Mentoring 101: Finding the Balance between Supporting and Adopting a New Mediator

In planning for CoRe Conflict Resolution Society’s New Mediators, I’ve been turning my mind to the role of mentors in the support of new mediators. For many of us, we remember the people who were important in supporting us as we developed our skills and built a practice, and we are motivated to be that person for another new mediator. And yet, …

I’ve spent the last week speaking with colleagues about a plan to host a “Speed-Dating” session to help new mediators connect with more senior folks who have a willingness to offer assistance. I’ve gained some excellent insights into good mentoring (and less than good mentoring) that I’ll share in future posts, but the most important issue that has come up in terms of planning the session has been the genuine concern amongst potential mediators that new mediators’ expectations of a mentor are simply unrealistic.

Of course, everyone I spoke with knows this concern is a generalization, however, it arises from a common experience potential mentors shared of being approached by learning mediators that they have never met before and asked, in the first conversation, to commit to 10 co-mediations, on-going coaching, and maybe referral of a few mediations for the new mediator to do solo. One colleague commented that simply agreeing to take a call from a new mediator seeking support often feels like a marriage proposal before the first date!

No wonder there’s hesitation amongst potential mentors in agreeing to attend a “speed-dating” session! Does agreeing to “speed date” mean they’ll be expected to commit to take on responsibility for someone’s mediation career based on a two-minute conversation? The short answer is “of course not”, but it’s obvious that there is a need for clarity about a great many topics related to mentoring.

For that reason, I’ll be writing a series of short blog posts on related topics over the next few months. Based on my first few conversations about mentoring, I plan to cover:

  • What roles can a mentor play in supporting a learning mediator? Is it all or nothing? (Spoiler: It’s not!)
  • How NOT to approach a potential mentor (and a few ideas for how to do so)
  • Tips for mentoring during mediations (including a few DON’Ts that it has surprised me to hear happen with some frequency)
  • Co-mediating with a peer

I’m also excited to announce that Wendy Lakusta and I will making a few short Mediation Works videos on the subject to offer more fulsome stories about mentoring.

In the meantime, I invite conversations about mentoring from colleagues who are willing to share their thoughts about great mentoring they’ve experienced, and specifics about what works on a micro-level. Please feel free to share stories here in comments or to email me to set up a time to chat!


Photo credit: Cathie Roy.

P.S. – I’d like to start this series with a shout out to Lee Turnbull who was my most significant mediation mentor. What made Lee a fantastic mentor? Lee shared her enormous expertise and knowledge generously, but never made me feel that my relative lack of experience meant I had nothing to contribute to conversation. She listened, reflected on ideas, shared information I might be missing, and encouraged me to reflect further when I was rushing to a conclusion. Lee and I weren’t in the same mediation together until the very end of the Court Mediation Practicum – 18 years after we had started working together! – and yet, she influenced my mediation approach and my skills more profoundly than any in-the-room mentor or co-mediator. Thanks yet again, Lee!






About corejolts

CoRe Jolts is written by Sharon Sutherland, mediator, lawyer and Vice President of the CoRe Conflict Resolution Clinic. CoRe Jolts is a fundraising project for the CoRe Conflict Resolution Society, a registered charity.
This entry was posted in Mediation, Mentoring and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Mentoring 101: Finding the Balance between Supporting and Adopting a New Mediator

  1. wendylak says:

    Lee was my most significant mentor in mediation ….learned a lot and love her!

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