Your questions ……Answered
- What is mentoring?
- What does a mentor do?
- Are mentoring and coaching the same?
- Why do organisations implement formal mentoring programs?
- How are informal and formal mentoring different?
- Why do organisations need a structured mentoring program? Shouldn’t managers perform this role?
- What are the benefits of mentoring?
- Are there different types of mentoring models in a structured program?
- What is the role of mentoring for diversity and inclusion?
- Should a woman have a male or female mentor?
- What can women achieve through mentoring?
- Can we create a program ourselves?
- What does an outside consulting firm offer a prospective client?
What is mentoring?
Mentoring is a professional relationship in which an experienced person
(the mentor) assists another, (the mentee) in developing specific skills and knowledge that will
enhance the mentee’s professional and personal growth
What does a mentor do?
Mentors draw upon their own wisdom and experience to:
- Facilitate the mentee’s growth by sharing resources and networks
- Challenge the mentee to move beyond his or her comfort zone
- Create a safe learning environment for taking risks
- Focus on the mentee’s total development
Are mentoring and coaching the same?
No, although related, they are not the same. Mentoring is holistic, focusing on all aspects of the mentee’s life that can impact performance, satisfaction and motivation i.e. work, career, family, work-life balance. Coaching is specific, aimed at identifying competency gaps and providing information, skills and strategies to close those gaps. While mentoring is led by the mentee, the coach leads coaching.
- Occurs outside the manager-employee relationship
- Provides both personal and professional support
- Focus on career and professional development that may be outside a mentee’s area of work
- Relationships cross job boundaries
- Relationships may last for a specific period of time (nine months to a year) in a formal program, after which the pair may continue in an informal mentoring relationship
- Focuses on developing individuals within their current jobs
- Is skill-based, arising out of the need to ensure that coachee can perform the tasks required to the best of their abilities
- Relationships tends to be initiated by the coachee’s manager, and driven by the coach
- Relationships are finite – end as an individual achieves the behavioural goals
Why do organisations implement formal mentoring programs?
As organisations are increasingly impacted by the changing workforce demographics, they are recognising the importance of mentoring. Faced with aging populations and decreasing talent pools, organisations are finding it difficult to recruit and retain qualified personnel. And as corporate downsizing continues, organisations are also experiencing a flattening of their organisations, challenging them to provide sufficient growth opportunities for employees.
On the positive side, organisations find today’s employees exhibit a more flexible approach to work. On the negative side, employees may feel less loyalty to the organisations for which they work.
Organisations now look to mentoring to implement a strategic game plan that includes:
- Professional development
- Development of an inclusive and diverse workforce
How are informal and formal mentoring different?
Informal and formal mentoring are different in their approaches and outcomes.
In informal mentoring:
- The goals of the relationship are not specified
- The outcomes are not measured
- Access is limited and may be exclusive
- Mentors and mentees self-select on the basis of personal chemistry
- The relationship is open-ended and can continue for a life-time
- The organization benefits indirectly, as the focus is exclusively on the mentee
In formal mentoring:
- Goals are established from the beginning by the organization and the employee mentee
- Outcomes are measured
- Access is open to all who meet program criteria
- Mentors and mentees are paired based on compatibility
- Training and support in mentoring is provided
- Organization and employee both benefit directly
Why do organisations need a structured mentoring program? Shouldn’t managers perform this role?
While many managers demonstrate mentoring behaviour on an informal basis, it is very different from having a structured mentoring program. There are qualitative and structural differences between a manager-employee relationship and a mentor-mentee relationship. That’s why structured mentoring programs never pair mentors with their direct reports.
The manager-employee relationship focuses on achieving the objectives of the department and the company. The manager assigns tasks, evaluates the outcome, conducts performance reviews, and recommends remuneration and promotions.
Because managers hold significant power over employees’ work lives, most employees demonstrate only their strengths and hide their weaknesses in the work environment.
A mentor-mentee relationship focuses on developing the mentee professionally and personally. As such, the mentor does not evaluate the mentee with respect to his or her current job, does not conduct performance reviews of the mentee, and does not provide input about remuneration and promotions. This creates a safe learning environment, where the mentee feels free to discuss issues openly and honestly, without worrying about negative consequences on the job.
What are the benefits of mentoring?
Mentoring benefits the organisation, mentors and mentees.
Your organisation benefits by:
- Enhancing strategic business initiatives
- Encouraging retention and reducing turnover costs
- Improving productivity
- Breaking down the “silo” mentality that hinders cooperation between divisions.
