Mentoring Requires More Than Good Intention

by Lois Zachary

best mentoring steps

It takes time and work. It requires knowledge, competency, skill and a planned strategy. Mentors and mentees who come to mentoring prepared, and know what to expect, report more fulfilling and mutually satisfying mentoring relationships.

So what can you expect?

You can expect your mentoring relationship to unfold in four predictable phases. These sequential phases – preparing (getting ready), negotiating (establishing agreements), enabling growth (facilitating learning) and coming to closure (looking back and moving forward)– are characterized by key tasks. Knowing what to expect during each phase contributes to building a more successful mentoring relationship.

Phase One: Get yourself ready for mentoring
Consciously set aside time to prepare yourself for mentoring. Consider your motivation. Reflect on why you are engaging in mentoring. Assess your strengths and challenges in the role of mentor or mentee. Think about your learning style.

What can you bring to the relationship? What do you want from the relationship?

Get your mentoring relationship ready. Each and every mentoring relationship is unique. Make sure you set aside adequate time to get to know your mentoring partner before you jump into the work of mentoring. Find out what makes your mentoring partner tick by asking questions that will develop the respect, trust, and understanding you will need to create the momentum necessary to work together effectively.

Phase Two: Establishing Agreements

Just as trust helps establish real relationships, taking the time to put agreements in place makes a big difference in navigating your relationship, focusing the learning, and keeping mentoring on track. Negotiating agreements builds consensus and commitment and lays the groundwork for moving forward.

In conversation with your mentoring partner, lay out ground rules for how you want to work together. Come to agreement about confidentiality. Discuss boundaries and potential stumbling blocks. Then, map out your work plan.

Phase Three: Enabling Growth

Once your agreements and work plan are in place, you and your mentoring partner are ready to roll up your sleeves and get to work. While this phase offers the most opportunity for facilitating learning and development, it is also when mentoring partners are most vulnerable to obstacles that may derail the relationship. The mentor’s role during this phase is to maintain an open and affirming learning climate, by asking the right questions at the right time and by providing thoughtful, timely, candid and constructive feedback.

Phase Four: Coming to Closure

The fourth phase offers a rich opportunity for growth and reflection regardless of whether or not the relationship has been positive. Closure involves celebrating and evaluating the learning, acknowledging progress and formulating goals for further growth and development. Closure should also open the door to new opportunities.

Now that you know what to expect and how to structure your mentoring relationship, reflect on your past and present mentoring relationships, what more could you be doing to increase your effectiveness?

Lois ZacharyLois Zachary is the President of Leadership Development Services, LLC. and an international expert on mentoring and leadership development. Her latest book on mentoring is Starting Strong: A Mentoring Fable co-authored with Lory Fischler. Other books include Creating a Mentoring Culture: The Organization’s Guide.

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