Each mentoring relationship that you have will look a little different. The unique personalities and situation of each pairing will create a new relationship. However, you will find that mentorship will usually follow similar stages. Understanding these stages will help you plan meetings with your mentor.

Ideally you will have reached the end of this cycle before the end of your planned mentoring relationship. However, you may find, depending on how long the relationship is, that you may go through the cycle again or shorten the stages to bring it to a conclusion.

Want to Know More? Learn some Secrets to Mentoring Success.

Stage 1: Engaging

This first stage is about getting to know each other and setting the foundation for future work. Take a slow start to the process and allowing some time to introduce yourselves and talk about goals and your work experience.

This is not wasted time, but time to get comfortable and build trust with each other. If you and your mentee feel heard and comfortable with each other, you will be able to have more challenging discussions later.

Try to spend more time listening than talking to your mentee. Although you have lots of experience and stories to share, spend time listening to your mentee to asking questions so you can get to know each other. Think about being a “good listener.” Good listening means:

  • Paying full attention with no distractions such as a phone.
  • Listening until the speaker has finished their thought.
  • Listening to understand and not to just respond.
  • Paying attention to tone and body language.

When you are working with a mentee from a different culture than your own, consider how their communication style may differ from yours. Sometimes you may feel frustrated with each other because your communication style differs. Cultural difference can be due to ethnic difference but also gender, experience, age, and personality.

For example, direct or indirect communication can be quite different in practice. Nodding could mean agreement (direct) or it could mean that your listener understands what you are saying (indirect). Your mentee could directly ask questions and explain their challenges or they could indirectly allude to challenges through stories or circumstances that illustrate challenges but don’t clearly state them.

Want to Know More? Learn about cultural competency in Providing an Intercultural Context.

During the Engaging Stage, you’d don’t need to set detailed goals, but try to get a sense of your mentee’s expectations for your mentoring relationship. Asking “How can I help?” is a good question to open discussion.

This stage is usually quite short and only lasts for the first meeting or two. But it is important for laying the groundwork for the rest of your mentoring relationship.

Want to Know More? Find tools and plans in What to Do in Your First Meeting.

Stage 2: Goal Setting

This second stage is about determining the desired outcome and working with your mentee to set goals to reach this outcome.

It is helpful to spend some time establishing an agreement that sets out what is going to be included and worked on in the mentoring relationship. This will set clear expectations such as:

  • Ground Rules, times, frequency, agenda, formality, follow -p between meetings
  • Confidentiality, what and if anything can be shared.
  • Boundaries: Scope of time and availability, of topics for discussion (i.e. personal or work)
  • Triggers: both positive and negative (i.e. lateness)

While you are considering setting goals that relate to your mentees desired outcomes, look for “Sleeper Goals.” These are goals that come up as the mentering relationship matures related to skills or changes the mentee wants to address. Turn goals into SMART goals and record them (SMART Goal Setting Worksheet).

Want to Know More? Read about Setting Goals with Your Mentee and Setting SMART Goals.

Stage 3: Empowering

This phase is where the mentor, as we usually think of it, happens. This is the stage that mentors and mentees will spend the most time in even if they cycle through the phases more than once in their mentoring relationship. It is where you support your mentee through the work of reaching their goals.

This is the time when listening, asking questions, and providing resources or guidance to help your mentee is critical. This time isn’t about you providing answers or solutions for your mentee, but instead providing tools or opening discussions that help your mentee find the solutions that work for them.

The goal of mentorship it to empower. This means that you are showing your mentee where to find answers or to understand how to do a Canadian job search or the Canadian work culture. This will equip your mentee to continue to make good decisions or perform well long after your official mentoring relationship is complete.

Providing feedback that is both affirming and constructive can be challenging. It can feel much easier to provide feedback to your mentee about actions and ideas that are working well for them. It can be more awkward to provide feedback that challenges assumptions or prompts reflection about what is not working for your mentee. However, sometime this feedback provides the biggest opportunity for growth.

Use feedback to:

Support: Listen to what your mentee is saying and provide accountability to them and their goals.

Challenge: Encourage them to step out of their usual path and seek out perspectives different from their own.

Clarify: Work with your mentee to be clear about their goals and how they want to reach them.

Valuable feedback encourages discussion. Be open to receiving feedback from your mentee about how things are going. Their feedback can challenge your assumptions and widen your perspective. When you are open to listening to your mentee, they are more likely to be open to listening to you.

Want to know more? Read the chapter “Enabling Growth through Feedback” in Bridging Difference for Better Mentoring by Lisa Fain and Lois Zachary.

Stage 4: Transitioning

When you are getting close to the end of the mentoring program, it is time to assess the progress and the relationship. As the mentoring relationship is closing, set up your mentee to continue to work on their goals or think about setting new goals.

Reflect: Share what both you and your mentee learned through the relationship.

Sustain: Discuss how you both can continue learning and implement the things you learned in the future.

Celebrate! A celebration can be simple, but it is good to reflect on how much you and your mentee have progressed. Express gratitude through words or notes. Be willing to accept gratitude from your mentee however they choose to express it.

Transition: After a mentoring relationship is concluded formally, it can be good to transition the relationship. You can choose to restart the cycle and work through new goals, meet more informally, stay in touch, or close the relationship.

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