How to bring your mentoring relationship to a healthy end

Written by Laura Francis on 11 December 2019

Reading time: 3 minutes 30 seconds

It might seem strange to think about how to end a mentoring relationship. Admittedly, most people spend more of their time thinking about how to start a relationship or find a mentor rather than figuring out how to shut it all down.

But understanding how to bring your mentoring relationship to a healthy conclusion should be seen as an equally important part of your overall mentoring efforts.

You might think: why in the world would I want to end my mentoring relationship? Well, to answer that point, see if any of these statements sound familiar:

  • I feel like I’ve met my development goals.
  • Our conversations have become a little flat and predictable.
  • We end up talking about things unrelated to mentoring when we meet.
  • We haven’t met in several weeks or even months.
  • My development needs have changed since this relationship started.
  • I’m not sure my mentor is committed to this relationship.
  • I’m not sure I’m committed to this relationship.
  • My priorities have shifted and I can’t give this relationship what I should.

All of these (and many more!) are warning signs that it’s time to say goodbye to your mentoring relationship. Keep in mind that just because you may be ending the relationship at this point doesn’t mean that you can’t or won’t have a relationship with this mentor again in the future.

In addition, just because you take a break from one mentor does not mean you have to take a break from mentoring. You can (and dare I say should?) have more than one mentor and can absolutely say goodbye to one mentor while still engaging with another.

Tell your mentor that your goals have shifted, or that your priorities have changed, or that the two of you just don’t seem to be a good fit

How should I end my mentoring relationship?

When ending a mentoring relationship, you want to be as polite and amicable as possible, which means no ghosting!

The best thing to strive for is honesty. Tell your mentor that your goals have shifted, or that your priorities have changed, or that the two of you just don’t seem to be a good fit.

Whatever the reason, be forthright with your mentor and give them the chance to weigh in with their opinion and observations. You might be surprised to find out they were thinking the same thing.

If you planned your relationship well from the start and gave yourselves a timeframe to work within for this relationship, then you could use that deadline as a reason to assess your progress and end the relationship.

You can always extend this date if the relationship is generating quality ideas and support that you need, but with an end date established from the start, you and your mentor both know what to expect, how much time you are committing to the relationship, and how much time you have in order to accomplish your goals.

 



 

This may help you stay focused on your goals since you have a finite amount of time together.

When you reach an agreed upon end date and are ready to close your relationship, you can follow this easy three-step plan:

  1. Evaluate your progress. Think about the goals you’ve set and the progress you’ve made. Ask your mentor to do the same so that you can have a conversation about this. Did you meet your development goals that you established at the beginning of the relationship?
  2. Get feedback. Meet with your mentor and compare notes. Does the mentor’s feedback align with your own self-evaluation of the progress you made? What surprised you? What did you expect to hear?
  3. Plan next steps. Based on the conversation you and your mentor have, decide if it’s time to end the relationship. Did you meet your goals and feel confident in closing out this relationship? Do you need to adjust the goals given the feedback you received? Can this mentor help you with any new or revised goals? Are they willing to keep mentoring you at this point? Do you want them to?

Come to an agreement with your mentor on the status of your relationship and move forward from there.

It can be hard to think about saying goodbye to a good mentor and a positive mentoring relationship, but it can be detrimental to push the relationship beyond its natural stopping point.

Circumstances change, and just because it’s time to say goodbye to your mentor at this point doesn’t mean that you have to say goodbye forever.

By knowing when to say goodbye at this point in time, you make it easier for the mentor to say yes again at a later date.

 

About the author

Laura Francis is chief knowledge officer at River

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