Skip to content | Change text size

Strategies for creating successful mentoring relationships

A framework for working together

This guide recommends that the mentoring relationship primarily be one that focuses on developing the work skills and abilities of the mentee. While mentoring relationships sometimes involve psycho-social support, the main focus of the mentoring relationship should remain on enhancing the professional abilities of the mentee by providing on-the-job support and assistance with task-based activities such as developing a research proposal, updating a CV, applying for promotion, or learning about the organisation.

This guide also recommends that the relationship be 'mentee-driven'. That is, while all aspects of the mentoring relationship should be negotiated and agreed upon by the mentee and mentor, the mentees' developmental goals should be the guiding principle in negotiating a plan of action and the mentee should be the one to initiate meetings and contact between meetings

Qualities of a good mentee or mentor

Mentoring relationships work well when both the mentee and mentor bring to the relationship certain qualities.

Mentees achieve more when they are:

  • Interested in developing their careers
  • Able to take responsibility for their own development
  • Open to receiving feedback
  • Willing to accept challenges
  • Positive about change and growth
  • Able to set goals and work towards them
  • Committed to working through on-the-job issues
  • Hungry for greater organisational knowledge

 Mentors are most effective when they are:

  • Committed to helping more junior colleagues develop their potential and skills
  • An effective listener
  • Willing to share their knowledge of the organisation
  • Patient and encouraging
  • Able to provide the mentee with contacts within the organisation
  • Able to provide feedback in a way that challenges and supports development

Clarifying goals of the mentee

Mentees can prepare for the mentoring relationship by thinking about and identifying areas where they would like some assistance. Some suggestions are listed below

  • Understanding promotion criteria & procedures
  • Knowing & using organisational structures
  • Management and leadership issues
  • Conflict resolution
  • Financial management skills
  • Strategies as a member of committees
  • Chairing meetings
  • Communication skills
  • Balancing teaching, research and administration
  • Career planning and development
  • Preparing a resume/interviewing skills
  • Research skills
  • Grant application writing
  • Teaching skills
  • Policy analysis and development
  • Time management
  • Balancing work and family
  • Staff supervision

Working out a time committment

Both the mentee and mentor need to think about the time they have available for and are willing to devote to the mentoring relationship. This includes:

  • the length of the relationship (e.g. 3 months, 6 months, 1 year),
  • the frequency of meetings (e.g. every two weeks, monthly),
  • availability for other sorts of contact (e.g. phone and email)

The time you have available should be thought about before the first meeting with your mentee/mentor. It is at this meeting that you will negotiate and agree upon a time commitment that suits both of you.

The first meeting

The first meeting is an important meeting where mentors and mentees get to know a bit about each other and negotiate the parameters for working together. It is vital at this stage to communicate to each other clearly and honestly.

  1. Exchange information about background, careers, interests
  2. Discuss each other's expectations about the mentoring relationship. Be as clear and specific as possible. If expectations don't match, negotiate a mutually agreeable plan
  3. Discuss and agree on the time length of the relationship and an end date, the frequency and length of meetings, and the location of meeting
  4. Discuss the issue of confidentiality
  5. Begin a plan of action by discussing the mentee's goals. Very often, the initial needs expressed by mentees are general. It is important to spend adequate time discussing the issues together to clarify the work situation and the real needs of the mentee.

Subsequent meetings

Subsequent meetings should occur as agreed between the mentee and mentor in their first meeting.

  1. At the second meeting, a more detailed plan of action can be developed, where goals for the mentee can be broken down into specific tasks. Agree on the tasks for the mentee to complete by the next meeting.
  2. At the third and subsequent meetings, the mentee should present the results of the set tasks.
  3. Mentor and mentee should then discuss the progress made by the mentee (and include obstacles met in trying to achieve desired goals).
  4. The mentor can then provide feedback and analysis of issues, and offer advice and guidance for future actions
  5. The mentor and mentee then negotiate the next tasks to be undertaken and decide on the next meeting date

Winding up

It is important to have a process in place for concluding the mentoring relationship even if it has only been one of short duration. Having worked together for a number of weeks, months or more and with the end date approaching, a final meeting should be set. This meeting marks the formal ending of the relationship and can be used to review the process and outcomes.

Mentor and mentee should discuss:

  • Were goals initially stated by the mentee achieved?
  • Were goals redefined during the mentoring relationship and were these new goals met?
  • What other outcomes were achieved during the relationship?
  • Was organisational knowledge of Monash increased?
  • Were problem-solving skills enhanced?
  • What professional gains were made by mentee and mentor
  • What personal gains were made by mentee and mentor
  • What aspects of the mentoring relationship did you appreciate?
  • What aspects did you find challenging?