This document reflects the experiences shared by many mentors and mentees. Mentors should review Section 3 & 4 Mentorship Guidelines, which contain the expectations of mentors and mentees and suggestions for providing effective feedback during mentoring. This material supplements those sections and should be discussed as part of the training for mentors.

Before the mediation;

  1. Discuss what the mentee wants to achieve in the upcoming mediation and any concerns and anxieties he or she may have.
  2. Against the background of the mentee’s experience to date, any developmental needs noted by prior mentors, and the discussions under item 1 above, plan with the mentee for your mutual expectations and your respective roles – e.g., how you will share or otherwise handle the introduction to mediation, the extent to which you will share “air time” during the mediation, how to deal with breaks, and how to deal with the particular skill development needs of the mentee. Revisit and reinforce basic learning points as needed (e.g., for the introduction, the trust-building overlay, different ways of approaching “ground rules”). Remind the mentee about the importance of body language and of the importance of listening for the “message behind the words.”
  3. Discuss your personal style or model of mediation with the mentee, and any particular practices you favor concerning “ground rules” and caucusing. This provides a touchstone for post-mediation debriefing on different approaches to issues that arose during the mediation. Mentees often are trying to make sense of different approaches or perspectives from several sources.
  4. Assure the mentee understands that the parties’ needs are paramount and take precedence over the mediation as an educational endeavor for the mentee — and that if you as mentor feel the need to step in, you will do so.
  5. Discuss what you know about the upcoming case and any particular emotional, process, power, or substantive matters that might arise and ways in which these matters might be approached.
  6. If you are joined by an observer rather than a co-mediating mentee, clarify expectations about how the observer will be introduced to the parties, where the observer will sit, and the observer’s non-participatory role. Give the observer assignments for later discussion: watching body language, questions about your actions and reactions during the mediation.
  7. Share your practices around a suggested “toolbox” – copies of forms, “introduction-to-mediation” outline, tissues, calendar, notepaper and pens, etc.

During the mediation;

  1. Follow your plan. Send a message of support (and responsibility) to the mentee by doing the things (and letting the mentee do the things) you discussed before the mediation
  2. As a general rule, do not identify your co-mediator as a mentee. This can have the effect of diminishing your mentee’s perceived role so substantially that it becomes virtually useless as a co-mediation learning experience.
  3. Be continuously alert, but give the mentee room to work and to make some (harmless) errors. Your primary responsibility is to the parties, but you should be prepared to tolerate some less-than-artful actions of the mentee. There are few errors from which one cannot recover. You should note opportunities for improvement for later debriefing.
  4. Although you want to give the mentee room to learn from his or her own experiences, your modeling of mediation practices is a very effective learning tool as well. For example, you can demonstrate useful phrases used to clarify or offer an example of your style of reframing and affirm these later in debriefing.
  5. If you must step in, try to do so unobtrusively if possible – e.g., if you believe you really need to redirect a line of discussion from something the mentee just asked, you might say “Just before we get to that, could we first clear up something that I still am a little unclear about . . . .” It is best that the parties not unnecessarily pick up “vibes” that something has gone wrong, as it can negatively affect their trust in the mediation — and you want to avoid appearing to disrespect your co-mediator.
  6. Once in a while, things may go so badly that you need to change directions substantially and immediately. Take a break (you do not necessarily have to disclose your real reason for the break to the parties). Then meet with the mentee, debrief specifically around why you took the action, and plan for recovery.
  7. Ordinary breaks during the mediation may present “mini-debriefing” opportunities about prior activity; just keep in mind that a break may be too short to effectively deal with an issue or may over-emphasize a particular contemporary event. On the other hand, breaks can be used as opportunities to re-visit your mentoring plan and analyze options for proceeding after the break.
  8. An important challenge for the mentor is timely note-taking about items to discuss during de-briefing – things that went particularly well, problems that arose and options for handling them, and things that might have been done differently. While you do not want to lose focus or divert attention by voluminous note-taking, it is important to develop your own way of making brief notes sufficient to later remind you and the mentee of the specifics of a learning event. It may be some time before you can return to an important event that occurred during only a few seconds in mediation. Sometimes, you may need to capture the exact words a mentee used to debrief effectively. Consider practicing the art of brief, marginal note-taking without looking down, and developing your own shorthand!

Debriefing and evaluation after the mediation session;

  1. Take a short break after the mediation session and before the debriefing to refresh and refocus. The mentor can use this opportunity to organize his/her thoughts. Mark the transition psychologically by changing something – take your coat off, arrange the seats differently, etc. Reintroduce the purpose of the debriefing, your respective roles, and confirm you are in agreement about the time available. Often, mentor and mentee may need a little time to decompress from the mediation – which may provide an opportunity to move into specific elements of the debriefing. If the mentee appears at all apprehensive about the debriefing, acknowledge that evaluation is difficult but valuable experience for everyone, particularly in the mediation process, where as mediators we need to anticipate and welcome constructive feedback in one form or another throughout our professional lives.
  2. A good general principle about feedback is to focus on the behavior, not the person. You want to make it easy for the mentee to hear you and to heed your input, and it helps to reduce the mentee’s personal defensiveness
  3. Generally, start with the mentee’s own experiences (and your own encouraging observations), building toward your constructive feedback. Illustrations: “Kamau, what in particular went well for you? ” “I noted how well you handled that transition when ….” “I was impressed with how you responded to the question on confidentiality . . . .” Frequently, that encouragement makes it safe for a mentee to move forward. If not, you might ask: “Was there anything in particular that you felt uncomfortable with? ” Often, the answer will reflect something you may have noted for feedback purposes yourself, and you can use the mentee’s own statements as an entry for your critique and developmental discussion.
  4. Generally, the mentor should prioritize and carefully select learning points (or themes) for feedback – perhaps no more than three to five primary subjects of feedback per mediation session. A long and scattered list can dilute the importance of priority items and may not be remembered or learned as well by the mentee. Briefly outline your overall themes at the outset, so the mentee has a sense of context and limits.
  5. During feedback, the mentor should identify the action or behavior in question as specifically as possible, linked to context. This helps avoid ambiguity and confusion about what happened, and reduces the opportunity for defensiveness on the part of the mentee. You can then proceed more directly to productive discussions. To do this well, you must be able to frame events accurately, which underlies the importance of good, just-in-time note-taking.
  6. Rather than (or before) challenging an action of the mentee per se, start by asking the mentee for clarification or perspective on the event. For example, assume a mentee interrupted the parties’ exchange at one point, and you want to use this event to discuss when and how to intervene. You might try the following: “Do you remember when Juma was talking about [x] when we were discussing [y]? You responded just then by asking [z]. I think it would be useful to discuss that interaction. What strategy did you have in mind at that moment? ” Or, if you had had to step in at some point to recover a mediation veering off because of a question or action of the mentee, you might say: “You probably  remember when I stepped in at [x point]. What is your perspective on what was happening there? ” Generally, mentees learn better by being integral to  a developmental discussion where they help lead themselves to new perspectives, rather than merely being subjected to “mini-lectures.”
  7. Do not evade your responsibility to telling a truth just because it is difficult. As in mediation generally, it is how you say something, not whether. Mentors have a responsibility to mentees, to the public, and to mediation generally, to assure that difficult topics are dealt with and that mentees who have trouble “getting it” are well-directed toward the best path – whether that means further training or an evaluation that recommends additional practice, In these instances, it is particularly important to identify objective behaviors and context. Sometimes, setting up the seriousness of the subject is the psychological key – e.g., Ombati, I believe we need to debrief carefully around one exchange: the one where Nyaguthie said she didn’t know what to do about [x] and you stepped in to give her some very specific options. As I believe you know, the aspect of self-determination is key, both legally and as a matter of the core values of mediation as we practice it here.  There are ways you can help a person develop or obtain ideas and perspectives on options without giving advice.
  8. Use stories and humor. Adults learn well from (one or two brief) stories about mediation events that happened to you or others and illustrate things that went wrong or right. These stories connect you with the mentee on a human level and give you the opportunity to provide a memorable, even enjoyable lesson linked to a subject in the mentee’s just-completed experience. You can soften critiques with humor, particularly at your own expense as part of a story — e.g., “I remember a case where I got so interested in a party’s story that I interrupted it, and I got just the kind of reaction you experienced today!”
  9. If a subject is important enough to critique, it is important enough to critique with some detail. It is insufficient to merely say, “I want you to work on your reframing.” In addition to using the specific contextualizing discussed above, give examples of alternative approaches, touch on underlying theory, ask the mentee to suggest how they might have done it differently, etc. Parsing the issue from several different angles, if you can. You might suggest further reading or revisiting a basic training manual, or you might set up a mini-role play during the debriefing to test different ways of dealing with a subject, or suggest phrases you and other mediators use to clarify, reframe, and transition.
  10. Use comparisons of actual and hypothetical options and comparisons of ideas on how to approach a specific interaction.
  11. Make “lemonade out of lemons” by stating negatives as their obverse positives – e.g., instead of “You may be too passive” say “There are ways you can be more active.”
  12. Avoid absolutes such as “always” and “never.” With rare exceptions there are few things in mediation that are not situational. Further, there probably are things you may do or avoid that other competent mediators engage quite differently.  Thus, if you wish to state a stylistic choice you prefer, try to relate it to a broader theoretical basis so the mentee can reflect on a range of possible choices.
  13. If a mentee appears frustrated or defensive, take time to discuss those feelings, clarify the debriefing process, and adapt the evaluation process to the results of the discussion.
  14. Invite the mentee to ask questions about your performance. He or she may be afraid to question something the “master” did, but if a question arises, it deserves an answer and may start a discussion or be a valuable learning point for the mentee. If you made a mistake, it can be useful to acknowledge it and make the point that mediation is so complex that no one can ever do everything perfectly – and that if you mediate a thousand cases, you will learn something new on the thousand-and first.
  15. End the debriefing on a positive note. While mentors have a “gatekeeper” role, our basic stock-in-trade is guiding, coaching, and developing neophytes in the pursuit of excellence. Look for a closing opportunity to reinforce the mentee’s own sense of value, achievement, and opportunity for growth.
  16. Touch on next steps. Finally, help the mentee be clear on the next steps and where to go for more information.


  1. Target specific skill areas in collaboration with the mentee when completing the Mentee Portfolio form. “Section II: Mentee Skills” on the Mentee Evaluation form can be used as a concise way to focus the mentee’s efforts during the co-mediation and to determine the skill development goals that are in need of development. These skill areas can be a focal point for the co-mediation practice and for the written comments.
  2. Assess the mentee openly. Written comments on the Mentee Portfolio and Mentee Evaluation forms should indicate whether or not the mentee’s performance is “on track,” given continuing opportunities to mediate, The mentor’s comments about the mentee’s current performance level should state, in a direct manner (without “waffling” or “equivocating”), if the mentee will need additional course work to handle matters well for the public. If the mentor cannot determine whether the mentee is on track (for example, due to the brevity of the co-mediation), the mentor should state this fact on the form.
  3. Discuss your assessment with the mentee. The mentee should not be surprised by the mentor’s written comments. The gist of the comments should have been shared during the de-briefing session.
  4. Complete the form in a timely fashion. The mentor should complete the Mentee Evaluation form while the information regarding the case and the mentee’s performance is still mentally fresh.