This question is pretty central to any mentoring program: how long should mentorship actually last?
And while there is no definitive answer (it’s kind of a how long is a piece of string), and while many mentorships often last indefinitely, there are some timeframes and best practices which make a lot of sense when seeking to run a mentoring program and establish some semblance of structure and cadence.
It’s also best to look at a mentorship as a journey with four distinct stages, stages which come with relatively predictable timeframes.
*note: these phases are semi-dependant on how often the mentor and mentee meet; they makes the most sense for a meeting/interaction cadence of between once and twice per month.
Phase 1: Foundation (1-2 months)
The foundation phase of the mentorship is all about creating a foundation for a good relationship. It’s about setting early expectations (such as how often you will communicate and through what channels), and creating goals and objectives for the next stage of the mentorship.
Success in the foundation stage requires strong input and activity from both the mentor and mentee to establish a great connection and create a framework so that future interactions are fruitful.
Phase 2: Progress (2-5 months)
Phase two is where a lot of the action takes place. It is during this pivotal phase that the mentee begins to pursue the goals and objectives set in the foundation stage.
This is the stage where the mentee becomes the catalyst of success – working hard to create action – which enables reaction from the mentor. If the mentee is stagnant during this period, the mentor will have trouble engaging and providing any real value.
Phase 3: Analysis and Revision (5-9 months)
Phase three is the phase at which mentoring really becomes mentoring. It is the phase whereby the mentor can start to impasse their wisdom and experience on to the mentees behaviours and outcomes. It is also the period of the mentorship where the mentee and mentor can work together to revise the goals and objectives of the mentorship – and work together to create working plans for the months and years ahead.
During this stage, the mentor becomes more responsible for a healthy mentorship. If the mentee is actively pursuing their activity and seeking feedback, the mentor should work hard to stay aligned with progress and provide really valuable feedback and analysis.
Phase 4: Dormancy (9+ months)
The reason phase 4 is called dormancy and not death or decline is that every mentorship will naturally taper off over time – but not end. Each mentor only has so much experience and advice to offer, limited bandwidth, and a certain domain expertise.
But all good mentorships result in a relationship which can be renewed and leaned on at any point in time. In the same way that the mentee progress and accumulates new experiences, so does the mentor. Mentees will likely find that their great mentors can offer new insights as they become executives, business owners, and even more well travelled.
The 9-12 month mark is typically a great time to set the mentorship on the back-burner, and seek mentorship and guidance from someone who can work with you on progressing from the new plateau or challenges you have now reached.
It’s important to note that none of these phases are mutually exclusive (more than one can be occurring at any one point in time e.g making progress and analysing these progress simultaneously).
It is also important to note that there is absolutely no reason that an individual cannot be engaged in a number of different phases with a number of different mentors.
At Mentorloop, we like to think of mentors as a board of personal advisors. Just as a company has a board who oversee the operations, outcomes, and accountability of an organisation – a personal advisory board can do this for an individual to great effect.
Ideally, every individual will be constantly building out their early phase mentorships, while maintaining a number of strong connections with previous mentors who they can turn to when desired.
When running a mentoring program at your organisation, seek to create mentoring relationships which last at last 9 months (up to the analysis phase), after which people naturally enter the maintenance phase.
To get even more out of your mentoring program, initiate new matches for every individual after 9 or so months so that each individual is expanding their network and expanding their opportunities for growth indefinitely.
Running a perpetual mentoring program in this way, and creating a true culture of mentorship (without any of the effort) can be easily achieved through the use of mentoring software features like My Match, which enable individuals to browse and connect with a new mentor at any point in time – resulting in incredible outcomes for individuals and organisations.