Formal and informal mentoring programs are increasingly being viewed as important mechanisms to support leadership development programs, boost succession pools and build talent within organizations at both junior and senior levels.

Mentors can play a key role in helping to provide unique insights around how organizations really operate, key trends in an industry and share practical stories about their own lessons learned from their career.

Many times mentors and mentees/protégés are thrown together and fail to make the most of their mentoring relationship. This article provides seven key areas a mentor and mentee can focus on to create a more focused and impactful relationship.

Six Key Ingredients for Mentoring Success include:

1. Think about what you want out of the mentoring relationship.  Both mentors and mentees can benefit from doing some pre-work and thinking about what they want to get out of the mentoring relationship. It is often thought that the mentee gains the most, but in successful mentoring relationships point to a two-way process where mentors also benefit.

Questions to consider before the first mentoring meeting are: What do I want to get out of the mentoring relationship? What do I bring to the mentoring relationship? (skills, questions, insights, stories) What are my expectations?

2. Establish clear boundaries. It is important to establish clear boundaries for the mentoring relationship and conversations. How frequently are you going to meet? When? Where? How can you be contacted and at what time of day or night? It is amazing how some of the snags that mentoring relationships meet are caused by lack of clarity around boundaries.

Questions to consider are: What do I see as my role? What are my expectations? What areas does the mentoring extend to? What are my boundaries around meetings? (Time, location, frequency) When and how do I want to be contacted (email, phone) What’s a middle ground for both of us?

3. Create Meaningful and Relevant Goals.  Spend time during the first meeting having the mentee identify what their goals are for the mentoring relationship. What is it that they want out of the conversations. Wherever possible, encourage the mentee to create SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound). Throughout your conversations refer back to these goals and check in around the progress the mentee is making with them.

4. Create a Mentoring Roadmap. Having an agenda, or a roadmap, of where you want your conversations to go, will help maximize the time you have together. It can also avoid the awkward silence of “What do we want to talk about today?”.

Based on the mentees goals, it will be beneficial to identify several themes/topics the mentee wants to gain insights around. Schedule these themes into the meetings you have allocated. For example, meeting two may focus on industry trends, meeting three on time management, meeting four on biggest lessons learned, and meeting five may focus on technical issues.

5. Follow through. Successful mentoring relationships are based on trust and open communication. Follow through is an important part of trust. Follow through works both ways. As a protégé what have you committed to following up on? What action steps have you indicated you will be accountable for? As a mentor, what do you need to follow up on? What information, resources or contacts have you indicated you will provide?

6. Check In Along the Way.  It can be very useful to check in along the way as to how the mentoring conversations are going and make adjustments as necessary.

Three questions to ask at the end of every mentoring conversation are: What was useful about our conversation today? What are your next steps? What will you do/learn/explore before our next conversation? What changes should we make for our next conversation, or what areas do we want to focus on?

Incorporating many of these questions into your planning and mentoring conversations can add impact and benefit for both mentors and protégés, leading to a stronger relationship.