The success of this mentoring relationship ultimately depends on the understanding between those involved. Both parties must understand each other’s values and expectations for there to be a successful mentoring relationship.
Whatever the length of the mentoring relationship, it is important to understand that the relationship goes through different stages. Each stage is important as it contributes to the overall success of the relationship and should be treated equally. The time spent on each stage may differ depending on the mentor-mentee relationship, but they progress similarly.
In this article, we look at the four main stages of mentoring and what to expect from each stage. The four stages are initiation, negotiation, growth, and closure.
The Four Main Stages of Mentoring
This is the stage when the mentor and the mentee get to know each other. For a mentee, it is time to establish whether a potential mentor has the qualities you want in a mentor. It is also at this stage where both parties define the goals they need to work on.
This is the most critical stage as it determines how successful the relationship is going to be. Both parties identify if they are a good match for each other, assess their values, interests, and aspirations.
With both parties new to each other, this stage can be a challenge. There can be communication issues and some confusion; it is best to take the time to figure each other out. At times, there will be no communication at all. It is also inevitable that many mentees will be hesitant to trust their mentors fully.
Failing to prioritize this stage can lead to a total breakdown of the relationship even before it has begun. This stage is the foundation phase. Both parties must fully understand each other. At this stage, mentors mostly take the initiative to build trust by reaching out and creating time for the relationship. Once the mentee is comfortable, they can begin building mutual trust and moving the relationship forward.
The process of building trust continues in earnest at this stage. This is where the mentor helps the mentee set the goals of the learning process. The parties agree on what the client expects and draw strategies to achieve the targets. They also set times for subsequent meetings and decide the frequency of those meetings.
The two parties work together to formulate a working plan and map out their strategies and the way forward. However, because the relationship is still in its formative stage, it is never easy. They have to lay the ground rules, set boundaries, and decide on accountability and shared responsibilities. It is not easy to talk about these issues, but this discourse is vital for the relationship’s success.
If the parties discover that they are incompatible (which can happen), it is at this stage that they decide on ways to part ways amicably.
At this point, each party knows what is expected of them. Trust has been built, and it’s now time for the next stage — growth. The parties start working towards achieving the goals set in the previous stages. For the mentee, it is now the perfect learning opportunity.
The relationship is already blossoming, and the mentor takes it up a notch by sharing their knowledge, wisdom, and mentoring resources with the client. They offer their guidance and help the mentee overcome the challenges and bumps. Gradually, the mentor becomes the mentee’s confidant, guide, advisor, and perhaps most importantly, a friend.
The mentor is also expected to be honest with their mentee. They must offer constructive (if sometimes brutally honest) feedback to push on their clients. Feedback is an essential tool in a mentor-mentee relationship. The client has to know if they are on the right path and, if not, what they should and must do. They must discover their strengths and weaknesses and work towards improvement under the mentor’s guidance. This is all part of the growth process.
Both parties must evaluate the learning process and track the goals they initially set. Achieving these goals will equip the mentee with the proper skills to progress in their business, career, and life in general.
This one is pretty self-explanatory. The mentoring relationship has already realized its objectives, and it’s now time to terminate the contract. It’s noteworthy that termination can also occur due to other factors like disagreements, breach of trust, lack of accountability, etc. However, if the relationship has made it through the previous three stages, it will likely continue successfully.
This stage is an opportunity for the parties to evaluate what they have achieved. The mentor may also ask a few questions. For example, ‘What did you learn from our time together?’ ‘Would you like to stay in touch?’ etc. The closure may also have a celebratory moment, for instance, a photo together or a cup of coffee. The parties may also decide to continue the relationship as friends free from the restrictions of a formal contract.
This stage is important for both parties. They can reflect on their journey together and consolidate what they’ve learned.
Those are the four main stages of mentoring. Note that relationships may move from one stage to another at different paces depending on the individual parties. As the mentor/mentee move through each phase, the relationship develops at its own pace.
Ultimately though, it takes effort from both parties to make the relationship work and guarantee a positive outcome. Communication is key across all the stages, and a lack of communication can lead to a complete breakdown of the relationship. If the relationship is allowed to move through the different stages, there will be a sense of accomplishment, learning, tremendous growth, cultivated friendship, and closure.
If you would like to experience mentorship and give yourself that push you need in your life, we are here to serve you. Please feel free to reach out, and let’s have a chat!