Closing the mentoring relationship and celebrating success
Closing the mentoring relationship
In formal mentoring relationships there is usually a predetermined period for the duration of the mentoring relationship, defined by the organisations programme. Closing the relationship is an important aspect of the mentoring programme and relationship.
The most important aspect is to structure the close of the mentoring relationship to enable both parties to feel that they are able to review and celebrate what has been achieved.
Occasionally, the mentoring relationship can end prematurely, this may be mutually agreed as all of the mentees objectives have been met or, as in some cases, mentoring relationships naturally decline and the mentee and mentor drift apart as the importance of the mentoring relationship wanes, the intensity of learning lessons, and the mentee no longer calls on the mentor for support.
It is recommended to regularly review how the relationship is working, the quality of the interactions and the extent to which both parties are achieving their objectives for the relationship.
Clutterbuck’s (1985; 2004) five phases of the mentoring relationship refers to the final stages of the mentoring relationship as winding down, and moving on:
- phase 4: The winding up stage. Here the mentee and mentor plan to close the relationship by reviewing and celebrating what has been achieved
- phase 5: The moving on stage. This involves reformulating the relationship, whereby the mentee and mentor close the formal mentoring relationship and may move on to become friends and colleagues. Mentors are often referred to as a professional friend, particularly within the context of informal mentoring.
Defining and celebrating success
Throughout the mentoring relationship it is beneficial to explore and identify goals for the relationship to provide the basis of ongoing review. Formal mentoring relationships are often framed by the wider organisational context and remit of the programme. The context and framework can influence the nature and purpose of the relationship. This can extend to the mentoring relationships processes and outcomes:
- process: This involves reviewing topics such as the frequency and duration of meetings, the technology that was used for hosting the meeting for example how effective was the chosen way of communicating e.g. Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Google Meet?), the clarity of purpose of the meetings, trust, honesty and authenticity
- outcomes: This involves reviewing the extent to which learning and development for the mentee have occurred. This might be in relation to behaviours, performance, leadership skills,confidence, self-esteem and resilience.
Having explored and defined success towards the beginning of the mentoring relationship, the mentee and mentor can review progress and identify the changes that have occurred. It also provides the opportunity to thank each other for their commitment, energy, contribution and time.
Transitioning from a formal to informal mentoring relationship
When the formal period of mentoring comes to an end, the mentee and mentor may decide to continue in the mentoring relationship, transitioning into an informal mentoring relationship. The key difference is that the mentee and mentor are self-directed, and can therefore decide on the overall purpose, framework and evaluation approach for their mentoring relationship.
Some of the distinguishing characteristics of formal and informal mentoring are summarised in the table below.
Characteristics of formal and informal mentoring relationships
|Purpose of the mentoring
|Set within an overarching programme with organisational context
|Set within the mentee’s individual context
|Matching support by the organisation
|Mentee and mentor self-match
|Relationship duration and time commitment
|Duration is set by the organisation e.g., 6 or 12 months with the time commitment set e.g. 1 hour per month
|Relationships can last for many months and years and time commitment varies over time as the relationship develops and matures
|In formal programmes both mentors and mentees are trained for the role
|This usually does not happen, although mentors and mentees can seek out training
|Evaluation, methodology and timings are set within the organisational context and programme requirements
|Mentees and mentors have the flexibility to evaluate if, how and when they choose to evaluate the mentoring relationship
Planning your final mentoring conversation
As your formal mentoring relationship comes to a close, here are some questions to consider as you plan for your final meeting:
What questions do you want to explore in the ‘winding up’ or ‘moving on’ stage of the mentoring relationship?
What are your indicators of success, from an individual and relationship perspective?
To what extent did the degree of formality influence the way in which the mentoring relationship developed over time and what if anything would you have liked to have been different?
If you are looking to transition your mentoring relationship to an informal one, what are the changes you would like to propose in terms of how you will work together e.g. frequency of contact, topics you would like to discuss?
- Ending on a High Note: Effective Closure of Mentoring Relationships (2016)
- Clutterbuck, D., (2005). Establishing and maintaining mentoring relationships: An overview of mentor and mentee competencies. SA Journal of Human Resource Management, 3(3), pp.2-9.