Mentor Relationship Stages

Posted January 10th, 2012

Mentoring is a learning support mechanism where an experienced person provides guidance, knowledge and advice to someone who is in development or has less experience in a given topic or function.

The role of mentor is a very important one and whether the relationship is formal or informal, the fact is that a good mentor can be instrumental in the development of not only a mentee’s skills and knowledge, but also their behaviour, attitude and social outlook.

Mentors have a varied role and this can range from ‘challenging friend’, who acts as a sounding board, shares experiences and facilitates the mentee’s development, to ‘assessor’, who may also be required to assess competencies and skill levels in conjunction with the ‘challenging friend’ role.

A mentoring relationship has four definable stages within its life cycle:

1.     Getting to know each other – establishes expectations of a mentoring relationship. In the early stages, a large part of the mentor’s role involves being supportive and creating a reassuring environment for the mentee. Initial meeting agendas might include:

  • getting to know each other personally
  • identifying the mentee’s learning needs for career and professional development

2.     Goal setting – establishes expectations of learning by:

  • identifying potential learning opportunities at work and the technical and theoretical learning that might result (e.g. brainstorm possible areas of learning that relate to the development or profession as a whole, suggest useful contacts, check for other training opportunities, etc.)
  • agreeing meeting schedules and ways to arrange meetings by writing a Mentoring Agreement
3.     Progress and maturation – the longest stage. At this stage, the emphasis of the mentor’s role should change to that of a challenger and stimulator to encourage deeper learning and reflection. A balance needs to be reached so that mentees continually explore their limits but not to the extent that they feel overwhelmed. Emphasis should be on issues of professional development. Later meeting agendas might include:
  • reviewing general progress and achievements to date and giving guidance on ways to improve performance and progress
  • reviewing any work-based learning
4.     End – a final meeting is essential. For many mentors it can be tempting to avoid defining the end or separation stage and to regard it as unnecessary. However, a final review session is crucial to provide closure on the relationship for both the mentee and the mentor. The mentee and the mentor are jointly responsible for providing a proper ending to the relationship.

This structure provides a clearly defined approach to the mentoring process. It will ensure you are both clear on the progress of the mentoring relationship and allow you to consistently review and support development.

This article is a short excerpt from the Trainer Bubble training materials for Mentor Training, which can be purchased from our website at


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