Sharing knowledge could be beneficial for both the mentee and the mentor. Learn how to set the right parameters for the mentoring program.
What Is Mentoring
Mentoring is a supportive learning relationship between a caring individual (mentor) and another individual (mentee). The mentor shares knowledge, experience, and wisdom and the mentee benefits from this exchange. This relationship enriches their professional journeys. The mentor helps the mentee to consider opportunities for their career growth, gain confidence and improve interpersonal skills. The support is based on the mentor’s own experiences and learnings.
The word mentor comes from Homer's Odyssey. When Odysseus left for the Trojan War he asked Mentor, a senior friend, to help his son Telemachus as a counselor. Therefore, we adopt Mentor's name as a term for “a wise and trusted teacher or counselor”. There are other famous mentors and mentees and their domains:
- Politics: Aristotle mentored Alexander the Great
- Music: Johann Christian Bach mentored Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
- Fight: Obi-wan Kenobi mentored Anakin Skywalker and his son Luke Skywalker
People often confuse Mentoring and coaching. Shortly, a (business) coach focuses on coachee's specific goals by breaking them into concrete steps and tasks to be completed within a specified period of time. He or she does not need to have a hands-on experience of the kind of work the coachee is engaged in. A coach helps you answer questions such as, “How can I run more effective meetings?”, or “How can I work more collaboratively with peers?”. A mentor can help you with issues, for example, “Should I accept the position in Paris?”, or “How can I achieve more popularity for my project?”
Why You Might Want Mentoring
A mentor can gain the following benefits:
- New insights into the mentee’s background that can be useful in mentor's professional and personal growth
- Satisfaction in sharing expertise with others
- Career re-energization
A mentee can gain the following benefits:
- Mentor’s expertise
- Feedback in key domains, such as communication, interpersonality, technology, and leadership skills
- In case that mentee and mentor work in the same organization, mentee get information about the organization’s culture and unspoken rules
- Networking with other interesting people
- Sharing frustrations as well as successes
Your organization can gain the following benefits from a successful Mentoring program:
- Promotion of productivity, personal growth and professional development of your employees
- Conservation and handover of the practical experience and wisdom gained from long-term employees
- Interconnection of employees with valuable knowledge and information to other employees in need of such information
- Support for a multicultural environment by creating relationships among diverse employees
Problems the Mentoring Helps to Solve
- Demotivated team
- Disconnect Between Business and IT
- Knowledge hoarding
- Long team onboarding
- Meaningless work
- Toxic Team Culture
- Poor Code Quality
- Increased Cost
- Meaningless Work
How to Implement Mentoring
- Set parameters for the Mentoring program
- The goals of the program
- The proper Mentoring model
- Other critical components of the program
For a pilot Mentoring program in your organization, you will need a base of mentors, such as managers and any stakeholders who can bring value to the process. Do not forget to diversify mentor profiles ranging from academics to practitioners. Experienced entrepreneurs and investors, can provide an enriching experience for the company as well.
Tip: How to recognize a good mentor? He or she:
- is committed to learning and helping others learn
- is self-aware, empathetic and a good listener
- encourages the mentee to speak
- gives importance to relationships
- provides a constructive challenge
- has intuitive wisdom from life experience and shares it
- steps back from the detail
- offers friendship
- observes and reflects
Find mentees and complete the task force, especially from a cross-section of the organization.
Allow the pairs to meet and get to know each other. This is as much about respect as anything else and it works both ways.
Tip: Generally, mentees that pick their own mentor tend to have more successful outcomes than those who were assigned a mentor from the program administrator.
Give the participants ample space
Introduce them the rules but allow them to set up their own way how to respect them.
Evaluate results at the end of the program
After the Mentoring program is completed and the goals set in the first step are accomplished, gather feedback from mentors and mentees. Do not also forget the mentee's managers. They can tell you valuable findings.
Common Pitfalls of Mentoring
Lack of training for mentors and mentees
The symptom looks as if people do not understand their roles. Then train mentors, mentees, supervisors, managers, or program administrators, so they know “how- to” and what is expected of them.
Lack of clarity of purpose
Establish clear objectives for your Mentoring program and tie them to the organizational objectives.
The worst possible option is the inability to announce if the mentorship is not working. Track the progress of each Mentoring partnership during the program.
Not enough structure and guidance
Nominate a Mentoring program administrator that participants can go to when they have questions, issues, and challenges. In the other hand, too much structured program causes that participants feel bound and can not unwind.
Resources for Mentoring
- Training Journal: 16 Mentoring Definitions
- National Center for Biotechnology Information: Mentoring: What Is it? How Do we Do it and How Do we Get More Of it?
- Small Business Trends: What is the Difference Between a Mentor and Coach?
- Management Mentors: Definition of Mentoring, Benefits of Mentoring, & Other FAQs
- The Path Forward: Founder Mentoring: When is it useful and how can you make the most of it?
- Leadership Thoughts: The Difference Between Coaching and Mentoring
- The Invisible Mentor: 7 Common Pitfalls to Avoid with your Mentoring Programs