Free tools for effective mentoring
by Tatiana Styliari & Katerina Britzolaki
Greek Women in STEM May’s social event was dedicated on tools for mentoring. After the fruitful discussions we had, and in an attempt to build on the previous article on planning and productivity, we thought to openly share what helps us to build effective mentoring relationships with our mentees.
How can a mentoring relationship be effective?
Let’s start with how we define effective mentoring. We believe it is a patchwork of interconnected and necessary characteristics to be adopted both by mentors and mentees during a mentoring cycle. These features are (see also diagram below):
- Building up an organised structure of the relationship including setting clear goals
- Keeping coherence in the meetings, both in terms of the frequency and the way of approaching the discussions
- Offering undivided attention and active participation during the meetings
- Being flexible in terms of needs and availability
- Respecting the time and effort required by both sides
- Reflecting at the end of each cycle, on achievements, gaps and points of improvement
For example, fixing our meetings at the same time each week can reduce the stress of scheduling each week, create the necessary stability and confidence, and bring more energy and attention for what really matters – building a strong relationship with our mentees.
Note that the above concerns the practical side of mentoring and not the essence and importance of mentoring, which we have talked about previously in other articles.
How can we make mentoring more targeted, creative and fun using free digital tools?
1. With notes and targeted lists of goals
Tools like Apple Notes, Notion, Google Docs, Microsoft ΟneNote help you keep track of what was discussed at each meeting. These are easily shareable, collaborative tools and offer flexibility. After all, it is important and beneficial to collect the information given to us in each meeting in order to pay attention to the issues that our mentees entrust to us. The above can also serve as a to-do list in case further steps and actions have been agreed.
However, our favourite tool, even here at the Greek Women in STEM team, is Trello, which is easy to use, provides the freedom to prioritise and label our actions and tasks, as well as to set deadlines for outsourcing. We often use the Kanban model in Trello: what to do, what are doing now, and what we have done.
2. With interaction and mindmaps
Tools like Google Jamboard and Miro, serve as ideal collaborative tools for brainstorming and creating vision boards during a meeting. Tools like SimpleMind are used to organise our thoughts and discussions, especially for mentees who want to decide between many options. For example, many mentees seek guidance on what is involved in choosing a doctorate, what to look for in a job, and how to compare the two. A mind map might be a good choice to unpack these.
3. With structure and appropriate level of organisation in the meetings
Calendly and Doodle can be used to create a consistent schedule of meetings during the mentoring cycle, as they help us to easily schedule appointments at commonly available times. For example, many mentors set free time at Calendly so that mentees can make appointments directly.
4. With S.W.O.T. Analysis
The SWOT analysis aims to identify strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (potential risks). It’s a popular method used in business project management. However, this analysis is often very useful for visualisation, awareness of opportunities and points of development but also for setting goals and necessary actions for personal and professional development. You can use one of the afore mentioned collaborative tools to capture your SWOT analysis and edit it interactively.
In conclusion, there are many tools that can make mentoring more efficient and creative, but their use and effectiveness depends on the discretion of each mentor and the needs of each mentee. This does not negate, of course, that there are times when all that is needed is a simple, meaningful discussion. Think of the above as some useful tools to have in your toolset as mentors, as an extension of your abilities or as aces up your sleeve.
We’d love to know which of these tools you use and in what context, how you found them if you used them for the first time or other tools and methods that you find effective in mentoring. Contact us through our channels!
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