When we wrote Starting Strong, our primary goal was to help people understand what really good mentoring conversation looked like in practice. Second, we wanted to address some very basic (and commonly asked) questions: How do the individuals who are engaged in mentoring experience the relationship? What do they think about?  What do they talk about? What conversations should they engage in to build their relationship and facilitate the learning process?

Starting Strong is a combination of two books in one –  a mentoring fable  and a conversation playbook. The fable presents an in-depth look at the dynamics and conversations inherent in a mentoring relationship when it is first starting out. The characters in the fable represent a composite of real life mentoring issues, struggles, and challenges.  The conversation play book contains a set of tools to guide the reader’s mentoring conversations.

We had hoped that Starting Strong would provide a reference, a resource, and case study scenario. However, it wasn’t until recently that we discovered just how powerful it was as a training tool for raising the level of trust, deepening the relationship and keeping mentoring pairs on track.

Our Observations

Starting Strong enabled mentoring partners to build trust quickly because it created a shared language and understanding right from the start.

Starting Strong provided a roadmap for keeping relationships on track. As a result, new mentoring partners were more confident because they knew what to expect and they had the tools and strategies they needed to guide them.

Starting Strong gave experienced mentors new insights that allowed them to recognize what was missing in past mentoring relationships and better understand why they went off course.

Starting Strong provided a context for the training so that participants had a mental picture of what good mentoring looked like.

Starting Strong increased mentee understanding about the purpose of mentoring and their role in driving their own development.

Starting Strong gave mentees a better understanding about the role of their mentor in helping help them tackle their issues – without solving the problem for them.

How Reading Starting Strong Can Help

Each participant was sent a copy Starting Strong prior to the initial mentoring training and asked to think about specific questions prior to the initial training.

  • What resonated for you? What surprised you? What is something new you learned?
  • Mentors: What skills and competencies do you admire the most in the mentor, Cynthia?
  • Mentees: In what ways do you relate to the mentee, Rafa?  What did you learn from his experience?

We found that reading Starting Strong made a significant difference in the quality and depth of the mentoring conversations that took place during and after the mentoring training.

Our observations were validated by the participant comments five weeks following the training:

  1. Starting Strong was valuable in helping me know what I could expect.
  2. Starting Strong challenges traditional views.
  3. It gave me comfort to know there was a clear roadmap I could follow.
  4. Starting Strong was an eye opener about what good mentoring really looked like.
  5. It prepared us to start on the right foot and understand what we were getting into.
  6. It guided us step by step through the conversations we needed to have.
  7. It jump started our conversation.
  8. Starting Strong focused us on addressing some things we might not have addressed.
  9. The book opened the door to the different conversations we need to have.
  10. Starting Strong offered an example of a mentor and mentee and seeing their perspective.

Action Step:

Ask participants to read Starting Strong prior to your next training event. It will kick start mentoring training and get mentoring pairs started on the right foot.