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Best Practices

Steps to Building Successful Mentoring Relationships
Frequently Asked Questions


Steps to Building Successful Mentoring Relationships
Your First Mentoring Meeting - Establishing a Partnership

The first mentoring meeting is critical. It is important at the very beginning of the mentoring process to get to know each other and clarify your overall mentoring goals. The end result of this conversation will be a mentoring agreement.

Step 1 - Get Acquainted
  • Find the commonalities. Number of years in the industry, have you both worked for the same organization, similar career paths, common skills, etc.
  • Look for uniqueness. Share what specialized knowledge you bring to the partnership, do you speak a foreign language, bring past military experience, etc.
  • Explore hobbies. Do you have a hobby? What do you do when you are not working?
  • How similar/different are your behavioral styles? What are the benefits of being matched with someone who is a different behavioral style? A similar style?

Step 2 - Discuss Your Overall Mentoring Goals
  • Where are you going?
  • What are your visions and aspirations?
  • Where are you now?
  • What are your strengths, weaknesses and behavioral style?
  • How can your mentor help you to?
    • Build Technical Skills
    • Multitask
    • Navigate the Organization
    • Explore New Ideas
    • Forge a New Career Path
    • Expand Network
    • Build Confidence
  • Choose your top 3 mentoring goals.
Step 3 - Create a Mentoring Agreement
  • Clarify mentoring goals, roles and responsibilities.
  • Establish a meeting schedule.
    • Where?
    • When?
    • How long?
    • Frequency?
  • Determine who will initiate meetings.
  • Consider geographical differences and make accommodations.
Step 4 - Solicit Supervisory Support
  • Make plans to brief the supervisor on your plans to participate in the program.
  • Provide the supervisor with a Mentoring Program events calendar for the coming months.
Step 5 - Create a Confidentiality Agreement and No-Fault Termination Clause
  • Outline the parameters for information sharing.
    • For example, "What we discuss stays between the two of us." Or "What we discuss stays between the two of us unless you give me permission to share it with others."
  • Be sure to include the No-Fault Termination Clause.

First 30 Days - Creating a Mentoring Action Plan (MAP) Back to Top

This stage of the relationship is a collaborative effort. Mentors create a safe environment for the Mentee to examine behaviors or areas that they want to change. A key outcome of this conversation is a plan of action (or Mentoring Action Plan). A Mentor can be a wealth of knowledge during this stage by sharing resources, developmental ideas and opportunities.

Step 1 - Review Your Top 3 Mentoring Goals
  • List your mentoring goals in order of priority.

Step 2 - Create a List of Learning Activities
The most successful plans are those that have a range of learning activities that encourage:
  • Learning by doing (ex., special project, writing a memo, etc.)
  • Learning from others (ex., shadowing, situational mentoring, etc.)
  • Learning from challenging experiences or "stretch assignments" (ex., project outside of department, leadership role, etc.)
Step 3 - Create a Timeline
  • Determine how many hours, days or weeks it will take to complete each activity.
Step 4 - Input your data into the Mentoring Connection Website.
  • Continue to update and fine tune your activities, timelines and schedules as needed.
Step 5 - Begin Your Mentoring Journey
  • Always keep in mind that the actual journey is an important part of the mentoring process and many times can be the most rewarding!


90 Day Check up: Suitability of the Mentoring Match Back to Top

Step 1 - Reflect on the suitability of the match

Within the first 90 days, the partnership should have a good sense of the suitability of the match:
  • Evaluate the suitability of your match (Good match, poor, etc.)
  • How often have you met?
  • Do you feel energized after meeting with your partner?
  • Are you satisfied with the amount of time you are investing?
  • Have you canceled more than three meetings in a row?
  If you responded unfavorably to more than two of the above questions, continue to Step 2.
  If not, congratulations! You are right on track.

