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The 4 Stages of Mentoring Success

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Mentors push and pull their mentees, drawing from them their very best efforts and attitudes, all in order to make mentees the best versions of themselves they can be. Though there are many different types of mentoring relationships, they all have four general steps or phases that lead to mentoring success. Lois Zachary, a professor of adult and continuing education, introduced the 4-stage model of the mentoring relationship in her book, "The Mentor’s Guide."

Orienting the Mentor and Mentee

Before a mentor/mentee relationship can begin, both parties must orient themselves with each other. This orientation should start out with basic getting-to-know-you type questions and answers, before moving into a deeper conversation about why each person wanted to be a mentor or mentee. These initial conversations help mentors and mentees get to know each other better, as well as provide insights into their motivation for joining a mentoring relationship.

Developing a Plan

After initial introductions, Zachary suggests to develop a plan of action. Mentees should specify what, exactly, they are seeking guidance and support for, and mentors should specify exactly how they can offer the best help. This plan of action should be goal-oriented for both parties. For example, the mentee could indicate that his goal is to learn how to handle his personal finances, while the mentor could indicate that her goal is to compile a list of resources that could help the mentee better handle his personal finances.

Monitoring Mentoring Success

Zachary's next phase involves mentors and mentees developing a way of evaluating whether the plan is being implemented successfully. In a sense, mentors and mentees are figuring out a way to grade each other’s success. For example, the mentor could evaluate the mentee based on the mentee’s ability to complete self-selected tasks, and the mentee could evaluate the mentor based on the mentor’s willingness to provide feedback when it is asked of her.

Maintaining the Relationship

As the action plan unfolds, and the mentoring relationship continues, both the mentor and mentee must work to maintain the effectiveness of the relationship. This means meeting with one another, reviewing their evaluations of the relationship, and making adjustments to the action plan or the evaluation methods. For example, after a rough week the mentee might insist that he and the mentor meet at least twice a week so that the mentee is guaranteed appropriate feedback and support when he needs it.


Samuel Hamilton has been writing since 2002. His work has appeared in “The Penn,” “The Antithesis,” “New Growth Arts Review" and “Deek” magazine. Hamilton holds a Master of Arts in English education from the University of Pittsburgh, and a Master of Arts in composition from the University of Florida.

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