Setting Goals and Tasks
One of your main tasks as a mentor is to keep your mentee motivated and interested in continuing to meet with you.
A key technique to increase motivation and engagement is to involve the mentee in setting goals and deciding on the direction and activities you’ll take together. Keep in mind the best practices we discussed before, as these are useful tools for the conversation about goals as well.
Explore needs and expectations
It’s a good idea to take some time to ask about and discuss the expectations of the relationship and program. This is your chance to come to some agreement about what the relationship will be about and what each of you can realistically expect from one another.
Working together to set expectations from the start can also be a good time to instill hope and self-efficacy.
Hope is crucial for maintaining your mentees’ motivation and engagement because if they can’t believe this relationship or the tools that you’re offering will be to their benefit, they have no reason to open up and form a bond with you.
Self-efficacy is the sense that the mentee has agency and can help to determine their own future. Instilling a sense of self-efficacy through collaboration and encouragement is essential. Fostering self-efficacy can be particularly important, as it enhances a mentee’s intrinsic motivation (the mentee’s own values, curiosity, persistence), rather than relying solely on extrinsic motivation (your encouragement and supportive accountability). Greater self-efficacy is associated with longer-lasting behavioral changes.
Next, ask about and discuss the mentee’s strengths. Strengths can include abilities and characteristics, interests and hobbies, positive relationships with family members and others, and dreams and aspirations. Knowing all this will help you understand what resources your mentee can draw on in your work together.
Agree on goals
Based on understanding and discussing needs, expectations, and strengths, collaboratively agree on goals for the next few months and how those goals might align with what is important to your mentee. Make sure goals are specific and realistic, and that the mentee is on board and can articulate the goals in their own words. Have a discussion about how achieving these goals might connect to other things that are important to them — for example, if doing well in school is important to your mentee, talk about how building academic and self-care skills might help to achieve that.
Break down to tasks
Once you have agreed on long-term goals, you can start breaking them down and creating a specific plan for what you will do and accomplish with your mentee over your next few sessions together.
Make sure tasks are reasonable and realistic, and your mentee is on board and understands the rationale behind what they’re asked to do.
Make the goals you set together SMART:
- Specific: what is the goal, and why are you setting it?
- Measurable: how will you know when the goal is accomplished?
- Achievable: how realistic is the goal?
- Relevant: is this goal worthwhile?
- Time–bound: When will you accomplish this goal, and what will you do each day to achieve it?
This will help your mentee to build confidence and mastery.
For example, “feeling better” isn’t a SMART goal because it isn’t specific and can’t be measured easily. Instead, think about what “feeling better” may mean in terms of behaviors. A SMART goal may be, “practice deep breathing exercises for 5 minutes each day.” Don’t forget to explore what’s realistic with your mentee!
Don’t forget to follow up on your own and your mentee’s tasks, and offer them encouragement and support. It is important to hold everyone accountable for their part, while promoting positive expectations and healthy attitudes around effort and success. Whether mentees succeed easily or stumble and have to work for it, make sure you focus on their strengths and engagement in the relationship and provide them with nurture and support to be able to overcome their challenges.