Inside a mentoring session

Inside a mentoring session

17 January 2021
Veerle Seymus
Veerle Seymus
  • Curious about what happens during a mentoring session? What do mentor and mentee say to each other? What is NOT being said?

    Three pairs of mentors and mentees volunteered to do a mini-session in front of a camera. These talks were not scripted or directed. The only preparation was the mentee listing his goals for 2021 as the basis of the discussion.

    Videos are Dutch spoken with English and Dutch subtitles.

    1. Rudi & Bram
    2. Saskia & Tom
    3. Valerie & Glenn
  • Rudi & Bram

  • It is the most dreaded time of the year again: performance reviews, aka evaluations. Not only dreaded by employees, but also by managers.

    Most managers are not trained to do this: having difficult conversations, handling emotions, delivering tough messages, picking up on non-verbal cues, reporting in a non-judgemental way, firmly standing behind, and arguing for company policy ... It's a tough act.

    Especially first time-leaders should be well guided to exit this minefield in one piece, hand in hand with the employee.

    1. We recommend first to master the basics of non-violent communication by Marshall Rosenberg
    2. And secondly, learn from people who have this under their belt: a mentor who has performed reviews a hundred times can support you and give you hands-on advice on handling these types of conversations effectively and satisfactorily for both parties.

    Evaluations is the main topic of this mentoring session of Ambits mentor Rudi Strobbe with manager Bram Vromans.

    360 reviews

    We applaud Bram for not making it the manager's evaluation but combining his insights with the employee's self-evaluation and the significant others' feedback. Indeed, please don't make it your evaluation alone.

    "Why do we even bother when rewards are peanuts?"

    Performance reviews are a high effort, time-consuming, and difficult exercise. And many times, managers have to disappoint employees because there is not much reward to be given.

    How stay motivated as a manager to go through this time and time again?

    Performance reviews pitfalls

    • Gauss dictates the scores
    • difficult conversations can easily be avoided

    This is a perfect recipe for lowering the standards, resulting in mediocrity. Keep your ground as a manager: it is your responsibility that people perform at their best. If they don't, deal with the hot potato.

    The end of top-down Compensation & Benefits

    Why not give managers the freedom to choose from a range of possibilities in a total rewards package as an incentive to teams and individuals?

    Bram argues that creating real ownership of employees by variably rewarding and/or offering shares is most powerful. If employees would be part-owners of their employing company, what would that do to ownership (and by extension to how performance reviews are done)?

  • Saskia & Tom

  • Manager Tom Van Asten defines his 2021 goals as follows:

    1. upgrade his EQ
    2. work on his personal development
    3. look at more ways of making his team members better at what they do and can

    Ambits mentor Saskia Kinds' challenging questions and remarks shift Tom's perspective:

    1. can you give concrete examples?
    2. how do you communicate your expectations?
    3. don't take yourself as the norm
    4. consider people you know who seem always to get things done how they want them done. Learn from those people.

    Watch how Saskia sets the scene:

    🧱 Saskia immediately created a psychologically safe environment
    🧱 She explained her way of mentoring and the process
    🧱 She managed expectations about responsibility
    🧱 and she kept asking probing questions.

    What does Tom take away from this speed mentoring session:

    1. Don't ignore my gut feeling
    2. Communicate more in details and factual
    3. I should make my expectations explicit
  • Valerie & Glenn

  • In this video, Glenn explains his goals first, and then, a few hours later, we recorded mentor Valerie responding to Glenn's input.

    To be a better leader, Glenn wants to:

    1. add his own sauce to what comes from the top
    2. be more pro-active, follow-up faster, and delegate like a pro
    3. translate company vision/mission/values to team vision/mission/values

    He expects his mentor to gently push him in the right direction by advising how to reach his goals.

    Valerie focuses this mentoring journey on developing Glenn's talents and freeing up more time for strategy:

    1. improving Glenn's leadership style
    2. helping Glenn set up a system for delegation and follow-up ánd for reporting to the N+1
    3. align company goals with department/team goals

Struggles of a manager

Managers are

  • not or inadequately trained in this role


    • lack self-confidence
    • don’t know how to go from being a colleague to being a boss
    • need to loosen up on the command & control leadership style
    • must let go of the (technical) expert status
    • cannot give or accept constructive feedback
    • feel pressure to perform as manager
    • have difficulty building relationships
    • want to be liked by everyone or want to be the ‘bad boss’
    • play the hero
  • are struggling


    • stay too involved in operations
    • have trouble prioritizing
    • cannot delegate
    • fear conflict situations
    • disconnect from the team
    • deal with flawed strategic thinking
    • do not relate to higher management
    • lack clear communication skills
    • remain not self-aware
    • avoid difficult conversations
    • miss political antennas
    • ...
  • capable of more


    • need mental preparation as successor
    • need to be able to lead big changes ahead
    • need to learn to be emotionally resilient and in control
    • need to learn to make big decisions fast without all the information
    • must become persuasive presenters
    • need to learn how to cultivate their own personal brand
    • need to learn how to lead by example
    • manage by trust, not by fear
    • need to overly develop empathy
    • ...
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