Step 2 - Explore obstacles to a suitable mentoring match

Check any or all of the factors that are creating tension in the mentoring relationship:
  1. Lack of trust.
  2. Lack of respect for differences.
  3. Lack of a confidentiality agreement.
  4. Personal issues (family crisis, serious illness, etc.).
  5. Unable to make mentoring a priority.
  6. Unclear goals and objectives for the mentoring partnership.
  7. Unrealistic expectations.
  8. Lack of support from the supervisor.
  9. High workload.
  10. Geographical differences (Mentor or Mentee is located in a different state).
If you responded unfavorably to factors 1-5, you may want to contact the Program Coordinator for assistance in closing down your mentoring relationship. If you responded unfavorably to 6-10 continue to Step 3.

Step 3 - Design a plan to overcome the obstacles impacting your relationship
  • Arrange a meeting with your partner (face-to-face, if possible) to discuss the obstacle that is impacting your relationship. Put an action plan together to overcome the obstacle and make mentoring a priority!

Renewing Commitment Back to Top

As important as the initial stages of defining and developing the mentoring partnership may be, it is critical to consistently monitor the quality of the mentoring interaction and to evaluate its progress. Arrange periodic check points with your partner (face-to-face, if possible).

Discuss the following:

Step 1 - Reaffirm original goals and refocus energy

Within the first half of your partnership, you should feel a level of trust at this point in the program. Arrange a mid point evaluation meeting with your partner (face-to-face, if possible).
Discuss the following:
  • What did we set out to accomplish together?
  • How do we feel we're doing?
  • Should we shift our goals at all?
  • How are we doing in honoring the agreements we made in our Mentoring Action Plan and Agreement?
  • What are we each doing "right" that has made this partnership work as well as it has?
  • What signals did we give that demonstrated we could trust each other?
Step 2 - Redefine goals and amend the Mentoring Action Plan

Print a hard copy of the Mentoring Action Plan (from TMC).
  • If new or different goals have emerged as a result of the discussion in step 1:
    • What goals would you like to head for from this point forward?
    • What learning activities would be realistic and have impact in the time we have left?
Step 3 - Identify and address problems or barriers
  • What, if anything, has been difficult or disappointing in working together?
  • What could we each do to improve this partnership?
  • Are there new agreements we'd like to put in place?
Step 4 - Input any changes to your Mentoring Action Plan and complete the Mid Point On-Line Evaluation via the Mentoring Connection Website.


Celebrate Success! Back to Top

How to close down a mentoring relationship

Set up a meeting to recognize how you and your mentoring partner have benefited from the mentoring relationship and program.

Step 1 - Take stock of how you have benefited from the mentoring relationship

The partners will want to close down the mentoring relationship with the same spirit and enthusiasm in which it began. Arrange a meeting with your partner (face-to-face if possible). Discuss the following:
  • Did we accomplish our mentoring goals?
  • What have we appreciated about each other?
  • How have we helped each other grow?
  • If this were the last time we were ever going to see each other, what would you want to be sure to express in the way of gratitude?
Step 2 - Explore the return on investment
  • In what specific ways have we observed the mentoring program improving the organization?
  • How can we apply (leverage) what we learned in the program to other aspects of our job/relationships?
Step 3 - A new beginning

Although this meeting signals the "closing down" of the formal mentoring relationship, explore the ways in which you will continue to stay in touch with each other and help to build mentoring as part of the organization's culture:
  • What are some ways we can plan to stay in contact?
  • In what ways can we help to continue to build mentoring as part of the organization's culture (For example, recommend the program to a friend or colleague, participate as Mentor or Mentee, advocate for the program to senior management)?
Step 4 - Complete the End of Program On-line Evaluation via the Mentoring Connection Website.

Frequently Asked Questions

Mentee Concerns

  1. I do not want to take advantage of my Mentor's good will. How do I make sure that I am not overstepping my boundaries?
  2. Why doesn't my Mentor return my calls?
  3. I feel torn between my Mentor's advice and philosophies and my supervisor's. Whose advice should I heed?
  4. I know my Mentor means well, but I do not feel that I am getting much from our partnership.
  5. Are there any additional expectations of the Mentees?
  6. How can I get my supervisor to be more involved?
  7. What action do I need to take if my supervisor has changed at some point throughout the program?
  8. Will Mentees have to accept the suggested partnership match?

