Mentee setting goals

Skills for Effective Mentoring: Goal setting self and others

February 2, 2024

Posted by BOLDLY

Goal setting is the foundation of every successful mentoring relationship. While your mentee likely has a general vision for where they want to go, they may not know the actionable steps they should take to get there. They’ll be looking to you to help them clarify and accomplish their goals.

To help you get started with your mentee, we’ve prepared a 6-step goal setting process to guide you through your initial conversations.

  • Help your mentee clarify what they want to accomplish

Start by asking your mentee, “What is the one bottleneck that’s stopping you from moving forward?” This will help align any goals you set with the core issues they’re facing, rather than with less important issues or specific solutions that they may have jumped to prematurely.

They may come to the table with a simple answer, like “I’m not learning on the job,” but that just speaks to the broad issue, not the root cause. Help your mentee unpack the problem to arrive at a more specific answer, like “I’m not feeling the motivation to actively learn on the job.” A focused answer like this clearly articulates your mentee’s objectives and makes it easy to identify the appropriate goals—in this case, finding out what drives their motivation and working towards a solution. 

  • Determine the feasibility of your mentee’s goal

Working toward a goal that can’t be accomplished will likely lead to frustration and disengagement, so it’s important to determine whether or not your mentee’s goal is feasible given their circumstances. Start by asking your mentee the following questions:

Do you have the time and resources available to meet this goal?

Are you fully dedicated to achieving this goal?

Are you aware of the sacrifices this goal will require, and are you willing to make them?

If you feel like their goal is not realistic, be honest and encourage them to direct their time and energy toward goals they are more likely to reach or smaller milestones along the path to achieving the long-term goal.

  • Establish benchmarks for success

Once you’ve determined that your mentee’s goal is realistic, work with them to define what success would look like. Help them identify specific indicators of success—e.g., metrics like increased positivity in attitude, positive work feedback from superior.

Next, take a benchmark of what those metrics have looked like up to now and assist your mentee in setting a numerical target for each indicator that will tell them exactly how they’re doing at a glance—e.g., increasing number of tasks done in a day from 3-5 to about 6-10. 

  • Set a realistic timeline

Now that your mentee has defined goals, key metrics, and targets, it’s time to set a schedule for achieving them. Your mentee may already have a deadline in mind, but it’s important to steer them toward an achievable timeframe.

Similar to when you were determining the goal’s overall feasibility, keep your mentee’s circumstances in mind by asking the following questions:

When are you prepared to start this project?

How much time can you commit to your goal each day, week, month?

Based on these answers, assign a date to the numerical targets you’ve established. Set a timeline that’s long enough for the goal to be realistic, but short enough for the mentee to stay motivated.

  • Define strategies and map out the path to success

Now that you have a target and a deadline in place, it’s time to help your mentee define the actionable steps that will help them reach their goal.

Start by determining your overall strategy. Once you and your mentee have agreed on the overall strategy, map out individual tasks in a calendar. Set specific “mini-goals” by day, week, or month. These mini-goals help keep momentum going to ensure that your mentee can stay on track with their timeline.

  • Encourage your mentee to track their progress frequently

Once your mentee has put their plan in place, make sure they are tracking their progress using the benchmarks you established together. When your mentee can see how close or far way they are from hitting a target, it can be extremely motivating and encouraging. That will help keep them engaged and on the path toward achieving their goals.

Goal setting is a critical part of initiating a successful mentoring relationship. By following these practices, you can ensure a productive, rewarding experience for both you and your mentee. Ultimately, it’s about finding a system that works best for your unique mentoring relationship, so feel free to use our suggestions as a starting point for developing a goal-setting process that makes the most sense for you.

Looking for more resources?

Mentoring programs for organisations

How does mentoring differ from coaching?