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Ryan Latta
Ryan Latta

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How I Begin to Coach and Mentor

At some point there will be a time where someone will come looking for advice or help. Here at they actually made that feature in a few ways. Most recently, they began a trial to pair people up in a mentoring relationship.

I signed up as a mentor myself. I chose to sign up for a few reasons. First, I recently ended a 2-year mentoring relationship with someone who progressed from seeing their first line of code to getting a job as a mid-level developer. I want to know more about what it takes to help people accomplish so much. I also really enjoy these experiences where people work towards meaningful goals and I can be there along with them. Lastly, as I work towards being a fully independent consultant, this provides me valuable insight into how I work with others and what I can offer others and get paid. My first commission was a bottle of bourbon, as great as that was, it doesn't make for a healthy career.

So, someone has asked for help. What are the steps to take to ensure a healthy and productive mentoring relationship?

A conversation between two people

1. Design the relationship

Thats right, the very first step on the list is intentionally designing the relationship between the two parties. Skipping this will put each other in the position of feeling one another out for things they can or cannot say. It will make one another wonder how they interpreted situations. It can stall out powerful conversations because of doubt and uncertainty.

By designing the relationship intentionally, we put the qualities we want to have for our relationship to be everything it needs to. Now we have clear expectations about who we are to one another, and those uncertainties will fade much sooner.

Here's how I do it. I say quite simply that I'd like to spend a few minutes being intentional about deciding what qualities we want in our relationship so that we can get the most out of our time together. I then offer two qualities to get the ball rolling: Honesty and confidentiality. Honesty because there is no good reason for us to mislead one another. Also, honesty sets the foundation for the day that comes when one of us just isn't living up to the other and we need to talk about it. Confidentiality I offer in that I won't discuss what we talk about with anyone unless they set the terms. This offer of safety opens up the areas that they will be able to explore more freely. If they are worried that what they discuss winds up on some blog (Ahem), they will very likely censor themselves a bit more. From here, I invite them to talk through what these qualities mean to them and put their own in, change them, or remove them as they like.

After confirming these qualities are enough for us to start our relationship, we move to step 2.

2. Goals

Goals are like icebergs. The goal we state is often part of a much bigger and fulfilling vision. So I work with them to explore the stated goal to reveal the iceberg. What would having X give you? How does that fit into your life? What would be different? These are big questions to help uncover what their idea of life is really about. Doing this opens up the conversation again to see how their specific goal fits into their life and how we can add that piece or others into that messy puzzle of life. The point is that these goals are significant to them, but it may not be obvious as to why or how. Also, consider the reality we face all the time where we build a feature that nobody wants. Sometimes people describe a goal as important to them, but it is an assumption about what they really want. Figure that out and we can move past the proxy goal into one that is fulfilling.

3. Terms

Some logistics come at the end. This is where we talk about the cadence of our talks, how long, when, and how we will talk. We'll talk about what each conversation will look like going forward, and make sure we are comfortable moving forward.

From here, the real work can begin of helping someone achieve their goals in a meaningful way. With trust, support, and clarity built in.

Photo by Jeremy Brooks - CC Attribution

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