by Dr. Linda Phillips-Jones

A recent client of ours, after observing some training I facilitated, said to me, "You know, mentoring is in the details". Her statement was absolutely true! Details make the difference between merely ordinary and exceptional mentoring relationships.

Mentors monitor numerous details in their own roles and actions, and they also give their mentees a hand keeping track of theirs. Read the following examples, and decide which ones fit your mentoring style and the needs of your mentees.

1. Details while exploring the possibility of working together

More and more potential mentees are going to be contacting you for help. Think about these details as you look at each potential relationship:

  • Your other commitments and how this relationship could enhance or hinder them;
  • How this potential relationship ties to your personal vision and core values;
  • What help the potential mentee expects/is really asking for;
  • How often and for how long he/she would like to interact;
  • What your intuition and past experience are telling you;
  • When you need to give each other your answers
Grow up

2. Details while building the relationship

If you agree to proceed, include these (and other) details during the first phase of your partnership:

  • Contact information for each other;
  • Appropriateness of phone and e-mail contact between meetings; when to expect to hear back from the other;
  • Specific details of what the mentee tells you about his/her life, career, and dreams for the future;
  • Concrete ways of building trust;
  • Your initial impressions about your mentee;
  • Specific ways you can learn more about your mentee;

3. Negotiating the arrangement

Be sure to think through, agree upon, and even write down such details as:

  • Your mentee's tentative goals and objectives;
  • Logistics (where, when, and for how long you'll meet)
  • Confidentiality rules
  • Role of the mentee's manager (or family members, if appropriate);
  • How you'll give each other feedback;
  • Ways you'll measure the mentee's progress and the quality of your mentoring relationship;
  • Additional contact information and communication ideas

4. Helping your mentee develop

During the longest phase, in which your mentee is learning and growing, take care to keep track of:

  • Each goal and development activity your mentee is trying;
  • What you agree to do at each step;
  • Meeting dates and when goals are to be reached;
  • Resources (noting ones that help, ones to discard);
  • People to whom you can refer or introduce the mentee;
  • Upcoming events in his/her life, your life, the partnership, the program;
  • Ways to build in spontaneity;
  • Good questions to ask;
  • Specifically, how you're reacting and what you require (from your mentee or from other sources)

5. Ending the formal relationship

As you wind down and end the formal aspect of your partnership, consider these details:

  • Specifically, what you've observed in your mentee;
  • Concrete ways to convey your appreciation, observations, and well wishes for the future;
  • Feedback from your mentee about how you could be a better mentor;
  • Future options for the relationship;
  • What contact (if any) to expect from each other after this;
  • Completing all requirements of your mentoring program

Be aware of what's going on and what's likely to come next. At the same time, don't over-structure your mentoring relationships, or they won't be any fun. For more ideas on being an effective mentor, see The Mentor's Guide and the "Mentoring that Makes a Difference" audiocassette package in Products.