Understanding Your Business Mentoring Relationship
The Business Mentoring Lifecycle
Many business mentoring pairs go through phases of their mentoring relationship, this is called the Mentoring Lifecycle. Paying attention to these phases can guide the relationship and create a more rewarding experience.
Phase One: Building the Relationship
Getting to know your partner is a critical yet often overlooked phase of the mentoring relationship. It requires patience and dedicated effort put towards building a foundation of trust. Begin by sharing your experiences, background and motivations for owning a business and engaging in a mentoring relationship. Learning about your partner allows you to ensure they are a good fit and increases the likelihood that the relationship will succeed.
This phase also includes setting some ground rules for the relationship and discussing your communication preferences. For example, you may only wish to speak with your partner between certain hours, or perhaps you would prefer to communicate via email only. It is also necessary to specify any confidentiality concerns in order ensure that both parties are comfortable sharing information with one another.
Finally, it is important to set a meeting schedule during this early phase in the mentoring relationship. Make sure you pick times and dates that are realistic and will absolutely work for both of you. We recommend using an online calendar app like Google Calendar to ensure that both parties have a record of your agreed upon schedule. Meeting more frequently at first can help to ensure that both of you are actively involved in the mentoring process.
Phase Two: Exploring Possibilities
After you have had a chance to get to know your partner, the second phase of the mentoring relationship involves setting goals and managing expectations. To do so, we recommend all mentoring pairs engage in a diagnostic conversation in order to identify the entrepreneur’s needs and the business problem(s) you will work together to solve. You can use the ‘Printable Mentoring Roadmap’ at the end of this section as a guide.
After you have identified a set of business problems, proceed by creating a list of time-bound objectives for just one easily attainable business goal. Doing so will give you an opportunity to celebrate an accomplishment early on in the relationship. Remember what you agreed upon regarding time commitments and try to remain realistic when you are exploring possibilities. In each meeting, clarify and restate the goal to each other and identify the next steps related to the goal.
Phase Three: Navigating Rough Spots
Inevitably, you will run into a rough spot or two over the course of the mentoring relationship. When this happens, we recommend having a quick check-in with your partner to take a moment and see how things are going, both within the mentoring relationship and in your mentor’s personal/business lives. Discussing any issues that exist and brainstorming solutions is generally enough to jump-start the relationship.
If you are encountering a challenge that you don’t know how to address, it is advisable to seek outside support. Always feel free to contact the MicroMentor support staff if you experience an issue you can’t handle yourself. We’re happy to help!
Phase Four: Completing the Cycle
As your mentoring relationship progresses, you’ll find that the Mentoring Lifecycle tends to repeat itself. As goals are reached, new challenges come to light. It is at this phase that it is important to step back, review what you’ve accomplished, and decide how to continue. If you have completed some or all of your goals it may be time to end the mentoring relationship, or you may both feel that there is still a lot of work to be done.
If you do decide to end the mentoring relationship, we recommend scheduling a formal closing conversation, at which time you can celebrate your accomplishments and plan for the future. A formal ending prevents the relationship from dwindling without focus or disintegrating from inactivity. It also gives each mentoring partner a needed sense of closure and a transition into a less formal partnership or a new mentoring arrangement. We encourage you to share your MicroMentor success stories on social media using the hashtag #MicroMentor or send your stories to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Your Printable Mentoring Roadmap
This document is intended as a guide for your first few mentoring conversations. By filling out this worksheet together, it can help you narrow the focus of your mentoring engagement, map out a plan for addressing a business challenge, and locate potential opportunities for future projects or other advising relationships.