when to renew or end your partnership.
In most formal
mentoring programs, the mentoring relationship is created for some minimum
period of time. However, when that time has expired, the mentoring relationship
doesn't have to end. Even if your relationship was formed without the
aid of a formal program, there comes a time when the partnership reaches
a turning point. For some, the mentoring relationship simply fades out,
while others limp along, both partners reluctant to explicitly end or
reshape an ineffective relationship. Such change may mean that the relationship
is ending-or should end. Or it may mean that it can continue, but in a
different context. Following are tips to identify when your relationship
should change direction or end as well as tips to help you handle the
Part of your role as a mentor is to recognize the signs that indicate
your relationship may be reaching a transitional point. For example, is
your protege contacting you less often? Exhibiting less openness in communications?
Expressing less appreciation for your input? Subtly indicating that he
or she can get help for a growing number of issues elsewhere? If so, these
signs may indicate your relationship is ready for a change.
As a mentor,
not only must you be aware of the signs, you must take responsibility
for confronting the transition issue. Do not approach the issue with defensiveness;
understand that the needs of your protege may have changed. Let your protege
know what you are noticing and indicate a nonjudgmental desire to deal
with differences in the relationship.
The best way for you and your protege to end, renew, or revive your mentoring
relationship is to do it consciously, intentionally, and openly to ensure
that both of you experience fairness. First, you and your protege should
assess your individual experiences in the relationship. Second, meet to
share those assessments and give each other feedback on how the relationship
has progressed and whether it has met your expectations as well as your
protege to share current mentoring needs. For example, is your protege
interested in developing technical, organizational, leadership, or managerial
skills? Does he or she wish to take part in a peer mentoring or a cross-cultural
mentoring relationship? You and your protege should jointly decide how
to meet new needs. One option is to continue the relationship, but with
a different focus. Your protege may be unaware that you have skills and
knowledge that are relevant to the new direction that individual is headed.
However, if your protege's needs are no longer ones you can meet, you'll
need to refer that person to others who can help.
Your assessment of the relationship may result in a decision to end the
partnership. Letting go is rarely comfortable, but it is necessary if
your protege is to flourish and continue to grow without you. Whether
your protege is moving on to a new mentor or is ready to go it alone,
you need to give the relationship some closure. To do this, plan a celebration
to mark the occasion. The celebration does not have to be elaborate; just
meeting for coffee or lunch is appropriate. This last meeting is a good
time to share stories and reflect on the relationship. Reflection allows
you to examine what you both learned and accomplished during the mentoring
process. The final meeting is also a chance for your protege to express
appreciation for your guidance and for you to wish your protege well in
his or her future endeavors.
it is appropriate to remain in touch with your protege once the relationship
is over; however, resist the temptation to follow up with the individual
right away. Your protege needs time to establish independence. In the
mean time, document your own mentoring experience so you have a reference
for your next mentoring relationship.
Ambrose is a managing partner at Perrone-Ambrose Associates, Inc., an
organizational development consulting firm that helps organizations create
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Executive, January/February 2002