We began by sharing the group's understanding of what a mentor 'does', what was said is not exclusive, nor is it definitive: skills share, pass on knowledge, 'learn from my mistakes', line manger (checks and balances), a mentor has an holistic approach, mentoring can happen 'implicitly' i.e. without a formal structure or explicitly a relationship that is a working alliance

The discussion then went to what a mentor is... the group understanding was as follows: a career mentor, a project mentor, advisor, guide, consultant, confidante, counsellor

The understanding of a successful mentor relationship amongst the group: is an exchange: a two-way relationship, a learning process for both mentor and mentee, the mentor to be inspired by the mentee and is curious about the differences,

The qualities of a mentor: someone senior (in terms of experience, not age), someone who has been through all the learning curves, someone to hold you when you fall, is ready to and willing to listen, has curiosity

We spoke a little of what a 'bad' mentor relationship looks like but came to the understanding that through having such an experience, it is more than possible to learn, and make changes which still ultimately, benefits the mentee (and I'm sure for the mentor also).

We looked at the phrase 'working alliance': a relationship where boundaries must be set (to create structure), provides stability, meets regularly, manages expectations, has listening at the core, sees the potential of the mentee, fills in a gap of knowledge, information sharing, accountability

One participant made the following statement: 'a mentor holds your inner gold until the mentee is ready to hold it for themselves' which I thought was a lovely image of the mentor relationship!

A mentor needs to be ready to let go of the mentee when needed to, and is excited when the mentee surpasses the mentor. Ultimately when having a mentor a question that could be considered, how to develop one's practice by having a mentor

The group said the mentor relationship is not a magical relationship, it's a neutral space where the mentee is able to think and reflect on how to be the best person/creative they can be. From the mentee's side, when looking for a mentor, to have the phrase 'when I grow up I want to be like (insert name of mentor here)'.

Although the conversation seems to be heavy with responsibility for the mentor, there is the understanding that there may be a sense of laying too much on the mentor's side, they aren't magicians and the mentee needs to be ready to do all the heavy lifting as opposed to expecting the mentor to do all the work.

We also had discussions around being a paid mentor or an unpaid mentor and how it affects the relationship, what the difference is between a teacher and a mentor, if the relationship is an act of 'paying it forward' and by definition a non-financial commitment, and the difference between a mentor and a life coach.

By the end of the conversation, there was a sense of coming to an understanding of whether a single mentor is a way forward or if a small network of people with different skills and experiences may be more beneficial. A book by Nancy Klein was mentioned, whose concept of The Thinking Environment seemed to be influential on some participants.

I shall leave it there with the following: Surround yourself with exciting people, and when thinking about a mentor, consider they are a reflective mirror, generous in spirit, a person who is non-judgemental and is able to ask the deeper questions that causes you to pause and reflect on your practice.