Mentorship

How to have an engineering mentoring one-on-one meeting

Mentoring meetings and one-on-one meetings are two powerful tools for building relationships and facilitating growth. This blog post will outline tips for technical leaders to follow to have a successful mentoring one-on-one meeting. 

Emma Runzer-Boucher

October 6, 2022

Mentoring meetings and one-on-one meetings are one of the most important meetings an engineering leader can have. However, many technical leaders fail to follow the fundamental best practices, making their mentoring one-on-one meetings unsuccessful. 

To best advise readers on conducting their engineering mentoring one-on-one meetings, Together Platform partnered with Fellow.app, a meeting note-taking software that provides collaborative meeting agenda examples for all types of teams.

What is a Mentorship Session? 

A mentoring session, or mentorship meeting, is when a mentor and mentee meet virtually or in person to discuss various topics. The goal of the meeting is to facilitate an exchange and learning opportunity between both people to achieve a short or long-term goal. 

Mentorship meetings have widespread benefits for both the mentor and the mentee. These benefits include: 

  • Gather feedback to increase self-awareness 
  • Increase self-reflecting skills
  • Develop strong communication skills
  • Build your personal brand within a company 
  • Grow your network
  • Increased job satisfaction
  • Learn a new perspective 
  • Learn from other’s experience 
  • Set short and long goals 
  • Get actionable advice 
  • Supporting someone more junior 
  • And the list goes on! 

Mentorship meetings are an essential part of both personal and professional growth. It is an important exercise no matter the stage of your career. Typical mentor meeting questions usually include: 

  • What are you working on right now? 
  • What are your short or long-term career goals?
  • Is there anything I can help you with? 

For more senior engineers, questions can also be more specific and tactical, such as “how have you solve a specific problem in the past?” or “what is your favoruite task management tool to use across a sprint cycle?” 

For more question ideas, view this list of 29 questions to ask your mentor in your next meeting

What is a One-on-One Meeting? 

One-on-one meetings are one of the most powerful tools for managers yet one of the most underutilized and misunderstood meetings. The way a direct report feels about the relationship with their boss is generally perceptive as to how they feel about their company and their job. 

Developing positive relationships with your direct reports is, therefore, very important! In fact, Kim Scott explained in her book Radical Candor that the most important thing managers could do to build a culture of trust is to meet with each of their direct reports regularly. Once you’ve hired an employee and completed their onboarding, you will need a recurring one-on-one meeting to continue developing the relationship with them. 

According to Lara Hogan, author of Resilient Management, a one-on-one meeting should have four goals:

  1. Build trust with your direct report 
  2. Find alignment and gain a shared context 
  3. Discuss career development plans 
  4. Address and solve concerns, problems and blockers 

Similar to mentorship meetings, a one-on-one meeting has numerous benefits, including: 

  • Increasing employee productivity 
  • Building and strengthening relationships after employee onboarding 
  • Gather meaningful and personalized feedback 
  • Check-in on goal and OKR progress 
  • Discuss potential blockers and problems 

Try supercharging your next one-on-one meeting with a one-on-one meeting tool like Fellow.

Four Tips for a Successful Engineering Mentoring One-on-One Meeting

One-on-one mentoring meetings can potentially be exciting conversations that both parties look forward to. When done correctly, both the mentor and mentee can leave feeling energized and empowered to accomplish their next goal. For the mentor, it’s an opportunity to share knowledge and hard-earned wisdom. For the mentee, it’s an indispensable learning opportunity to gain insight into their career trajectory or unique problems. 

Tip 1: Use a Meeting Agenda 

The success of a meeting is often related to the amount of preparation that went into it. When the meeting organizer takes the time to think through the structure of the meeting and the flow of the conversation while preparing their talking points and sharing them with the other attendee before the meeting, it’s more likely attendees leave the meeting feeling empowered and organized. 

Mentoring one-on-one meetings can be structured in many different ways and can include many different topics. Together Platform and Fellow put together a 1-on-1 mentoring meeting template for engineers to help them break the ice in their mentorship meetings and kick-start growth conversations.

Tip 2: Ask the Mentee to Set the Meeting Agenda 

To help your mentee gain ownership over the meeting, ask them the set the meeting agenda. The agenda should include 

By asking the mentee to set the meeting agenda and submit questions beforehand, not only can the mentor can better prepare for the meeting, but the mentee can maximize their time by intentionally choosing questions that relate to the problems they are trying to solve. 

Tip 3: Be Open to Sharing Your Experience 

As both the mentor and the mentee, being open to sharing your experience vulnerability is important. For the mentee, having a candid conversation about learings, recent wins, and blockers opens the possibility of having an impactful and energizing meeting with actionable advice and takeaways. 

From the mentor's perspective, sharing leanings transparently creates trust and psychological safety within the relationship. It also provided a greater quality of advice that will be more helpful to the mentee. 

Tip 4: Ask Thought-Provoking Questions 

The best mentors don’t necessarily offer the answers to problems or have cookie-cutter solutions. Instead, they ask great questions and treat the meeting as a coaching session where the mentee finds the best possible solution, given their unique circumstances. 

Asking great questions applies to the mentee, not just the mentor. If the mentee can ask great questions, they are opening the possibility of getting unique advice and an insightful perspective from their mentor. 

A great question should be thought-provoking and not necessarily have one right answer. It should entice reflections and naturally lead to more follow-up questions. Sample questions a mentor can ask a mentee include: 

  • What was your educational experience like?
  • What was your first job?
  • What led you to your current career path?
  • How can I better prepare for our meetings? 

On the other hand, a mentee could ask the mentor: 

  • How did you learn to embrace risk-taking?
  • What do you look for when hiring an employee?
  • Can you tell me about a time when you had a difficult boss? How did you handle the situation?
  • What’s the most important leadership lesson you’ve learned and how has it proven invaluable?
  • Can you recommend a book or resource for dealing with difficult conversations?
  • How did you develop the skill of speaking so engagingly in front of groups?

Try Together Platform’s 1-on-1 Engineering Mentoring Session Meeting Template 

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Want incredible results from your mentorship program? Then download our comprehensive list of best practices.

We draw these best practices from the first-hand experience of program managers like you and our own expertise. This white paper is a comprehensive guide that will be your roadmap to building a world-class mentoring program.