The bond between a client and a life coach can be viewed as a type of mentoring relationship. Mentorship is defined as a connection developed between two people with the goal of achieving professional and personal development (Mindtools, 2020). Under this definition, the life coach serves as the “mentor,” sharing knowledge, experience, and advice in order to help clients gain confidence and make powerful changes to their lives.
While a life coach will develop many comprehensive plans over the course of their career, each one unique to a client’s own individualized goals and needs, the mentoring relationship itself will generally be subject to some notable stages of development. To understand the evolution of the relationship, one can refer to the four stages of the mentoring relationship.
1. Initiation Stage
In her book Mentoring at Work, Kram discusses a notion previously explored in research—that individuals entering the adult world are likely to encounter many developmental tasks raising concerns about self, career, and family (Kram, 1983). Someone acting in the role of a mentor has the potential to support, guide, and counsel young adults through these many areas of concern (Kram, 1983). This sets the stage for defining the stages of the mentoring relationship.
The initiation stage referrs to the initial bond that occurs between the client and the life coach. In this early stage of the connection, the mentor and client get to know one another and clarify interests, values, and future goals (gvsu.edu, 2020). This helps to lay the foundation upon which future work is built.
2. Cultivation Stage
Once the relationship has been established, the bond develops into the cultivation stage. At this point, it will be of interest to those taking life coach training to know that trust has been achieved between mentor and mentee, and optimal benefits from the relationship can be gained (Kram, 1985). During this stage, each session becomes progressively more useful to the client (Kram, 1985).
3. Separation Stage
As the client becomes more confident and self-reliant through the many lessons learned through the mentoring relationship, an inevitable decline in the bond characterizes the separation phase as the client outgrows the need for guidance (Kram, 1983). If many of the learning goals of the mentee have been attained at this stage, both parties should feel satisfied that the timing of the separation is appropriate (Kram, 1983). Meetings may still occur, but could become much less frequent. The mentor should be helping the client establish good self-management strategies, while offering opportunities for meeting on an as-needed basis (Steemit, 2018).
The separation stage can at times be accompanied with stress and other feelings of negativity, should the separation arise as a result of something other than the natural, mutually agreed upon closing of the relationship. As an example, if the mentor feels no more can be learned, but the mentee is not on board with terminating the relationship, the individual may feel abandoned, betrayed, and angered (Daniel, 2006). Therefore, careful consideration is needed at this stage to determine how to approach it appropriately.
4. Re-definition Stage
The final stage of the mentoring relationship is characterized by a natural redefining of the union that results from the separation phase. The main change is that the hierarchy of the mentor and mentee relationship is no longer at play, with the two parties becoming equal peers (Kram, 1983).
Why Knowledge of These Stages Can Benefit the Person Becoming a Life Coach
When taking your life coach courses, it’s helpful to have a clear understanding of some theoretical concepts before starting up a practice of your own, including the existing research on the stages of the coach-client relationship. The individuals you eventually have under your personal guidance may not adhere in their behaviours and actions precisely with the definitions aligned under the four mentoring stages—yet having some knowledge of what to expect in the client-coach relationship timeline can be helpful in allowing you to understand what’s considered to be conventional for certain patterns and milestones.
As you begin to recognize progress taking place and goals being attained, for example, you can begin to set the stage for the impending close of the relationship so that the client isn’t blindsided or disgruntled by the suggestion. At the same time, you can begin preparing self-management tactics for the client, along with a proposal for having meetings when needed so they needn’t ever feel abandoned.
As you look for ways to foster relationships with your clients and build the right personal development plan for them, these stages will no doubt prove to be useful along the way as a source for referring to several milestone expectations.
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Mindtools (2020). Mentoring: A Mutually Beneficial partnership. Retrieved from https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newCDV_72.htm#:~:text=Mentoring%20is%20a%20relationship%20between,person%2C%20or%20%22mentee.%22
Kathy Kram (1983). Mentoring at Work (Scot, Foreman and Company, 1985). Retrieved from https://www.southampton.ac.uk/~assets/doc/hr/The%20stages%20of%20mentoring%20relationships.pdf
gvsu.edu (2020). Stages of a Mentoring Relatioship. Retrieved from https://www.gvsu.edu/cms4/asset/F498AEF2-B735-1F53-0FF1910D220EA0A5/baylor_university_guidelines.pdf
Kathy E. Kram (1983). Phases of the Mentor Relationship. Retrieved from https://www.jstor.org/stable/255910?seq=1
Daniel, Jessica Henderson, PhD (2006). Introduction to Mentoring. Retrieved from https://www.apa.org/education/grad/intro-mentoring.pdf
Steemit (2018). 4 phases of mentoring relationship by Kathy Kram. Retrieved from https://steemit.com/steemiteducation/@fun2learn/4phasesofmentoringrelationshipbykathykram-gtye7z9t4u
National Academics of Sciences (2019). The Science of Effective Mentorship in STEMM. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US). Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK552775/