Mentoring – more than just a tick-box exercise

Post written by Anja van Beek

Mentoring is a theme I feel very passionate about – mostly because I have been a mentor and a mentee, and I have witnessed how this can shape and impact career and lives in a profound way.

It is the opportunity for leaders to provide support and insights to help less experienced individuals to grow and develop in their careers.

As a leadership coach I often get the question: “What is the difference between a mentor and a coach?”. In the examples below, the mentor or coach is outside the direct manager / employee relationship context. Do bear in mind that as a manager you should wear both a mentor and coach hat in different stages in the performance discussions with your team members.

• In a mentorship relationship it is acceptable for the mentor to give advice and to use their experience to guide the less experienced mentee. The mentor acts as an advisor and shares advice and wisdom with the mentee.

• In a coaching relationship is about supporting the other to find the answers themselves, mainly through questioning. As a coach, I support my clients to uncover their own knowledge and skills and will seldom share my own experience and expertise.

There are a lot of similarities in both mentoring and coaching:
• Trust is the foundation of any relationship
• Once the trust element is established, it flows into relationships where a safe space is created for the mentee to courageously explore without judgement or pressure.

Trust : The secret ingredient

Once trust is the foundation of the mentoring-relationship one can appreciate why finding the match for the mentor-mentee relationship is vital. Companies can get creative with this exercise – it should be more than a tick-box exercise done by the HR team. It is also a great initiative to instill the company values into a star-mentee that could retain their loyalty for longer.

A great example: I recently assisted in the facilitation of a session where the company made an investment (by hiring a leadership coach) and provided the mentors and mentees with an opportunity to get to know one another before selecting their top three choices of mentors. This is a great example of how a mentorship strategy can work as the foundation is steady.

A mentorship programme is a cost-effective way to develop talent and is also a popular strategy for talent development in any company as the technical expertise is in-house. The beauty of a mentorship-relationship is when reversed mentoring happens and the younger mentees educate their mentor on topics like social media or technology.

It is a commitment.

If you consider being a mentor, think about the following before making a pledge:

Tips for mentees:

Recently a lot has been said about mentoring and specifically why men find it so hard to mentor women. Adam Grant provides great tips to consider if you are currently in a similar situation:

The important question is: “Do you have the know-how/confidence to guide and lead quality conversations?” Many companies have a mentorship programme but it sometimes requires a more structured approach to measure the return.

In my next article I will focus on these topics of having a more structured approach and how to guide and lead crucial mentoring conversations.

#CrucialMentoringConversations #Mentoring #Haveavoice