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The Mentoring Relationship

A sucessful mentoring relationship is comprised and built on a foundation of many elements

  • Initiation of contract and getting to know one another
  • Exploring the nature of the relationship and topics for discussion
  • Testing the strengths and limits of the relationship to see what reactions follow
  • Stabilising the relationship as each settle for what they can expect from each other
  • Reassessing the relationship due to the change in needs growing with the relationship
  • Ending the relationship as goals are reached

  • Stage 1Building the Relationship

    During the first few weeks, mentors and mentorees could concentrate on getting to know each other rather than upon the specifics of what they'll accomplish. They can certainly talk about possible goals and ways of interacting but don't have to rush into the "business" part of the relationship.

    Potential discussion topics: Why each is participating in this formal relationship; contact information and preferences; effective and ineffective mentoring each experienced in the past; job histories; hobbies and other leisure interests; favourite sports, movies, and travels; funny lessons learned.

  • Stage 2Negotiating Agreements

    After at least a couple of informal meetings, the pairs can move into the more formal part of the arrangement. They should discuss and agree on how and what they'll actually do together during the rest of their formal relationship. The exchange should be exploratory with both the mentor and mentoree proposing possibilities, discussing expectations and preferences, and finally agreeing what to try.

    Potential discussion topics: How frequently, when, and where, to meet; who'll manage the relationship including topics discussed and logistics; how to give each other feedback; the role of the mentoree's manager; what is and isn't confidential; any limitations such as travel schedules; how the two will measure the success of the relationship.

  • Stage 3Developing the Mentoree

    This is the longest phase of the partnership. It includes setting specific goals and objectives and helping the mentoree gain knowledge, build skills, and/or modify attitudes with the help of the mentor. During this phase the mentor acts as a learning broker, sounding board, and sometime instructor/coach for the mentoree.

    Potential discussion topics: One or two major goals the mentoree wants to achieve; specific objectives that will help the mentoree reach those goals; how to measure the mentoree's progress; learning activities that will be the most powerful; potential resources; a feasible and desirable time line for reaching each objective and goal. As the pair proceeds, topics can include: what the mentoree is doing well and what he/she could do even better, how to solve challenges that arise, what the mentor is observing, and how they both feel about the relationship.

  • Stage 4Ending the Formal Relationship

    Near the end of the formal partnership, the two should have a discussion about what they've experienced and what comes next.

    Potential discussion topics: What's worked well in the relationship; what the mentoree and mentor have gained; lessons learned; how they'd both like to end or continue the relationship (thanks and goodbye; continue the formal; move to an informal arrangement; build a friendship).

  • Suggestions for Your Initial Meeting


    • Spend time getting to know your mentoree/mentor, establish rapport. This meeting needs to be fairly informal.
    • Ascertain what the mentoree wants to gain from the relationship, from personal aim/s to being a part of the program.
    • Clarify both your roles; what you can and can't do in relation to aims and objectives.
    • If appropriate get mentoree to talk about their strengths and areas for improvement, career and personal aspirations.
    • Decide on where and how regularly you will meet. Ensure that the mentoree has direct lines or contact so that she doesn't have to go through an assistant.
    • Finish the meeting with agreed actions for both of you.

  • Subsequent Meetings


    • Follow up on actions/outcomes on what the mentoree is working on.
    • Reinforce/praise as appropriate. Ask mentoree to self assess progress made, what they have learnt etc.
    • Give constructive feedback and confront mentor appropriately.
    • Challenge and redirect, always encouraging personal accountability and responsibility.
    • Listen, listen, listen!
    • Ask questions always to assist your mentoree to gain clarity re. what they want and what action they need to take.
    • Always conclude with the specific actions or next steps that are to be made in the period between the next meeting.

  • Possible Issues for First Meetings


    • Availability and frequency of meetings
    • Confidentiality and trust
    • Communications between meetings
    • Setting objectives
    • Work vs personal vs social issues
    • Expectations of each other

Women's Professional Development Network (WPDN)

The University of Adelaide


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