Mentor Concerns

  1. My Mentee does not appear to be any closer to his/her goals since the onset of this program. What can I do to "jump start" this partnership?
  2. Although I did take the time to fully evaluate the commitment involved in becoming a Mentor, I feel as though my Mentee is asking for more time than I can spare.
  3. My Mentee is having problems with his/her supervisor. What should my level of involvement be?
  4. As a Mentor, why can't I edit the Mentoring Action Plan (MAP) or Mentoring Agreement forms?
  5. Will Mentors have to accept the suggested partnership match?
  6. Do supervisors have a role?

Issues both partners might face

  1. Can Mentors mentor more than one Mentee?
  2. Can individuals be both a Mentor and Mentee at the same time?
  3. How does the matching process work?
  4. What if we do not "connect" with one another? Is our partnership doomed?
  5. Should I be able to trust my Mentor or Mentee?
  6. What is the time frame for the program?

TMC Website - Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Why doesn't my Mentoring Action Plan give a completion date?
  2. How can I access my TTI Success Insights™ Report?
  3. How can I review my Mentor's/Mentee's background?
  4. How do I access the evaluation?
  5. Why does the system ask for supervisor information?
  6. Why can't I pull up a certain form?
  7. How can participants update their profile and application form once it has initially been entered?


I do not want to take advantage of my Mentor's good will. How do I make sure that I am not overstepping my boundaries? Use the Mentoring Agreement as your guide throughout the partnership. The more detailed the agreement, the clearer the boundaries will be. Ensure that you are both up front about your needs and expectations. Be specific about the amount of time that will be invested, and be respectful of your Mentor's professional responsibilities.

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Why doesn't my Mentor return my calls? Keep in mind that your Mentor has multiple responsibilities and time constraints of his/her own. You might want to try another method of contact such as e-mail. If you do not get a response after three tries, you may want to investigate. Is there a big deadline looming in the horizon? Is an annual report due? If you feel that your Mentor's interest and time is fading, it never hurts to talk about it.

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I feel torn between my Mentor's advice and philosophies and my supervisor's. Whose advice should I heed? As the old adage goes, "Take what you like and leave the rest." As long as it does not jeopardize your current position, take the advice you feel most comfortable with. Use your own judgment. More often than not, there is usually more than one right way to do something.

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I know my Mentor means well, but I do not feel that I am getting much from our partnership. The mentoring relationship is the perfect place to sharpen effective diplomacy skills. It never hurts to ask for what you want and to initiate a "fine tuning" session that will benefit you both.

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Are there any additional expectations of the Mentees? Yes, the Mentors should be keeping their supervisors informed of their mentoring progress and schedules to ensure that mentoring does not conflict with work responsibilities, assignments, and priorities. They will also be expected to participate fully in various developmental opportunities, and attend mentoring forums and various networking events.

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How can I get my supervisor to be more involved? A few easy-to-use tools within The Mentoring Connection website can help ensure that your supervisor knows where you are in the program. On the Home page, below the Hot Topics section, you have access to a "Keeping your Supervisor in the Loop" document, which can give you ideas on how to talk with your supervisor about the program. In the Mentoring Action Plan section, you have the option of sending progress updates to your supervisor. This will help him/her understand what your goals are and what you have accomplished.

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What action do I need to take if my supervisor has changed at some point throughout the program? Consider having a meeting or a few quick informal conversations with your new supervisor so you can talk with him/her about the program. One thing that can help is to bring your Mentoring Action Plan and Mentoring Agreement along so your new supervisor will be aware of what you want to accomplish with your Mentor. If you change supervisors (or if your current supervisor's information changes), please update his/her new information in your mentoring profile (hover over the Pre-Work tab, click My Profile, and click Edit). This is extremely important so we can ensure that your new supervisor (or current supervisor with changed information) receives all communications about the program. You may also want to contact your Program Coordinator or The Training Connection for assistance if needed.

