Creating the right environment for mentoring and coaching

Meeting in the right environment is a key component for me of successful, trust based relationships with my coachees and mentees.  I also believe that it is part of setting and managing the boundaries and has benefits for all.

Paying attention to creating the right environment in which mentoring or coaching can take place is worthwhile and is an essential part of the role of a good mentor or coach.

This subject regularly creates a good discussion point in mentoring training.  Points of view emerge such as “at a client’s place of work” (that’s pre supposing they have a place of work!) versus “neutral ground”, like a coffee shop, pub, hotel lobby or meeting room.  I have used all of these as well as outside spaces such as parks and hill walks.  Then there’s “dress in a suit” versus “dress down” (you may be coming from a formal meeting and have no choice if you are working full time).  And finally, what are the legal or ethical issues (to which there is sometimes the question “what legal issues?”).

These viewpoints in themselves give rise to deeper debates around how to be a credible mentor, how much should you “research” your mentee’s business in advance in case this affects your impressions and impacts on how you “frame” your first meeting, and how to deal with conflicts of interest.

So what does it involve? Some quick tips and ideas.

The physical environment:

  • Place – where you can both be comfortable
  • Access – meets both your needs
  • Safety – no need to preach about health and safety as common sense should prevail
  • Location – geographically possible for both of you, assuming you are meeting face to face

The emotional environment:

  • Feeling safe – in the words of Stephen Covey, “trust is the highest form of human motivation”; disclosure comes from trust you create and hold as a mentor or coach
  • A confidential space – your relationship is built on trust and confidentiality
  • Where you can’t be overheard – ditto!
  • A neutral place – ditto again!  I ask my mentee/coachee where would be a suitable place outside of their work environment to meet and they usually have an answer.
  • No distractions – turn off mobiles; another BIG reason for staying out of the workplace 
  • Rapport - being in rapport is an essential part of building and maintaining a trust based relationship