People often underestimate the importance of the the second phase of the mentoring cycle, negotiating. Mentoring partners who have known each other a while or share a power/status differential in the relationship are most apt to skip this phase. Often, as a result, mentoring partners end up disappointed that the relationship doesn’t work out as anticipated.

Why is this phase so important?

It is during this phase that mentoring partners establish agreement on learning goals and define the content and process of the relationship. Partners build a solid foundation for trust though conversation, consensus and commitment. Discussions of “soft topics” are often omitted in mentoring conversations because they are uncomfortable or difficult to talk about. But, by discussing them, you create a mentoring partnership anchored in well-defined goals, measurements for success, delineation of mutual responsibility, accountability mechanisms, and protocols for dealing with stumbling blocks.  

Here are a dozen questions you should be able answer before tackling your mentoring goals:

  1. Did we clearly define the goals?
  2. Have we articulated criteria for success?
  3. Have we put accountabilities in place for me, my partner and the relationship?
  4. Do we have clear expectations?
  5. Did we define each partner’s responsibilities?
  6. Have we developed and agreed to norms?
  7. Have we decided how often should we meet?
  8. Do we agree about how often should we connect and who should initiate the contact?
  9. Have we developed a workable strategy for dealing with obstacles?
  10. Have we discussed how and when we will end the relationship?
  11. Did we articulate our operating assumptions about confidentiality?
  12. Did we leave ourselves flexibility within the boundaries and limits of this relationship?

Looking for more strategies and checklists to help you establish agreements and move through all four phases? If so, you will want to check out