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Will Mentees have to accept the suggested partnership match? No, this is a voluntary partnership. The Mentoring Program Coordinator will work to ensure that both partners are happy with the facilitated match. Also, either partner can withdraw from the partnership if their needs are not being met, or if there is a lack of compatibility of goals. If either partner decides that they want to withdraw from the partnership, please ensure that the other partner is aware of the decision and contact the Program Coordinator or The Training Connection as soon as possible.

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My Mentee does not appear to be any closer to his/her goals since the onset of this program. What can I do to "jump start" this partnership? There could be many factors that may be causing slow progression toward your Mentee's goals. You may just want to take time out for lunch or coffee and play the active listener role for a bit. There could be trouble on a personal level, or perhaps s/he is dealing with a conflict in the office? A little listening can go a long way. If there does not appear to be problems of that sort, then you may want to play the challenger role. Tactfully express your concerns to your Mentee on his/her lack of progress. You may want to provide the Mentee with new challenges that s/he could fit into his/her program. Such challenges may include volunteering to assist on a short-term project or joining a professional organization.

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Although I did take the time to fully evaluate the commitment involved in becoming a Mentor, I feel as though my Mentee is asking for more time than I can spare. At your next scheduled meeting, go over the Mentoring Agreement with your Mentee. Ask him/her about his/her thoughts on the time that has been allotted in the Mentoring Agreement. Be candid with your concerns on the extra time being requested and enlighten him/her on the time constraints and responsibilities that can affect your availability. Discuss how you can deal with related issues in the future if other time consuming responsibilities come up.

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My Mentee is having problems with his/her supervisor. What should my level of involvement be? You can help your Mentee without getting directly involved. It is best not to take sides. You can be both a counselor and a guide, but just remember that it is more helpful to your Mentee if you play a supportive role rather than being another "fly-in-the ointment." The best way to assist your Mentee in these situations is to let him/her assess the problem and develop his/her own solution while you provide constructive feedback.

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As a Mentor, why can't I edit the Mentoring Action Plan (MAP) or Mentoring Agreement forms? Because the program is Mentee-driven, only the Mentees are permitted to edit and update the Mentoring Action Plans and Mentoring Agreement forms. These tools serve as conversational pieces between Mentors and Mentees. As a Mentor, you should regularly check the MAP and Agreements forms and send the Mentee feedback on any changes that you come across.

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Will Mentors have to accept the suggested partnership match? No, this is a voluntary partnership. The Mentoring Program Coordinator will work to ensure that both partners are happy with the facilitated match. Either partner can withdraw from the partnership if their needs are not being met, or there is a lack of compatibility of goals. If either partner decides that they want to withdraw from the partnership, please ensure that the other partner is aware of the decision and contact the Program Coordinator or The Training Connection as soon as possible.

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Do supervisors have a role? Yes, supervisors play a key role in mentoring partnerships. In fact, the partnerships are really a triad: Mentor, Mentee, and supervisor. Supervisors may work closely with their employees and Mentors in defining the employee's professional development plans. They might also help their employees find developmental opportunities in day-to-day activities or remove roadblocks to allow active participation in the mentoring program.

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Can Mentors mentor more than one Mentee? Yes – however it is recommended that Mentors commit to no more than 2-3 mentoring matches at any given time. Once Mentors have met their capacity for matched Mentee (s) they will want to change their availability in The Mentoring Connection to Closed (which will take their name off the available Mentors list so Mentees cannot request them).

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Can individuals be both a Mentor and Mentee at the same time? Yes – however, this depends on the program itself. The participant will need to contact the Program Coordinator and ask if they are allowed to participate as both user types. If the Program Coordinator endorses their request, they must sign up in the system twice, creating two different User IDs and Passwords (one for Mentor and one for Mentee). Another option is that the Program Coordinator may contact The Training Connection, Inc. and ask to create a new User ID and Password for the individual's new role in the system.

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How does the matching process work? To facilitate a suitable match, Mentees will review profiles from volunteer Mentors. They will be encouraged to interview two to three potential Mentors before making a final decision. Once the Mentor has been determined, the Mentee will send a request for match. If the Mentor accepts the request, the match will be made in the system automatically. For courtesy purposes, we ask that the Mentor responds within 48 hours of the matching request so the Mentee can still explore other match possibilities.

