How do the parties make a mentoring relationship with so many different components come together and work? They focus on their interpersonal relationship first by respecting their similarities as well as their differences. They develop a structure for their mentoring partnership that encourages appropriate timing, contains sufficient challenges, and achieves mutual outcomes. They allow the relationship to evolve in a structured, yet flexible manner that capitalizes on the strengths of both the mentor and mentee.
Evolution of the Mentoring Relationship
Phase 1: Building rapport
The mentor and the mentee are exploring if they can work together. They are determining the alignment of values, establishing a mutual respect, agreeing on the purpose of their relationship, and establishing the roles, behaviors and expectations. This can only occur through open and honest dialogue
Rapport building competencies needed include the skills of active listening, empathizing, and giving respect; of offering openness and trust to elicit reciprocal behavior; and of identifying and valuing both common ground and differences.
Phase 2: Setting direction
This phase is all about goal setting. In the building rapport phase, the partners were establishing a sense of purpose; here they are determining what each of them should achieve through this relationship. They begin linking long-term goals with what is happening day-to-day.
Direction setting competencies needed include goal identification, clarification, and management; personal project planning; and testing the mentee's level of commitment to specific goals as well as the reality of achieving them.
Click here to watch a video entitled "Goal Setting: Creates The Finish Line." Goal setting is more than setting specific, measurable and time targeted objectives.. it is about motivation and meaning. This video has a series of quotations set to music to inspire the mentoring spirit in you. When you are finished, use your back arrow to return to this page
Phase 3: Progression
This phase is core of the relationship and the longest of the four. Here the both the mentor and mentee become more comfortable about challenging each other's perceptions. They explore issues more deeply and experience mutual learning. In addition, the mentee takes an increasing lead in managing the relationship and the mentoring process itself.
Progress sustaining competencies needed include the ability to sustain commitment, ensure sufficient challenge in the mentoring dialogue, help the mentee take increasing responsibility for managing the mentoring relationship by providing constructive feedback, and being available and understanding in helping the mentee cope with setbacks.
Phase 4: Winding up and transition to a professional relationship
This phase occurs when the mentee has achieved a large amount of his or her goals or feels that they have the confidence to begin to plan how to continue the journey on their own. It is not always obvious to the mentee that they have reached this point; the mentor needs to be sensitive to this and can lead the mentee to this conclusion by comparing their goals to their achievements. This process helps avoid unhealthy dependency on either individual's part.
Winding up by celebrating your accomplishments and begin to redefine the relationship, often into a friendship where both parties can utilize each other as an ad hoc sounding board and a source of networking contacts
Transitional competencies needed include sensitivity to the position of others and the ability to foster a positive end to the partnership. Relationships, which had been allowed simply to drift away, were viewed by participants as unsatisfactory; while those that had effectively managed the dissolution process were almost all regarded positively.
Adapted from Kram, KE (1985)
Reciprocal Behaviors that Bolster Mentoring Success
There are some behaviors or competencies that are needed by the mentor or mentee only, and we will explore those in our separate mentor and mentee training. However, the majority of behaviors beneficial to the mentoring process are mutual in nature.
So what are these important reciprocal behaviors?
: The mentor needs to be able to explain good practice and illustrate it through story and anecdote. At the same time, an effective mentor is able to help the mentee articulate their thoughts, feelings, and ideas through appropriate questioning.
The mentee needs many of the same skills, to ensure that the mentor both understands the issues they present and responds in the appropriate manner.
Listening: Effective mentors spend less than 20% of session time talking. They recognize the importance of helping the mentee work things through and establish his or her own insights. They use questions to make frequent shifts of perspective, so that the mentee can understand the issues more fully. They are also skilled in the use of silence, often suggesting that the mentee take a few minutes to reflect quietly on a particular insight.
Mentees also need to exhibit good listening skills. In particular, the mentee needs to ensure that he or she distinguishes between the specific and the general, when accessing advice or the mentor's experience.
Respect: Without respect on both sides, the relationship will never achieve the level of openness required. Respect is not the same as deference – it is based on recognition of the value of the other person's intellect, values, and experience.
Goal clarity: Mentors and mentees need to have a clear understanding of the mentee's objectives. If these change, both need to be able to recognize that this has happened and adjust accordingly. In addition the more the mentee understands the mentor's goals, the easier it is for them to ensure the relationship is reciprocal.
Challenging: One of the most common complaints of mentors and mentees is that they do not feel the other person is challenging them sufficiently often or strongly. In many cases, mentees report that this is the most useful part of the relationship, while mentors report that this is the part that provides them with the greatest intellectual stimulation.
Self-awareness: Self-awareness is essential for the mentor, to be a proactive and insightful role model and to recognize when and how to draw appropriately on his or her own experience. For the mentee, self-awareness provides a practical foundation, upon which to reflect and to select what to adopt from the mentor's advice and example
Commitment to learning: Current research suggests that commitment to learning is more important than commitment to the relationship Mentors, who have given up active learning, tend to be more self-obsessed and directive than those, who genuinely see the relationship as an opportunity to develop their own skills and acquire new understandings.
Reflection/ preparation: Alongside lack of time to meet, one of the principal reasons mentoring relationships fail is that one or both parties fails to invest time in thinking things through, either before or after the mentoring dialogue. In preparing for a mentoring meeting, the mentor should attempt to establish the facts about the topic or issue, explore what they want to achieve from the dialogue and, where possible, identify some examples to illustrate the options available. After the mentoring session, the mentee should always spend at least an hour reflecting on what has been said and examining the implications more deeply.
(Clutterbuck, David, 2004)
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