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Sue Griffey on Ready or Not: Mentor and Mentee Readiness

I’m Sue Griffey; I lead the Evaluation Center at Social & Scientific Systems, Inc. in Silver Spring MD. I mentor outside of work for professionals in evaluation and public health in both formal programs (Cherie Blair. Foundation (CBF), APHA-SA National Mentoring Program, Aspire, Foundation, Rollins School of Public Health Annual Mentoring Program) and through individual connections.

I have noticed over the past few years, as my mentoring work has increased, that my ability to assess mentoring readiness is critical to the success of the mentoring relationship.

Hot Tip: Mentoring is a volunteer acting. Don’t just assume that the Mentor-Mentee pairing results in both being ready. It may appear as Mr+/Me+ (as in the table below) but the pairing may actually be in a discordant cell.


aea365_griffey2Mentee isn’t ready: The mentee may not realize she isn’t ready for mentoring; you as the mentor may need to help her see that. A mentee may identify needing mentoring when it really isn’t what she needs. As the mentor, develop and apply metrics for readiness as you would in an evaluation.

Hot Tip: I have a 3-email rule. If I have to track down the mentee more than 2 times because he has missed a scheduled session or not confirmed a session time, my third email lays out my perspective that there may be a mismatch in what the mentee is able to do (as shown below).


Hot Tip: Don’t rule out a mentoring program because you don’t think you offer the program’s content or focus. I became a CBF mentor in its initial program even though I didn’t necessarily have the business focus I thought they wanted. My match was a mentee who two years later still benefits from my experience in public health and leadership.

aea365_griffey4Mentor isn’t ready: If you have agreed to mentor, respect the commitment or acknowledge that you can’t.

As the mentee, make sure you are getting what you need from the mentor. And if you aren’t getting what you need, don’t be afraid to let the mentor or the mentoring program manager know that. It may be that the mentor really isn’t ready for the mentoring relationship

Hot Tip: it may help you as a mentee to think overall and about each session as answering 3 questions:

  1. What do you need right now?
  2. What do you want to do and why?
  3. How can your mentor help you?

Hot Tip: Being a mentee is as important as your work or schooling. Be proactive in communications, making sure to check your email daily, letting a mentor know what your schedule is, what time zone you are in, and how and when to reach you.

Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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1 comment

  • Megan · November 2, 2016 at 10:48 pm

    Hello Sue,

    I have been mentoring several of my teacher colleagues over the past 4 years. The experience has certainly been positive and not only do I feel that my involvement in the program has supported them but in turn I have also learned a great deal from our new teachers!
    I appreciated your model as I know the mentor, mentee relationship can have its challenges. In most of the cases, that I have experienced, a breakdown in the relationship often occurs when the mentor is struggling to fulfill their duty. I have witnessed teachers that have been asked to support other teachers not necessarily because of their leadership qualities but because they happen to be teaching the same grade as the mentee.

    I am in the midst of completing my Masters in Education, eventually leading me towards administration. In the future, as I move forward in my leadership responsibilities what recommendations would you give to someone starting up a mentor/ mentee program? If you could offer some sound advice as a “how to” when selecting mentors, what are some of the attributes/ skills essential to the mentors being? Aside from a willingness to volunteer ones time and experience?

    Lastly, your comment with regards to mentees not being ready for the program, do you believe that tends to be more because they are struggling to find additional time to ” fit in ” the relationship? Or do you believe it stems more from the mentee not believing they need coaching? Or simply that although they are new to a program or district that they have enough experience and knowledge to move ahead without participating in such a program? Perhaps all three are viable options?
    Thank you for providing the sample email/ talk. As I mentioned I have been a part of many successful mentor/ mentee relationaships. I know that the time may come when this type of conversation may need to occur. The wording is precise and leaves little room for interpretation. Being prepared for such a situation seems like good practice. I look forward to hearing from you,

    Thank you,

    Megan Cummins


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