Successful Mentoring Relationships: 5 Key Ingredients | by Jennifer Britton

As a professional coach, it's likely that there are several times in your career when you're going to want to find a mentor. Whether it's working with a mentor coach for your certification or credential, or finding a mentor to help you grow your business to the next stage, mentors provide invaluable feedback and insights you may not get in other places.

Below I share 5 areas to consider for a strong mentoring relationship.

As you go about your quest to find the right mentor and grow, consider these 5 areas:

1. What do you want out of the mentoring relationship? And what can you offer?

For best results, both mentors and mentees need to think about what they want to get out of the mentoring relationship. Mentoring is increasingly being seen as having a 'two way' benefit - with 'reverse mentoring' where the mentee or protégé supports the mentor around some of the newer workplace trends and approaches, becoming increasingly common.

As the protégé (the one being mentored) it's likely you're going to be 'driving the bus'. Make sure your meetings and touch points are focused on what's important to you, so spend time co-designing your relationship.

Questions to consider before the first mentoring meeting are:

  • What do I want to get out of the mentoring relationship? (eg. to build skills, get questions answered, industry insights, success stories)
  • What could I bring to the mentoring relationship?
  • What are my expectations?

2. Establish clear boundaries.

It's important to establish clear boundaries for the mentoring relationship and conversations. Importantly, note that the role of a business mentor will likely be different than the role of a mentor coach. So, when reaching out, be clear on specifying the purpose and roles.

Questions to establish clear boundaries include:

  • What do I see as my role in the relationship?
  • What are my expectations?
  • What areas does the mentoring extend to?
  • What are my boundaries around meetings? How frequently will you meet? When? Where? Timing and length of meetings?
  • When and how do I want to be contacted? (email, phone - and at what time of day or night)
  • And if necessary, what's a middle ground for both of us?

3. Create a Roadmap anchored in meaningful, and exciting goals.

Goals will anchor the mentoring conversations so think about these ahead of time. It can be helpful to assign specific topics to specific meetings ahead of time - creating a 'roadmap' for your meetings.

Given that mentoring is a very focused conversation it can be useful to identify the cornerstone of each of your conversations, anchoring them in meaningful - and exciting goals. Just as in coaching, consider how can these be made SMART-E (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound and Exciting).

Questions to consider are:

  • What are my overall goals for the mentoring?
  • What is my goal for each conversation? (Do I want to learn more about how the mentor did something? Do I want to sharpen my skills or learn more about how the mentor approached tricky issues? Do I want help with an obstacle?)

Throughout your conversations refer back to these goals and check in around the progress you're making with them.

4. Follow through.

Successful mentoring relationships are based on trust and open communication. Follow-through is an important part of trust - and it works both ways.

Questions for both mentor and mentee:

  • As a protégé or mentee, what have you committed to following up on? What action steps have you indicated you will be accountable for?
  • As the mentor, what do they need to follow up on? What information, resources or contacts have they indicated they will provide?

5. Check in along the way.

Just as in coaching, it can be very useful to check in as you go. This ensures the mentoring conversations are working as you both expected, and allows you to make adjustments as necessary.

Three questions to ask at the end of every mentoring conversation are:

  1. What was useful about our conversation today?
  2. What are the next steps? What will we both do/learn/explore before the next conversation?
  3. What changes should we make for our next conversation, or what areas do we want to focus on?


Mentoring is an important professional relationship we will want to leverage at different parts of our professional career. How can mentoring support you in your journey at the moment?

This article is updated and adapted from an earlier ezine article, "Mentoring Relationships that Work: Six Key Ingredients".

Editor's Note: Given the current COVID-19 crisis, you may like Jennifer's new Remote Working Whitepaper. Help you, your clients, mentor or mentee get up to speed quickly!

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Jennifer Britton

Contributing Author:

Jennifer Britton, MES, CHRP, CPT, PCC, is the author of seven books and has influenced a generation of coaches in the realms of team and group coaching. You may have read her writing, including Effective Group Coaching (Wiley, 2010), the first book in the world to be published on the topic of group coaching; From One to Many: Best Practices for Team and Group Coaching; or her latest, Reconnecting Workspaces: Pathways to Thrive in the Virtual, Remote and Hybrid World (2021).

Since 2006, Jennifer's Group Coaching Essentials and Advanced Group and Team Coaching Practicum programs have become known as the must-do training in the area of group coaching. Focused on providing coaches with best practices in designing, marketing and implementing group coaching, these programs have helped thousands of coaches launch their own group and team coaching programs in a wide variety of settings (public, corporate, non-profit). Together both courses are approved for 18.75 ICF CCEUs. These are the first two of 10 course pathways leading to certificates in Group and Team Coaching.

Potentials Realized's ICF-CCE programs are geared for aspiring group and team coaches, especially those wanting to work toward the New Advanced Credential in Team Coaching (ACTC) with the ICF.

Also check out our neuroscience course for group and team coaches (NLE-A), Team Coaching Essentials  and ACTIVATE Your Team and Group Coaching Superpowers. Prefer podcasts? Listen in to the Remote Pathways podcast, which explores the many different pathways to remote work, business and leadership.

Learn more about Jennifer & see all their articles here >>

Image of Mentor and Mentee enjoying themselves by fizkes via Shutterstock

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