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What makes an effective mentoring relationship?



Research shows that several key indicators are associated with mentor and mentee perceptions of what makes an effective mentoring relationship. In this guide, we focus on two: rapport and clarity of purpose.


Rapport is often referred to as ‘chemistry’, the extent of similarity and difference between the mentor and mentee and their ability to establish an open and trusting relationship. During the initial phase of the mentoring relationship, the degree of rapport will determine if the mentor and mentee wish to work together.

Rapport occurs when:

  • Mentees and mentors share common values, have a shared purpose, are genuinely attentive and interested; there are no hidden agendas
  • Both the mentor and the mentee can be confident that whatever is said will remain confidential between them; they are able to say what they think without worrying about being criticised or judged
  • They have mutual respect and positive regard and trust each other to do what they say they will; they trust each other’s goodwill
  • The relationship is liberating/empowering (as opposed to confining/disempowering).

Clarity of purpose

Clarity of purpose determines direction, focus and aids in the navigation of the relationship.

High clarity of purpose occurs when:

  • There is a long-term direction and defined purpose for the relationship
  • There is an agenda for each meeting to focus the conversation on the long-term direction
  • The relationship and mentoring outcomes are emergent and organic, aligned to the overall long-term direction.

Questions to consider

  • Reflecting on your previous experience of a mentoring relationship, to what extent would you describe it as effective?
  • What were the indicators that influenced the degree of effectiveness?
  • Consider the ways in which you develop rapport in conversations. How could you build on these in a future mentoring relationship?


To find out more you may wish to consult the following resources: