At one time or another every mentoring relationship faces hitches, glitches or stumbling blocks. Here are five of the most common problems and some possible solutions.

Problem 1: Breach of confidentiality

Solution: Be sure to set up an agreement about confidentiality early in your relationship. If there is a problem later on you can always refer back to that agreement. If there is a breach, don’t let the situation fester. Deal with it directly and immediately. Renegotiate confidentiality ground rules to eliminate lingering doubts.

Problem 2: Lack of spirited participation and mutual engagement

Solution:  Regularly evaluate your learning process, the progress towards goals and satisfaction with the relationship. If you and your mentoring partner find yourselves in a rut doing “the same old same old,” brainstorm a list of new learning opportunities, including those that will reinforce, accelerate and push new learning forward. This will help keep the learning fresh and momentum moving forward.

Problem 3: Procrastination

Solution: Frequently job demands may make it difficult to carve out the time for your mentoring relationship.  Remember that taking time ultimately saves time. There are a number of options for overcoming this stumbling block: (a) examine priorities, (b) renegotiate your mentoring work plan, (c) work on your time management skills, or (d) consider calling time out if you need to regroup.

Problem 4: Poor follow-through

Solution: Poor follow-through results when mentoring partners fail to clearly define what needs to be done from one session to the next .Try reviewing your mentoring to-do list at regular intervals. A journal or notebook can serve as a handy reminder tool and also a way to keep the relationship on course.

Problem 5: Don’t seem to be making any progress

Solution: Revisit your learning goals. They may be fuzzy,  too big , or too lofty to realistically accomplish. Break each goal, into specific objectives and identify strategies to achieve them. Celebrate the mini-milestones as you accomplish each of them.

When you experience a hitch, glitch or stumbling block . . .

  1. Check it out immediately.
  2. Talk openly and candidly with your mentoring partner in a collaborative, problem solving way by:
  • Letting go of personal issues and positions
  • Focusing on the facts.
  • Describing the problem.
  • Coming to a shared understanding of the issue.
  • Brainstorming possible new strategies.
  • Choosing the strategy that has the highest likelihood of success.