Four Strategies for Mentors to Give Positive Feed Back

by Barry Sweeny, 2001

How can a mentor stay positive when providing feed back to the protégé?

You may not initially agree with these strategies, or even agree that staying positive is always important. However, when you have problems with a protégé not accepting your advice, these strategies may be just exactly what you need to turn a bad situation around to the positive.

Only offer feed backwhen the protégé is ready to learn. Typically that means the protege has asked a question or has invited to offer advice or a suggestion.

Provide feed back which is neutral and descriptive, not value or opinion-loaded.

Do not analyze the situation or the data for the protégé, as that robs the protégé of the opportunity to learn. Ask the protégé reflective, open-ended questions to prompt the protégé to interpret patterns in the situation or the data and to decide what any pattern means. This method increases the chances the protege will agree change is needed and be motivated to make the needed change.

The protégé may not respond when prompted to change something the mentor has suggested. Mentors know they will be uncomfortable suggesting a change more than two or three times, so an effective mentor carefully selects WHEN they offer their advice. The mentor must watch the protégé for readiness to learn and only give suggestions then.