• Mentoring

Early warning signs a mentoring relationship is in jeopardy

Read about potential warning signs that could indicate your mentoring partnership and business are in trouble and learn to take corrective action.

As you begin to work together in your mentoring relationship, be alert for the warning signs that indicate potential danger for the business or your mentoring partnership. Examples of these signs include:

  • Lack of contact between mentor and entrepreneur, including failure to meet or make regular contact
  • Personal issues for either the mentor or entrepreneur that require the full attention of the individual
  • Severe business challenges for which no corrective course of action is apparent
  • Emotional responses during or following mentoring discussions such as anger, frustration, or fear

In the following fictional example of a mentoring relationship in peril there are several warning signs. As you read about the situation, attempt to identify the warning signs being demonstrated – if you are a mentor, watch for warning signs being sent by the mentor in this case and if you are an entrepreneur, make note of the warning signs being sent by the entrepreneur.


Randy was matched with his mentor, Jennifer, just three months ago. She has lots of experience in marketing and has been able to provide some valuable suggestions already. Randy wishes that he was able to reach Jennifer by email or telephone in between mentoring meetings but knows that she is exceptionally busy due to the recent expansion announced by her firm.

In the last mentoring meeting, Jennifer did most of the talking. Although Randy often feels intimidated by her assertive comments, he knows that she has the experience that he lacks. That will be even more important now that his key employee has left to work for a competing firm.


Share your list with your mentoring partner and discuss the potential consequences of ignoring the warning signs evident in this example. In the preceding case there were several warning signs. Consider the following signs and the potential consequences of the warning signs:

Entrepreneur is sendingMentor is sending
Randy has recently lost a key employee which may be a serious concern for the businessJennifer is not accessible for informal communication between meetings causing potential lapses in communication
Randy feels intimidated by Jennifer’s style during meetings – this may be a personality or style difference that should be explored to confirm that the mentoring relationship is compatible over the two year termJennifer’s availability may have changed due to the expansion of her firm – is she still able to maintain her mentoring commitment?
Randy is not fully participating in mentoring discussions and will get more value from mentoring if he takes more initiative in mentoring meetingsJennifer is doing most of the talking during meetings which often leads to a poor mentoring environment where the entrepreneur receives direction rather than development

If you feel that you have identified an early warning sign, the most important thing is to take action! The action you take should be guided by your personal comfort – perhaps there is a minor interpersonal matter that can be discussed in a mentoring discussion by referencing the mentoring agreement you are creating in this orientation. If the matter is personal, you may decide to simply inform your contacts at Futurpreneur Canada, so they can provide some direction on next steps. The most common solution to most Early Warning signs is to include it as a topic on your next mentoring meeting agenda whether the issue is about the business or the mentoring relationship.

While it is not commonplace, a larger conflict may occur due to a breakdown in communication or a poor match of personalities. Futurpreneur Canada does not look to assign ‘blame’ but rather look to establish a better match – one that considers the needs of the entrepreneur and his/her business as well as the value of the mentor. We encourage you to not wait until your regular Quarterly Reporting to contact us if problems of this nature exist within your mentoring relationship.

Conflict may arise from any number of sources; however the way to resolve issues is always the same – communication. Have the courage to discuss the matter and you will not only resolve the conflict, but you will also strengthen your relationship with your mentoring partner.