What is mentoring?
There are many definitions available for mentoring, some of which stress the importance of the mentor’s experience and seniority.
Our view at Motion Learning is broader, and for us mentoring is a relationship in which experiences are shared and questions asked and answered for mutual benefit and growth.
We believe this encompasses the various types of mentoring relationships we are seeing in the workplace.
However we recognise that this might lead one to see mentoring and coaching as similar activities, and in fact they can be.
Often coaching skills are used in mentoring relationships, but there can are typically some key differences, which the CIPD picks up on in the grid to the right:
What are the benefits of mentoring?
Research demonstrates that mentoring, whether formally organised and managed by an organisation, or informally conducted, can deliver a wide range of benefits. Here are just a few:
For the organisation
- Increased motivation
- Increased levels of skill and competence
- Increase staff retention
- Greater communication across the organisation
For the individual
- Increased skills and understanding
- Greater self confidence and self awareness
- Increased motivation
- Greater belief in career development
For the mentor
- Opportunity to share knowledge and experience
- Greater sense of contribution and satisfaction
- Increased self awareness and self confidence
- Enhanced communication and feedback skills
The possible purposes of a mentoring relationship
It is important to understand what mentoring can provide, and to be clear about what you want to get out of a mentoring relationship. Any or many of these benefits can be provided by a mentor:
A role model – to look up to and base your own behaviour on
A sounding board – to discuss ideas, problems and concerns with
An experienced source of advice – from someone who has “been there”
An aid to work-related development – by providing the skills or knowledge you need
An advocate – to champion you, inside and beyond the organisation
A network – by opening doors for you, to new contacts
An aid to personal development – by helping you manage yourself and your relationships
Structures of mentoring relationships
Mentoring relationships can take many forms.
One to One Mentoring – the traditional, and still most common form of relationship, with a clear understanding of who takes which role
Group Mentoring – with a mentor sharing experience, and engaging in conversations, with a group rather than just and individual
Peer Mentoring – in which two people provide mutual support, challenge and problem solving assistance
Peer Group Mentoring – often known as Action Learning Sets, when a group come together to provide structured support and development
Reverse Mentoring – when the “normal” relationship is inverted, and a more junior employee provides support to a more senior one
The characteristics of a successful mentoring relationship
In our experience there are a number of critical factors that help the mentoring relationship work effectively
- needs to be seen as beneficial by both parties
- needs to be formal enough, but not proscribed
- needs to be measured and recorded, but flexible
- needs to be controlled by the two parties in the relationship
- needs to be curious and generous
- needs to be honest
- needs to be discrete and trustworthy
- needs to be self aware
The men tee
- needs to be open to feedback
- needs to be willing to disclose
- needs to be willing to question and challenge
Introducing a mentoring programme
Introducing a formal mentoring programme within an organisation can be a significant undertaking. There are two important elements to any successful mentoring programme which should be borne in mind before starting out:
Having the right purpose
In order for the programme to be successful its purpose must be clearly identified, shared and understood by all involved. There can be a range of different reasons for introducing mentoring to an organisation:
- Career development
- High potential development
- Reverse mentoring
- Knowledge transfer
This purpose, or series of purposes needs clear objectives and methods of measurement, so that all parties can see the on-going value of the programme.
Having the right culture
Mentoring can be incredibly powerful, but equally, can have disappointing results. Much depends upon the culture of the organisation in which it’s taking place.
For mentoring to succeed there needs to be a broad and deep understanding of the value of learning and development, and a willingness at all levels to invest time and energy in its achievement.
Supporting career development and progression needs to be seen to be central to the purpose of managers at all levels.
Honest communication and an openness to feedback needs to be demonstrated throughout the organisation from the very top down.
In our experience, before engaging in the practical work required to introduce a successful mentoring programme, these two elements need to be explored and senior management and HR need to be confident that the right conditions are in place to give the programme a fair chance of delivering on it’s aims.
A mentoring relationship
Each individual mentoring relationship is different, in terms of purpose, length, frequency of interactions and outcomes, but most follow the same simple structure:
Introduction and Agreement
The aim at this stage is to build rapport, identify the purpose of the relationship, discuss and agree any specific objectives, consider ways to review and measure the success of the relationship, and, if desired, document the above.
This can be achieved during the course of an initial meeting
There follows a series of meetings and/or conversations, during which the mentor will prompt the individual to explore issues, ideas and work, and to identify solutions and appropriate actions through questioning, listening, problem solving, feeding back and challenging.
Closing the Relationship
Depending upon the initial agreement, a number of reasons can bring the mentoring relationship to a close. It may be the objectives of the relationship have been achieved, roles may have changed, learning may be complete or a closer relationship may be reached.
Whatever the reason, its useful to ensure the relationship is reviewed, taking time to identify learning and progress and agreeing any further actions for either party.
In producing this fact sheet, we’ve drawn on a range of sources: