Skip to content
Skip to main content

About this free course

Download this course

Share this free course

Exploring career mentoring and coaching
Exploring career mentoring and coaching

Start this free course now. Just create an account and sign in. Enrol and complete the course for a free statement of participation or digital badge if available.

3 The mentoring process

Four new, green shoots emerge from the soil, each one bigger than the previous one.
Figure 3 Growth and development

A mentoring relationship is all about growth and development which, at its best, impacts on both parties.

Clutterbuck (2008, p. 3) describes the relationship in five phases:

  • Phase 1: Rapport-building – mentor and mentee decide whether they want to work together and negotiate what each expects of the other.
  • Phase 2: Direction-setting – mentor and mentee achieve clarity about what each aims to achieve from the relationship and how.
  • Phase 3: Progress-making – having helped the mentee define and commit to personal change, the mentor must guide and support them as needed.
  • Phase 4: Winding down – when the relationship has helped to deliver the desired outcomes or the mentee outgrows the mentor.
  • Phase 5: Moving on/professional friendship – moving on from a formal mentoring relationship towards a less committed, more casual one.

Each phase requires different behaviours and competencies from the mentor.

Other authors describe similar structures, but the key elements for the mentor are building rapport, ensuring that the relationship is productive and knowing when to end it.

Activity 3 Which mentoring stage?

Timing: Allow about 15 minutes

Look at the descriptions below and decide which of Clutterbuck’s five phases of mentoring each pair are currently in.

  • a.Nick has a mentor called Alison. She is in a very senior role and hardly ever available. He finds this frustrating and doesn’t feel like he’s had a chance to get to know her or talk about his development.
  • b.Sue is very happy to have Louise as a mentor. They get on well and meet regularly. Although they are very clear on what they expect from each other in terms of the relationship, Sue feels she needs help to set some goals and progress.
  • c.Parminder has been working with her mentor, Andrew, for 12 months. She has really progressed during their time as mentor and mentee but often feels like she knows what he’s going to say.

Once you’ve chosen what phase they are in, consider what you would do next if you were in the mentee’s position. Make notes in the box below.

To use this interactive functionality a free OU account is required. Sign in or register.
Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).


  • a.Nick and Alison are still in Phase 1 – they haven’t done very well building rapport just yet, so the next move will be for Nick to formally book some time in Alison’s diary. If that doesn’t work, it may be time to consider a different mentor.
  • b.Sue and her mentor have successfully completed Phase 1 – rapport-building, and now they need to move towards direction-setting (Phase 2). Sue should feel fairly comfortable about raising this with her mentor as they get on well.
  • c.Parminder is ready to wind down the relationship (Phase 4). She’s starting to outgrow her mentor and is ready for new challenges. She must talk to her mentor and together they can find a way to move the relationship towards the more casual professional one outlined in Phase 5.

A mentoring relationship relies on honesty from both parties, so in each case it should be possible for the mentee to raise their issue. This is best done in a face-to-face situation and may provide a useful learning experience for both mentor and mentee.

Non-traditional mentoring processes

In the modern workplace, mentoring processes are diversifying. Online talent development company Insala (2015) lists the following examples:

  • Distance mentoring – a one-to-one relationship facilitated by technology, for example, email, Skype etc.
  • Situational mentoring – used for a short time to address a specific issue or purpose
  • Mentoring circles – members take turns to be mentor or mentee leading to a cycling of information/support around the group
  • Group or team mentoring – could be a mentor with several mentees or a mentee with several mentors
  • Peer mentoring – more of a reciprocal than hierarchical relationship, aimed at promoting a sense of community
  • Reverse mentoring – a less experienced, often younger, employee mentors a more experienced individual, encouraging both parties to teach and learn at the same time.

In this section, you’ve focused on how a mentoring relationship develops and changes over time, and you’ve looked at some different mentoring approaches. Next, you’ll consider how mentoring can benefit all of those involved.