Powerful Mentoring Tools

Mentoring Tool #2

This next illustration is a powerful tool to capture and convey the essence of the experience of a person under stress.

The illustration, which is based on a spiral, can be used in conjunction with Mentoring Tool #1 or on its own.

Step One:

After listening to the the person’s situation I ask if I can sketch out what I think they are experiencing.

The pictorial appearance of their experience generally generates further discussion and verification that the sketch is an accurate reflection…

Step Two:

I pause for a few moments then ask, ”What would it take for you to breakout of the spiral?” and insert the arrow breaking out of the spiral.

Again it is important to pause and not offer solutions rather allow time for the person to suggest their own ways of breaking the cycle…

The interesting aspect of this illustration is that while the downward spiral may have occurred over time once an action plan has been identified the person is on the way to breaking out. Their spirit is renewed and enthusiasm returns.

On asking the question, “How are you feeling or what are you thinking now?” the person will respond with something along the lines of, “I know my way forward now.”

Here’s to effective mentoring.


Powerful Mentoring Tools


I have found it helpful to build up a tool kit of illustrations in my consulting work with people in leadership and management.

My view is that management responsibility provides is an arena where the character of people is tested, revealed and shaped. Therefore the responsibility of the mentor extends to facilitating character and capacity building. Character and capacity are inter-related in terms of the management and leadership function.

The power of mentoring illustrations is in their simplicity. Their purpose is to capture and convey the essence of the manager’s or leader’s experience at the time. Once the experience is clarified and acknowledged then an action plan can be developed to help the person move forward in character and capacity.

Some of the illustrations I will mention in the coming weeks have been adapted from other sources and where possible I will acknowledge the source.

This first illustration is adapted from Kath Donovan’s book, Growing Through Stress. As the title of the book suggests the illustration is useful when a person is clearly stressed.

The illustration is based on the less than or greater than, depending on which way you read it, symbol used in mathematics. Maybe this is why I like the illustration, I was a mathematics teacher earlier in my career.

Step One:
After listening to the the person’s situation sketch the symbol on a sheet of paper and ask if they know what the symbol represents…

Step Two:
After some brief discussion of “six is less than seven” or “seven is greater than six” sketch in a stick figure and ask which direction are they headed…

On each occasion I have used this illustration the person responds with something similar to, “I’m headed to the left.” On admission of the direction discussion of stress-related symtoms can occur and be acknowledged. “I’m feeling overwhelmed.” “There’s a tightening in my chest.” “I don’t know what to to do.” “I haven’t got any options.” “I’m further to the left than that!”

Step Three:
The next question can be asked and illustrated at a timely point in the discussion, “What is it going to take for you to turn around?”

I generally pause before reinforcing the question with a second, “What are the options?” then at the “open” end of the sign, with discussion, begin to list the options in terms of the actions that are available to the person.

Kath Donovan in her illustration refers to Proverbs 4:18, The path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, shining ever brighter till the full light of day, explaining that ahead is an ever-expanding vision of God full of possibilities.

Here’s to effective mentoring.