- Retaining the corporate history, practical experience and wisdom gained from long-term employees.
- Enhancing professional development.
- Linking employees with valuable knowledge and information to other employees in need of such information
- Creating a mentoring culture, which continuously promotes individual employee growth and development
Mentors enjoy many benefits, including:
- Gaining insights from the mentee’s background and history that can be used in the mentor’s professional and personal development
- Gaining satisfaction from sharing expertise with others
- Re-energising the mentor’s career
- Learning more about other areas within the organization
Mentees enjoy many benefits, including:
- Gaining from the mentor’s expertise
- Receiving critical feedback in key areas, such as communications, interpersonal relationships, technical abilities, change management and leadership skills
- Developing a sharper focus on what is needed to grow professionally within the organization
- Learning specific skills and knowledge that are relevant to personal goals
- Networking with a more influential people
- Gaining knowledge about the organization’s culture and unspoken rules that can be critical for success
- Having a sympathetic ear with which to share frustrations as well as successes
Are there different types of mentoring models in a structured program?
One of the advantages of mentoring is that it can be adapted to any organisation’s culture and resources. There are several mentoring models to choose from when developing a mentoring program, including:
The most common mentoring model, one-on-one mentoring matches one mentor with one mentee. Most people prefer this model because it allows both mentor and mentee to develop a personal relationship and provides individual support for the mentee.
Peer Group Mentoring
Peer group mentoring requires a mentor to facilitate a group of 10-12 mentees at one time. The group meets monthly to discuss various topics. Combining senior and peer mentoring, the mentor and the peer’s help one another learn and develop appropriate skills and knowledge.
This top-down model may be the most effective way to create a mentoring culture and cultivate skills and knowledge throughout an organisation. It is also an effective succession-planning tool, because it prevents the knowledge “brain drain” that would otherwise take place when senior management retires.
What is the role of mentoring for diversity and inclusion?
Mentoring can be of great value to women and minority groups. These are the employees who have often been disenfranchised within organisations and have not been “chosen” by informal mentors.
Business currently loses approximately one third of its women (source: EOWA Census) between middle management and senior management, creating a paucity of women in executive positions and in the pipeline. Talented women – women in whom organisations have invested – are making decisions to leave organisations whose cultures do not support women or their work/life balance.
At the same time, Catalyst, in a study of 353 Fortune 500 companies in America showed that “companies with a higher representation of women in senior management positions financially outperform companies with fewer women”. And that:
- There are significant barriers to women’s employment and advancement
- Having a mentor is a significant factor in assisting women achieve leadership roles
- The barriers include a lack of both mentoring and of effective women role models
Should a woman have a male or female mentor?
Both. Male and female mentors are both important to ensure a rounded experience of the workplace. Male mentors provide guidance and support in navigating the workplace, recognising the politics and playing the game. Female mentors empathise with and share their experiences of being a woman in male dominated workplaces. Women allow other women to explore their whole selves, to develop both as a professional and as an authentic woman leader.
What can women achieve through mentoring?
Women who have completed our mentoring programs consistently report that as a result of the mentoring program they have:
- Gained significantly in levels of confidence and self-esteem
- Increased their level of contribution to the organisation
- Improved their existing skills and performance
- Networked more effectively across and outside their organisation
- Broadened their perspectives on leadership and management issues
- Developed new strategies for achieving their career goals and aspirations
- Increased their ability and motivation to mentor others
Can we create a program ourselves?
Creating a structured mentoring program requires a solid understanding of mentoring dynamics.
There are myriad examples of mentoring programs that failed because organisations mistakenly believed they fully understood mentoring. Rather than create a successful program, they negatively impacted the careers of both mentors and mentees. Typically, such programs have put people together without clear guidelines, offered no training about mentoring relationships, lacked internal support, paired employees with the bosses of the employees’ immediate supervisors, and violated other fundamentals of mentoring.
The amount of outside expertise needed to establish a mentoring program varies from organization to organization. Most organisations have found that using a consultant to set up a pilot program has made the difference between success and failure
What does an outside consulting firm offer a prospective client?
Experienced consultants provide:
- Cost effectiveness – reduces the time and effort needed to establish a program
- Successful design – program operates more efficiently based on successful designs employed by similar organisations
- Improved results – focuses on specific competency area
- Higher success rate – previous mentoring expertise helps organisations avoid pitfalls that have derailed many mentoring programs