Mentoring - professional support which delivers results.

If your organization has senior managers who are out of touch with key players at the operational level

or if youíre looking for a way to motivate and retain high achievers within a flatter management structure

then you probably need a Mentoring programme.

Recent research by the UKís Industrial Society identified Mentoring as one of the fastest growing management development activities in the UK. So what is it and is it just another name for Coaching?

Is Mentoring just another word for coaching?
We would argue that Mentoring and Coaching are quite different activities, both of which are important in their own right, and strongly supportive of individual development. We have used the following comparison chart to help our clients clarify their understanding of the different roles each mechanism has to play:

Coaching Mentoring
Something which managers must do for all their staff, as a required part of their job. Something which managers choose to do for specific, selected individuals.
Takes place within the confines of the formal line manager-jobholder relationship (although peer coaching within work teams is increasingly common). Takes place outside the line manager relationship, at the mutual consent of the Mentor and the person they are Mentoring.
Is job-focused: focuses on developing the individual within their current job. The coach manages, assesses and appraises the individualís development in line with the tasks which their job requires them to perform and the standards they need to achieve.. Is career-focused: focuses on the long term, overall development of the individual in line with their career aspirations. The Mentor acts as a sounding board for the individualís development concerns and needs, listening, offering advice and making suggestions.
Interest is functional - arising out of the need to ensure that the individual can perform the tasks required of them to the best of their ability. Interest is personal - arising out of the Mentorís personal belief in the individual and a personal desire to Ďchampioní and support them in achieving their career aspirations.
Relationship tends to be initiated and driven by the individualís line manager. Relationship is often initiated by the Mentoree.
Relationship is finite - ends as individuals move on to work in other jobs under other line managers. Relationship crosses job boundaries - will tend to persist throughout a personís career.

Moving from tradition to today

Traditionally, Mentoring was used simply as an aid to succession planning. It enabled the organizationís leaders to prepare and shape the leaders who will take their place in the future. Often carried out on a very informal basis, it was generally based on a personal understanding between two individuals. Today, Mentoring is used as a strategic tool for organizational development. As such it is expected to produce specific results and must therefore be planned, managed and supported like any other part of the training and development mix. In helping our clients to set up and implement Mentoring programmes we tend to guide them through the following four stages:

  • selection - of suitable candidates for the programme, both Mentors and Mentorees
  • matching - of Mentors and Mentorees into appropriate pairings which are likely to work
  • preparation - of both Mentors and Mentorees, through briefing sessions at which Mentoring objectives, expectations and methods are discussed and planned
  • implementation - of the Mentoring relationship in close association with the Mentoreeís line manager (a very key player who must not be overlooked!).

We have found this four-stage approach a very effective way to identify, match and support Mentors and Mentorees.

Supporting Mentorees.

The support required is wide ranging and the table below (based on Leibowitz and Schlossber, 1981) gives an idea of the breadth of skills and behaviours which Mentors may need to develop.
Mentoring Role
Communicator Counsellor Coach
Advisor Advocate
Benchmarker Referral Agent Broker

Moving from the traditional view of Mentoring to this model which identifies the full range of skills and behaviours required of a Mentor today, it becomes obvious that for any Mentoring programme to produce results must be carefully implemented, monitored and managed.

If Mentoring is coming on to the agenda in your organization, make sure that its complex nature and consequent need for professional support is understood. Approached in this way, you will be on the path to a successful Mentoring initiative.