In the post  Mentoring Demystified, one of the key characteristics of Mentorship that we looked at is that it requires a design phase in order to determine its purpose.

Today, we look at how to design a mentorship session, holding a mentorship conversation and how to apply a mentorship model.

Happy Reading!

Overview of a full mentorship Session

A typical mentorship session can last as long as the two parties allow it to. However, a two (2) hr session is usually recommended. This structured 2 hr session would most likely have the following components: Introduction, Outcome, Conversations and Ending.

How would a typical 2 hr session look like?

  1. Setting the frames for Mentorship session:  Length of Mentorship session, Overview of how the session will operate, stating your style of Mentorship – what the Mentee can expect and what you expect. (Av. 5 – 10 min)
  1. Review (From the second session onward only): Tasking from previous Session:  Were action tasks completed.  If not, why not? What’s going on and what is needed? If completed, what were the learning’s, discoveries and awareness’s? (Av. 20 min)
  1. Outcome: Establishing purpose, outcome, agenda, Key Goals. What do you want? What shall we focus on during this session? How will you know that we have spent our time well? (Av. 40 min)
  1. Tasking: Tasks for an Action plan in preparation for the next session.  What co-created tasks have emerged during the session? Have we Co-created a Set of actions steps and an action plan? (Av. 40 min)
  2. Closure: Review, Achievement of the Goals for this session. What are you taking away from this session: What has been the best part of this session?  Wrap up any strong emotion that need to be addressed (Av. 5 -10 min)


Mentorship Conversations

This is usually, a seemingly difficult task especially for mentors and mentees meeting for the first time. I have come across several people who ask me: How do I start the conversation and manage to hold it to the end without panicking? How do I know which direction to steer the conversation for the best outcome? How do I structure an appropriate mentorship conversation How do I indentify the needs of my mentee? How do I……?????????

Well, to achieve all of the above, you need to understand that there are different kinds of Mentorship conversations.  I will list seven (7) of those commonly used

  1. Clarity – Exploration, Discovery
  2. Change – Developmental, Performance, Transformational
  3. Confrontational – Expose blind-spots and incongruencies
  4. Decision – Commitment
  5. Experiential – Resource, Role Planning, Patterns, Creating
  6. Mediation – For conflict resolution
  7. Planning – Strategy ,Action

Depending on the nature of the session and current state of the mentee, the mentor is advised to apply the most appropriate style in order to achieve the common goal

What is a Mentorship Model?

  • Is a set of guidelines that provide ongoing formative support
  • Includes a logistical plan& specific strategies for designing and understanding
  • Provides for knowledge-building and instructional planning

There are several types of mentorship models used by different people and different institutions. I will however attempt to highlight a more generic type that is applicable in most circumstances, one that I have used and continue to apply through this mentorship journey.

The G.R.O.W. Model

Goals – Mentor and Mentee discuss and agree on the outcome to be achieved

Reality – Mentor uses questions to help the mentee describe their current reality.  This helps establish the starting point for the Mentorship.

Options – Mentor and Mentee explore all possible options for moving from the current reality to the agreed outcomes.

Will – Mentor encourages Mentee to commit to action by asking what action they will take to achieve the goals and how they will deal with any obstacles

Knowing about the GROW Model is fantastic! I agree! But then how can we apply the Model in structuring a Mentorship session?

  • Aim – Set long term Aim and note it down. This will set the base for your progress
  • Objective – Agree on specific objectives for the session
  • Topic – Agree on topic for discussion


  • Assumptions – Avoid or check assumptions. Discard any irrelevant history
  • Examples – Offer specific examples of feedback
  • Assessment – Invite room for self Assessment. This can be an emotional endeavour


  • Range – Cover the full range of options
  • Suggestion – Invite suggestions from the Mentee. Offer suggestions carefully
  • Choices – Ensure choices are pointed out and made


  • WILL
  • Action – Commit to Action
  • Obstacles – Identify possible obstacles and how to overcome them. Agree to support
  • Milestones – Make steps specific and define timelines.


Now, with all the theory and guidelines that we have explored today, let’s get to the best part. PRACTICE!

You’re helping a junior colleague, Atieno, achieve her goals using the GROW Model. Atieno says that she would like a promotion to Team Leader within the next two years. This is a SMART Goal – it’s specific, measurable, attainable (as she already has one year of experience, and there are several Team leader positions in her department), relevant (both to Atieno’s overall career aspirations and the department’s mission), and time-bound.

You and Atieno now look at her current Reality. She’s in an entry-level position, but she already has some of the skills needed to be a Team leader. You brainstorm the additional skills that she’ll need in order to be successful in a Team leader role: She needs more experience of managing other people, and experience dealing with culturally diverse Teams. She also needs to continue performing well in her role, so that she’ll be considered for a promotion when one is available.

You then both review her Options. To get the experience she needs she could lead a small team on a small project. She could also spend time in the International recruitment team.

Finally, you establish the Will. As her mentor, you encourage her to let her lead a small team on a minor project. If she performs well, she can take on additional projects with more responsibility in the future. Atieno must also approach the international recruitment team, arrange to spend time in that department, and continue performing well in her current role. You agree to review her progress in three months time.


  • A great way to practice using the model is to address your own challenges and issues
  • The two most important skills for a Mentor are the ability to ask good questions and the ability to listen effectively.
  • You can use the model to help team members improve performance, and to help them plan for and reach their longer-term career objectives


Your comments and questions are highly encouraged.

Serrainne Nyamori

2015, UN-HABITAT Urban Youth Fund Mentor

2011, MILEAD (Moremi Initiative for Leadership in Africa) Fellow


The writer is the Founder and Lead consultant for Sustainability Africa, a Management Consulting and CSR Strategy firm based in Nairobi, Kenya. For more of our services please visit us at or Email


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