Contents of a Mentoring Agreement
By Barry Sweeny, 2002
There are at least three approaches which organizations can use to establish an agreement and clarity of roles and goals between a mentor and a protégé.
- A program can allow a mentor and a protégé to develop their own mentoring agreement.
- A program can provide a completed agreement that each party in the mentoring relationship reads (hopefully understands and remembers) and signs.
- The program can provide a template to guide to mentoring pairs and ensure that they consider and reach a consensus on what we have found are the essential elements needing discussion and agreement.
Strengths and Limitations
Each approach has it’s own inherent strengths and limitations.
1. Method One:
+ This method requires the most thought, and hopefully as a result, would result in the deepest understanding.
— However, a lack of mentoring experience will often result in a lack of foresight about issues and problems which can occur, and these may be left unaddressed with this approach. The undiscussed topics can lead to problems later on when they are emotional, personal, and thus, harder to resolve.
2. Method Two
+ This approach ensures that the pair have the opportunity to understand potential pitfalls and reach agreement in advance to avoid these, or to smooth the problem solving process should that pitfall occur.
— However, signing a form does not guarantee the people have even read it, much less understood it’s contents. Therefore, should this method be used, it’s best to distribute the completed form in a group setting like a training, work through the wording as a group, answer any questions, and be sure that the issues involved are understood.
3. Method Three
This method is my personal; preference.
+ Providing the issues a questions the mentoring pair must answer for themselves ensures that the question is thought over and weighed to some extent. It ensures that agreement about how to solve or avoid problems are likely to reflect a consensus, Finally, it ensures that issues which have been typical are considered and not missed or ignored.
— This method takes some time, although it can be done by mentoring pairs on their own time.
What a Mentor -Protégé agreement Should Include
- Each Person’s Roles (What each person agrees to be like during mentoring – eg. friendly, positive, etc.)
- Each Person’s Responsibilities (What each person will DO, eg. carefully listen, assume the best intentions of the partner, guide the other to self-assess, etc.)
- Each Person’s Expectations (What each person expects the other person to be and do.)
- Boundaries – This allows the program to use what it has learned are tricky areas and to structure clarifying what is and is not appropriate topics for the mentoring pair. For example:
- In business it’s important for mentors to support the protege’s career development, but it sould be clear very early on that the mentor’s role does not include helping the protege get a new job or promotion.
- In youth mentoring, the kids need to be protected from invasive or even predatory “moves” by a mentor. Almost always, screening of mentors eliminates this problem. Yet mentors enjoy a close relationship as much as anyone, and need to be protected for getting themselves into compromising situations. Kids can easily misinterpret what a mentor means when extending friendship. Such a misunderstanding can then be transmitted to parents and the mentor will have a big problem to deal with. Yet protege’s also long for more close relationships than they may get, and so, seek to go “places’ where mentors must not go. The original mentoring agreement can clarify these boundaries and help the protege understand that it is for their own protection that the PROGRAM (not the mentor) makes this a requirement.
- One or two long-term goals for what the relationship will accomplish – stated in desired behaviors or achievements) **
- Shorter-term objectives (what needs to be done in the next 2-6 months to deliver progress toward each of the long-term goals. **
- An action plan for each objective, with specific steps and who will do what, by when. **
- The number of times the mentor and protégé will meet within a specified interval (eg. every week, every month, etc.);
- A confidentiality definition and agreement about what from mentoring discussions can be disclosed by whom, and under what specific criteria;
- Termination of the formal mentoring relationship:
- Option A – Criteria for when the relationship will end (criteria define why it would end and leaves when unstated.
- Option B – An ending date
- Signatures of both the mentor and protégé.
Notes ** – It is very desirable that a mentor – protegé agreement be reached as early in the relationship as possible, typically during their first pair meeting. This helps to ensure that the strengths and experience the mentor has to offer are well suited to the goals and interests of the protegé.
However, some protegés may take days, weeks or even months to clarify and decide on goals for their growth and future. This especially can happen with younger, less experienced protegés who have yet to learn to think and plan ahead very far. Mentors need to show great patience in this case, and will find that helping their protegé learn to set goals and plan ahead may be the primary value they can offer the protegé, and that other mentoring agenda items may need to be dealt with later, if possible.
Be sure to check out the Example Mentoring Agreement in the “Tools” section of this web site.