The ideal mentoring engagement will have a particular life cycle (shown below). Building trust between the mentor and mentee is important for the open and honest exchange of ideas. Skipping or rushing through any of the stages in the life cycle can adversely impact the trust and relationship between the two parties and result in less than desired achievements.
Unfortunately, many company mentoring programs are set up by individuals with time constraints. They often jump in at step 3 and end up producing unsatisfactory results. When this happens, mentoring is blamed, rather than the lack of preparation and planning.
Step 1: Forming the Relationship
This first step is important: don’t rush or skip it. Building a relationship of trust requires time and effort. Skipping or rushing may increase the chances that the relationship and the mentoring will fail. Focus on getting to know each other. Share common experiences (education, hobbies, interests, etc.) to build a common vocabulary and some mutual understanding. Share the high level goals of both the mentee and the mentor. Relax and realize that becoming acquainted is a critical step that will lead to positive results.
Step 2: Setting Agreements
After you’ve become acquainted, you’re ready to create a set of operating agreements for your mentoring relationship. For example, define your role as a mentor or mentee, determine your schedule and meeting logistics, and clarify any limitations or preferences in the relationship.
Setting clear expectations will help the relationship run smoothly and help each partner achieve his or her mentoring goals. This step includes establishing measures of success, discussing confidentiality, determining the role of the mentee’s manager (if any), and clarifying the detailed, specific expectations of the mentor and mentee.
Step 3: Developing the Mentee
Developing the mentee is the longest step in the process and will include most of your mentoring efforts. This is where your skills as a mentor will be most needed. These include setting realistic learning and development objectives, selecting appropriate development activities to achieve those objectives, monitoring progress, providing feedback, implementing feedback into action plans, and evaluating documenting and reporting performance.
Step 4: Closing the Relationship
Scheduling a formal ending is an important part of the mentoring engagement. This is where you can assess and celebrate your accomplishments and make plans for the future. A formal ending gives a sense of urgency to the process and prevents the relationship from fading away. It also gives each mentoring partner a needed sense of closure and a transition into a less formal partnership or a new mentoring arrangement. It’s an excellent time to evaluate your work together, finish your last objectives, and plan for future options.