Ground Rules for Establishing a Mentoring Relationship

June 30, 2010 - Mac Lake - Leadership Development, Mentoring

Starting a mentoring relationship is exciting but can soon turn awkward if you don’t get it started the right way.  Here area few ground rules to get off to a good start.

  • Confidentiality– Part of mentoring is sharing the fears, sins and scars of your soul. Some lessons of life are born out of deep pain. I will share things with a protege privately that I won’t share publicly. So it’s important that you establish a relationship of trust by committing to mutual confidentiality.
  • Have a Clear Time frame – Most of the time when two people enter into a mentoring relationship they neglect discussing a time frame for the relationship.  So from the very start discuss not only the frequency of your meeting but agree to have a start date and an end date for the mentoring relationship.  The end date doesn’t mean you have to stop the relationship but it provides a natural point to discuss if you will continue on or conclude the mentoring relationship.
  • Two way learning conversations – I always like to make it clear up front that our mentoring relationship is a two way learning relationship not a “teacher – learner” relationship.  Any time I am mentoring someone I realize I have a lot I can learn from them as well, regardless of their age or their lack of experience. So as you start the relationship let them know it’s a mutual learning experience. 
  • Agree upon a Specific Process or Plan – Most mentoring fails because they don’t have a process or plan to follow.  The first meeting or two goes well as they get to know each other but after that neither really knows where to go from there.  So from the beginning discuss what the mentoring time will look like and what development needs you will focus on.
  • Grant Permission to give honest feedback– Generally we are drawn to mentor people that we like and want to be around.  But this strong relational connection can create a hesitation to share the tough honest feedback that is needed in the development process.  So establish a ground rule of tough-honest feedback right up front.  I heard Bill Hybels share one time that he would ask a staff member, “Give me the last 10%”  We can have a tendency to be 90% honest, but it’s that last 10% that can make the biggest difference in someones development. 
  • Periodic evaluation of the mentor relationship – Not all mentoring relationships work.  And that is okay.  That’s why it’s important to evaluate the relationship on occasion to make sure you’re not wasting each others time.  Here are 3 evaluation questions you can ask to help you determine the effectiveness of the relationship:
    • Are you benefiting from our time together? In what ways?
    • Do you want to continue?
    • What do you want to do differently? What would you like to focus on in this next season of our mentoring?
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Mac Lake


My passion is multiplying multipliers

9 responses to Ground Rules for Establishing a Mentoring Relationship

  1. Hey Mac,
    Thank you for this post. I have started a leadership round-table with seven guys. I thought it would take the place of them each asking me to mentor them. We are going through “Visioneering” by Andy Stanley. I think it does miss something when we are this big. I try to meet with the guys one-on-one in between our monthly meeting, but it is hard.

  2. Thanks Mac. I am working on wrapping up my mentoring ministry proposal, and I will make sure to build in this knowledge. I look forward to staying connected through your blog.

  3. Great stuff here, Mac. By the way, I’m currently mentorless…Just saying 😉


  4. We’ll just have to take care of that when I get in town!

  5. Looking forward to seeing what you come up with. Send me a copy

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