It is 2pm and Claire has been in back-to-back meetings since 8am. She has not had lunch yet and has had to present to ExCo, meet a critical client and address a couple of urgent issues with the tech team. She is finally getting back to her desk and a quick glance at her calendar tells her that she has 30min to eat before her monthly one on one with Eric.

She is a very dedicated leader, and she has scheduled monthly meetings with each of her direct reports for the whole year ahead. Now she has a choice. While eating her lunch, should she spend the next 30min preparing for her meeting with Eric or should she start tackling her inbox of 54 unread emails which she has not even glanced since this morning? What would you do?

The great majority of leaders will start triaging their emails to ensure there is nothing urgent in their inbox. Because they don’t see this upcoming meeting with Eric as high-risk, they won’t take time to prepare for it. And the meeting will go like this:

Claire: How are you? What have you been up to recently?

Eric: Good, I have been working on project Alpha. I think it is going well but we are just delayed because of the client’s cyber requirements….

Claire: Oh really, what’s the problem?

We can easily imagine the rest of the conversation: Claire and Eric will explore the risks associated with this project and Claire will make sure Eric is very clear on next steps. This has raised an alarm bell in Claire’s head she did not know she had to worry about! At the end of the meeting, they will both rush off to their next meeting.

Eric will not necessarily have a negative feeling about his meeting with Claire this week or next month. But over the course of the year, he will crave career conversations, growth feedback and development coaching conversations. This will determine whether he feels he can grow within the company and needs to look for other avenues to progress his career.


What could Claire have done differently?

At MentorKey, we are determined to address this challenge. We know there is an increased pressure placed on people leaders to innovate and drive results in cost constrained environments. Managers don’t have the bandwidth and sometimes the toolkit to be the coach that their team members need them to be.

This is why we are building a platform that will enable Claire to prepare for her meeting in less than 6 minutes so that she knows what to focus on and how to deliver this coaching experience for Eric.

 What would MentorKey have nudged Claire to do? There are 3 conversations Claire needs to have regularly over the course of the year with her team members. They need to be framed as a coaching conversation, where Claire leads with powerful questions to create the space for Eric to feel heard and guided. Here is a glimpse of what these 3 conversations can look like:


 a. “Reviewing progress” conversations 

 We suggest leaders hold these at least once a month with each team member, with the aim of discussing what, and how, the team member has recently delivered. This is an opportunity for a learning conversation that is not solely focused on deliverables and projects but on the employee’s personal development. Leaders should prepare in advance by asking themselves:

  • What feedback do I need to give this person that they haven’t heard yet?
  • How can this be articulated with a growth mindset?

Leaders can steer the conversation forward by asking each team member:

  • What have you achieved over the last month?
  • What has gone well?
  • What could you have done better or differently?
  • What will success look like over the next month?
  • How can I support you better? What could we do differently as a team?


b. “Key priorities” conversations 

We suggest leaders hold these at least once a quarter with each team member, with the aim of ensuring key priorities and focus areas are clear.

Leaders should prepare in advance by asking themselves:

  • What does the team member need to deliver to make me see them as successful in the next three months?
  • What are the key outputs I need to see to be comfortable with the team member’s performance?

 Leaders can steer the conversation by asking each team member:

  • What will you deliver?
  • How will we measure success?
  • Which behaviours or mindset will you demonstrate?
  • What will you need from me?
  • What will you need from the team?


c. “Career growth” conversations

We suggest leaders hold these at least every six months with each team member, with the aim of enhancing professional and personal growth.

Leaders should prepare in advance by asking themselves:

  • What do I see as this person’s potential?
  • What behaviours do they need to develop and demonstrate to grow in their career?
  • What skills and knowledge should they focus on acquiring next year?

Leaders can steer the conversation by asking each team member:

  • What skills and knowledge do you need to develop this year?
  • What projects or opportunities could help deliver useful experiences for you?
  • What behaviours/approaches do you need to enhance or develop?
  • In which circumstances will you need to be mindful of this?
  • Who/what training could help you develop these


Can a platform bridge the gap between managers and mentors?

We don’t believe Generative AI can replace mentors or coaches. But we can use Generative AI to help managers become great mentors. At MentorKey, we have 20 years’ experience coaching leaders and team members. We have created an extraordinary library of questions, frameworks and approaches to deliver just-in-time and tailored guidance to mentors, mentees, coaches and coachees. GenAI is boosting our ability to deliver these in a manner that is more bespoke than ever!

 Written by Maud Lindley – Founder of MentorKey