You are here:

Request a Demo Contact Us

Coaching and Mentoring 2

Bob Little 

October 2, 2015

©iStockphoto/NastcoThe origins of mentoring are in ancient Greek mythology: Ulysses entrusted his son, Telemachus, to the guidance of his friend, Mentor.

Mentoring is a way of helping another person to become what he or she aspires to be. Mentors listen to others in a non-judgmental way and help them to work out the answers that they need.

These days, mentoring, coaching, counseling, and tutoring fit on a continuum – and the boundaries are blurring between coaching and mentoring. While a coach is someone who draws from the client what he already has and knows, a mentor is more likely to have subject matter expertise in the client’s specialist field. (Incidentally, the U.S. model calls the person who is being mentored the “protégé,” while the European school prefers the term “mentee.”)

Coaching specialist Hugo Heij says, “Family members, friends and colleagues can all be mentors to us throughout our lives – and we can learn from them because they’ve ‘been there’ before us. This mentoring role tends to be informal and unpaid – whereas a coach tends to be a more ‘professional’ arrangement.

“Moreover, while mentors and coaches in their various ways ‘stand by your side,’ sharing in your pain and celebrations, another person in the development mix – the consultant – tends to give you a map and says she’ll see you when you get there!”

Mentoring is a partnership, a confidential relationship, a positive developmental activity, and it should provide objective insight. This means that a client’s mentor should not be his line manager too!

On the other hand, mentoring isn’t intended to undermine a line manager’s authority. It’s not about forming a secret society either, but nor is it hierarchical or imposed. Indeed, where mentoring is concerned, the client is responsible for driving the learning, while the mentor is merely there to help.

Traditional mentoring is a face-to-face activity but, over the last 10 years or so, the practice of online “e-mentoring” has grown. While it traverses the barriers of time zones, culture and so on, e-mentoring may not work well for everyone – notably for those who are wary of technology. However, delivering coaching and mentoring online may be the only viable option sometimes.

A key to success is to use all the tools that you have to hand. The more elements you can draw on, the more effective the online experience can become. It’s been said that the “good” teacher teaches, the “superior” teacher demonstrates, and the “great” teacher inspires. The same is true of a coach or mentor. The key is to inspire the learner – whether the interaction occurs face-to-face, one-to-one, in a classroom, or remotely over thousands of miles.

The mentoring process involves:

  1. Orientation. The mentor and client get to know one another. They declare values, agree on roles and responsibilities, negotiate boundaries, and set the ground rules.
  2. Getting established. They establish a safe, secure and friendly environment. They agree objectives and targets, and develop an action plan. The mentor provides the necessary support. Then both mentor and client reflect on what the client has learned.
  3. Maturing the mentoring relationship. This is the most productive stage in the mentoring process. The client gains greater independence. The relationship now provides the client with challenges, stimulation, enhanced learning, and deeper reflection.
  4. Termination. This phase is just as key to the whole exercise, yet it is rarely acknowledged as such. Both mentor and client need to engage in “formal closure.” The mentor no longer meets the client’s current needs and the partnership needs to be evaluated. It’s important to remember that there’s nothing wrong with moving on!

Mentoring’s supporters claim that it improves recruitment, retention and progression rates. It’s also a means of supporting succession planning. It produces a motivated workforce with increasing skills, it helps to improve networking and communication within an organization, it provides a cost-effective personalized development program, and it maximizes human potential.

Benefits for mentors include:

  • Increased motivation and a sense of achievement.
  • Increased job satisfaction.
  • Better interpersonal skills.
  • A sense of personal satisfaction, as well as a chance to carry out some self-development.
  • An opportunity to enhance their own role and skills.

For clients, the benefits of mentoring include that they:

  • Find a positive role model.
  • Take increasing responsibility for their own learning and training.
  • Raise their self-esteem.
  • Increase their motivation and achievement.
  • Engage in personal growth and development.
  • Enhance their existing skills and learn new ones.

In a corporate context, it’s important to monitor the mentoring’s  effectiveness and to find a way of rewarding both the mentors and their clients.

Many people – notably the now successful and famous – pay tribute to the benefits of having had a mentor. But a straw poll of organizations taken for the benefit of this post found them all shy about mentoring in workforce development. The most positive response came from Alex Taylor, training manager at Harrison Catering Services Ltd in the U.K. Declining to give further details, he simply said, “Mentoring is an area that’s still in its infancy within this organization.”

So, in corporate terms, the jury seems to be out still on the subject of organized mentoring. On a personal level, however, mentoring is as active – and beneficial – as it has ever been.

Do you have a mentor and, if so, do you find the process worthwhile? Does your organization provide mentoring as standard? Share your questions and experience below.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. All fields required.

View our Privacy Policy.

One comment on “Coaching and Mentoring 2”:

  1. Tom Brown wrote:

    Yes that’s a great article. I love it.