Professional and Alumni

e-lecture Section IV: Developing Your Mentoring Action Plan

The development of a Self-Mentoring Plan requires analysis of the available resources. In other words, you need to explore alternative human and knowledge resources that could assist you in your planning for mentoring, and then determine which is the best approach to get what you need.

Your specific developmental challenges may require one of three types of mentorship: traditional, step-ahead or peer mentorship. You may also find value in secondary mentoring relationships like social or professional network connections or a niche mentor.

Traditional Mentors are the revered elder members of society/family, possessing wisdom or experience. The department head of the university would fit into this category.

Step-Ahead Mentors are the older siblings of society/family. They are slightly older and have more experience and knowledge. A graduate level student would be a step-ahead mentor for an undergrad.

Peer Mentors are our equals in society/family. They are from our peer group and are our colleagues and friends with whom we cooperatively share and learn.

Secondary Mentors can be extremely helpful in filling mentoring needs, especially when the ties you form are developed correctly and used wisely. Though an individual network tie may be of the secondary mentoring variety, when taken as a whole, the network may have the combined impact of a primary mentor.

A Niche Mentor will assist with one specific skill or task.

Activity 4.1: Reflection. What Type of Mentor do you need?

Given your current needs (on your goal worksheet), what value could each of these types of mentors bring to you as you work through the challenge presented? For example, how could a traditional mentor best help me with this issue? How could a step-ahead mentor help me with the issue? What value could a peer mentor bring with this issue? Consider the existing or potential networking opportunities in your life and determine if this mentoring avenue might be used more effectively and bring value to the issue at hand. Is there a niche in your life that needs a mentor now?

Write the answers to these questions in your journal. Then identify which type of mentor is best suited to the issue of concern.

journal activity


What Style of Mentor Is Best for Me?

The dynamics in a mentor-mentee relationship are important considerations. In activity 3.1b, you considered what mentoring role is most valuable to you. W. A. Gray (1986) describes four styles in the Mentor-Protégé Relationship Model (below) toward competent independence. These styles illustrate the development of a formal mentoring relationship. Willingness and openness to learn are absolute requirements for any type of mentoring. Style 1 is almost like sitting at the feet of the mentor, absorbing the mentor’s wisdom and submissively acting upon the direction of the mentor within your value system. Some may find this style of relationship challenging. However, heed the mentoring paradox: You cannot mentor others unless you are willing to be mentored yourself.

The style 1 relationship will likely apply if you have no successful experience or competence in the area of pursuit. If being in the style 1 state of the relationship troubles you, be encouraged by the knowledge that these are styles that one passes through. When you begin to gain experience and wisdom, the relationship should shift to “higher” styles.

Whatever style you begin at in your mentoring relationship will be determined by your willingness and motivation to learn in combination with your competence in the area. When you enter into a mentoring relationship, you must honestly assess your willingness and ability and then choose a mentor who meets the needs of the style you require for growth.

Gray’s Mentor-Protégé Relationship Model © 1984 


The mentor:


Is very directive and tells the inexperienced protégé what to do and how to do it.


Provides major direction to the protégé based on greater experience, realism, and expertise to do things and get things done.


Acknowledges the protégé’s competencies and experience and facilitates more equal contribution during interactions.


Delegates greater responsibility. Listens to and learns from the protégé.

Toxic Mentors

No environment is free from adversity. Seldom does a relationship develop smoothly and without crisis. Carl Jung said there is no coming to consciousness without pain. Every relationship has the potential for toxic effects, and the mentoring relationship is no exception.

You will not find a “perfect” mentor, but what you want to seek instead are real and honest connections. Perfection has no depth and no personality. Imperfection means that sometimes we will get upset with others, or they will get upset with us. The mentor-mentee relationship requires a commitment to stay in the relationship dialogue as long as both people are willing to work on the relationship. Working through crises is how a relationship grows from simply being an idea to having its unique reality.

The rough spots may frighten you. You may wonder what’s wrong with me or with the other person, or the relationship. You cannot escape such questions. To run from the challenge cuts off the possibilities for growth. Learning to limit the negative consequences of such relationships may be a necessary life lesson for you.

Keeping that in mind, there are several types of toxic mentors that you may have in your life:

  • The “Avoider” is the person who is never accessible.
  • The “Dumper” lets the mentee get into a new role or situation and lets them sink or swim.
  • The “Blocker” either avoids meeting the mentee’s needs, withholds information, or blocks development by supervising too closely.
  • The “Criticizer” publicly tears down a person or constantly criticizes.

There are several ways of handling toxic mentoring relationships.

  • If the fit isn’t right, be honest about the difficulties you sense in the relationship and end the relationship with the mentor. If you still need mentoring, find another mentor that fits better with what you need.
  • If you can’t stay away from the toxic relationship, balance the relationship with a support network and or draw upon your own internal resources to minimize the detrimental effects.
  • Although toxic relationships have an impact, you can look for opportunities in the situation and not be blinded by the dangers you foresee. Using the list of questions below may help you find opportunities in the situation:

What is great about this problem? (Robbins, 1991)

  • What is great about this problem?
  • What is not perfect yet?
  • What am I willing to do to make it the way I want it?
  • What am I willing to no longer do in order to make it the way I want it?
  • How can I enjoy the process while I do what is necessary to make it the way I want it?

Activity 4.2: Reflection. Toxic Mentors in My Life

In your journal, consider the primary mentors you have had in your life (Activity 3.1a.). Were any of them “toxic” mentors? What impact did that toxicity have on you at the time? What impact does it have on you today?

Consider your secondary mentors listed in Activity 3.1a. Were any of them “toxic” mentors? What impact did that toxicity have on you at the time? What impact does it have on you today?

How will you deal with toxic mentors in the future?

journal activity

Activity 4.3: Reviewing Your System of Social Support

Consider the supportive functions listed in the attached activity. Write down them names of the people who provide this type of support to you.

When you have completed the review, assess what type of support is missing in your life and add that area to a mentoring need.

journal activity

Linked Activity: Reviewing Your System of Social Support

Activity 4.4: Mentoring Needs

Have any of the activities in Section IV suggested any other needs you may have for mentoring? Enter those needs on the first pages of your journal.

As you look at the list of mentoring needs on the first pages of your journal, brainstorm at least three names of people that could mentor you in that area. Each area may have different names attached, but you may also see a recurring name as you look at the big picture of YOU. As you brainstorm potential names, think about people in the academic atmosphere—including faculty, students and administrators. Think about your family—maybe a parent, an aunt or uncle, sibling, or family friend. Consider other circles of people that are available to you in your Church community, volunteer life, organizations you belong to. In listing the names, write down people who practice the skill you wish to develop, people you admire and trust who may or may not have the desired skill, but may be able to refer you or make an introduction of you to a qualified person. KON headquarters may also be able to refer you to as persons who possess the desired skills AND are willing to serve as mentors. As far as “passive mentoring,” are there organizations or volunteer opportunities that you could be affiliated with that would likely offer you opportunity to develop the desired skills?

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Activity 4.5: Self-Empowerment

Have you been faithfully asking yourself the morning and evening empowerment questions? Remember, they will help you notice how you are in the world, but they will also help you see your life in a positive light and reduce your stress level!

Have you been using your support group of three to keep you accountable to this process? What do you need from them to complete the next section of this course?

journal activity



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