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Establishing the Relationship

Building rapport is the crucial first step in mentoring. Without this the relationship will surely fail.

How can we build rapport?

Being welcoming, warm and accepting is a really important beginning. It’s important to give space and encouragement and let your mentee know that you are fundamentally 'on their side' and wanting to help them to progress and learn. Being a mentor is about enabling others and in the process, you are also sure to learn and develop.

It is useful to understand the way your mentee prefers to learn (see below) and also to agree the way in which you will work together and issues of confidentiality. These are discussed further in the section on Confidentiality, Boundaries, Contract.

Learning styles:
Tuning in to how your mentee operates is important. How do they like to work? Are they a visual, auditory or kinaesthetic learner? For information on VAK learning styles and a test for you to try, follow the links to: and

Does your mentee need the whole picture or are they just keen to get the job done?
Would you describe them as a “touchy/ feely” individual or a hardnosed realist? The way the mentee talks will give us massive clues as to the kind of person they are. For information on Honey and Mumford’s Learning Styles and on Kolb, follow the link below:

There are various critiques of Kolb and of Honey and Mumford’s learning styles. For starters, you could access

As an educational professional, you will be well used to really listening and picking up the clues. To be an effective mentor you will need to be able to hear and understand where your mentee is coming from and to let them know this.

Useful skills for this stage of the relationship (and indeed throughout the relationship) are:


Active listening



Effective questioning

Summarising and focussing