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What if we do not "connect" with one another? Is our partnership doomed? Some of the best mentoring relationships are those partnerships where there are significant differences between the Mentor and Mentee. Although at times these relationships can be a bit of a challenge; as long as trust and respect are present on both sides, these partnerships can be equally as rewarding.

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Should I be able to trust my Mentor or Mentee? Absolutely – trust is the foundation of the relationship and a crucial element in the success of your mentoring partnership. It is important to take great care when developing your Mentoring Agreement. Issues of trust and confidentiality should be the cornerstone of that Mentoring Agreement and should be discussed openly and candidly from the onset.

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What is the time frame for the program? The time frame really depends on the program. Selected participants will commit to a specified time period formal mentoring partnership. The partners' commitment requires a willingness to engage in various mentoring activities for approximately two to four hours per month. These activities may include face-to-face meetings with their partners, group sessions, and phone conferences, along with a variety of developmental experiences such as situational mentoring, shadowing assignments, and stretch assignments. The partners will determine how the scheduling best meets their needs. Although the formal support will conclude at the end of the year (time frame depending), informal mentoring may continue long after the structured program ends.

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Why doesn't my Mentoring Action Plan give a completion date? While the Mentoring Action Plan (MAP) does show the last time you have updated the form, the MAP will only show it as "saved." The idea is that the MAP is a "living document" and can always be updated and changed as you complete and add new activities. Remember to go in periodically and update your MAP and add accomplishments. It will be neat to see how things progress through the program! Remember that you also have the ability to send your supervisor and update on your MAP.

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How can I access my TTI Success Insights™ Report? Once you complete your pre-course DISC Assessment, you will be emailed a TTI Success Insights™ report. However, if you have misplaced or lost the report, please contact The Training Connection so we can resend you the copy of your report. Please do not retake the DISC Assessment, you are authorized to take the DISC Assessment once.

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How can I review my Mentor's/Mentee's background? Log in to The Mentoring Connection. Click on the Plan & Agreement section of your mentoring account. In the Partner Assignment section click the View button next to his/her Application form. This will open your Mentor's application form so you can review it as needed. Remember that detailed information for using the resources and features of The Mentoring Connection is available in the online user's guide; found in the Resources section of your account.

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How do I access the evaluation? The Mentoring Connection website will allow for you to access multiple evaluations throughout the report. Typically you will receive an email that contains a direct link that will take you straight into your evaluation in your profile. In order to re-access the evaluation, hover your mouse over Mentoring Tools, click Evaluations, and click the link of the evaluation you are trying to respond to. Note: you will only be able to click on the evaluation link if the evaluation is still active. Once the evaluation is closed you will no longer be able to access it. It is important that you complete the evaluation by the due date specified on the website calendar or email you receive.

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Why does the system ask for supervisor information? In every mentoring relationship, it is helpful to have supervisor support and encouragement. By asking for supervisor information, it reminds the participant that the supervisor should play a role in his/her mentoring relationship. The specific role that the supervisor will play may depend on the details of the program.

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Why can't I pull up a certain form? The Program Coordinator has to "open" all forms or steps in the system. If you cannot see a certain form or page, most likely the Program Coordinator hasn't given Mentors/Mentees access to it yet. If a form is supposed to be open and you cannot access it, please contact your Program Coordinator.

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How can participants update their profile and application form once it has initially been entered? When participants are assigned new supervisors, transfer into new jobs or career fields, change their phone numbers, or experience other such changes they will typically want to update their profiles and application forms. Log in to The Mentoring Connection. In the Main Menu, click on Pre-Work then the Pre-Work menu item. Click on My Profile or Application, depending on what you want to update. In either form, you will see an edit button near the top right. Click on that button to edit your profile and/or application. For complete information on this topic, refer to the online user's guide; just click on the TMC User Guide link found in the lower left of any page. The information is found in the "Pre-Work" section: "My Profile" and "Application Form."

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