mentors are those who build a kind and supportive relationship with their mentees. As such, we have found managers and community-builders are frequently some of our most successful mentors. Some recommendations on building trust and understanding are:
- Empower your mentee to lead the session: this also allows you to tailor mentorship based on the needs and preferences of the mentee.
- Encourage feedback on what style of mentorship is most helpful.
- Practice active listening: Try not to jump into solution mode too quickly but listen and reassure.
- When appropriate, share failures and lessons learned: Showing vulnerability and sharing times where things haven’t progressed as smoothly as you would have hoped can be really valuable in normalizing failures and challenges as par for the course.
- Explore deeper values together: A source of values may be Effective Altruism. One of our mentors found that using the 80,000 Hours’ key ideas helpful to prompt these discussions.
- Encourage mentees to share sources of personal joy as an important part of the mentoring relationship and to normalize work-life balance.
- Consider attending an event together: If you are comfortable, this could be something outside of a professional context in an interest area you both share.
On feedback with mentees:
Our mentors have found the following helpful:
- Explore the role of feedback in your mentorship relationship: Mutually understand and agree on if feedback should be given. Some mentees find a conversational partner with whom they discuss ideas and reason-out challenging situations most useful. In other cases, mentees may be seeking more direct feedback on their plans or building their skills.
- Build an environment of trust: The context and pre-existing relationship often determines how feedback will be received.
- Discuss your own and your mentee’s preferences: Feedback styles depend on people’s preferences. Encourage your mentee to consider times when they found feedback helpful: what made the interaction a success? Conversely, what was a time when giving or receiving feedback went poorly, and what made that interaction challenging?
- Time feedback: Ask mentee for permission to give feedback- “I’d love to provide some feedback on that. Would that be useful? If so, when would you like to chat about this?” You may also consider creating times (such as feedback sessions) when it is easy to request feedback.
- Focus on the positives: A number of our mentors commented on the value of including feedback on strengths and positive framings. For example, the value of emphasizing that we are all working on these issues together.
- Consider employing the ASK framework. A number of our mentors commented that ASK has worked well for them- feedback which is actionable, specific, and kind.
- If you are comfortable, share your experiences with feedback: Consider sharing a time when you received feedback and how this helped your personal and professional development.
Some logistical tips:
- Consider using a Guidance Sheet (ours is linked as an example) as a helpful starting point to spark discussion.
- Suggest to mentees that they send questions or topics prior to your meetings: This helps you to explore resources and reflect on guidance in advance. Mentors usually don’t make this required, but emphasize it as an option. A simple Google doc template to fill out in advance can be useful.
- Book meetings in advance: Some of our mentees can be nervous to reach out and worry about “wasting their mentor’s time.” Setting meetings in advance reduces this concern for mentees and stops them from self-selecting out of the program. It also removes logistical pressure.
We are very encouraged by the initial outcomes of WANBAM and are here to help other programs. If you have any other suggestions or would like to discuss what we have found helpful/challenging, please reach out to Kathryn at email@example.com.
Status Update: WANBAM released their blog post “WANBAM: Successes and challenges from our first two years.” The post summarizes their activities, initial results, and their risk mitigation steps. They additionally onboarded their next round of mentees for their fourth round.