Mentoring 101

What is mentoring?

Mentoring is the pairing of an experienced or skilled person (mentor) with a person who would like to improve their skills (Intern). The mentor acts as a role model and supports the mentee by sharing knowledge, resources and advice to help them improve their skills.

What it isn’t?

Mentoring is not a passive endeavour. It is very much active and requires both participants to be engaged and invested. It is two way street in the sense that both the mentor and mentee must come together and share valuable information and ideas that will help both individuals grow in a specific area. Here are some important distinctions between mentoring and coaching.

Mentoring vs. Coaching

Mentoring Coaching
A more informal association focused on building a two-way, mutually beneficial relationship for long-term career movement. A more formal structured association focused on improvements in behavior and performance to resolve present work issues or handle specific aspects of the job.
Talking with a person who has identified his needs prior to entering a mentoring relationship. The emphasis is on active listening, providing information, making suggestions, and establishing connections. Talking to a person, identifying what he needs, and developing an action plan. The emphasis is on instruction, assessing, and monitoring.
This is a self-directed approach with a committed timeline whereby participants have choices and identify goals together. This is a more structured approach with a narrower perspective and is usually more specific with a short timeline.

The 4 phases of mentoring (Kram et al., 1983, 1985)

  1. Initiation Phase (Trust building, getting to know each other)
  2. Cultivation Phase (Frequent interaction, professional development, collaboration)
  3. Separation phase (Autonomy, self-management, independence)
  4. Redefinition phase (changing the relationship from mentor-mentee to colleagues)

9 Tips to Maximize Your Mentoring

  1. Create a mentorship agreement. Every good mentoring relationship starts with an agreement between both participants. This document formalizes commitment to the mentoring relationship. Items include individual goals, learning content, a meeting schedule, and communication methods.
  2. Ensure your mentee has the resources they need. Make sure to set ample time to meet with your mentee. Make sure to provide your mentee with whatever resources they need to accomplish the tasks set before them. This will allow you to maximize success of the relationship.
  3. Tune up your listening skills. Active listening is an important skill for a mentor to have so stop, focus and listen.
  4. Take an interest in your mentee. Learn about their interests and aspirations at work and outside of work. Do your best to understand them.
  5. Foster autonomy and independence by challenging them wherever possible. Find that dynamic balance between supporting and challenging them. Encourage risk-taking and the exploration of innovative and creative ideas.
  6. Provide and receive feedback. Foster an environment where feedback is the most valuable resource. Give credit where credit is due to reinforce good behaviour and give advice on how to handle projects they may be struggling with. Also, allow room for your mentee to give you feedback.
  7. Share your network. Provide your intern with networking opportunities and give them the skills they need to develop a professional network. Take your mentee to conferences and introduce them to individuals who may be valuable resources or future collaborators.
  8. Be a good role model. It is important that a mentor serve as a role model for high standards of professionalism. This includes ensuring that discussion between you and your mentee is safe and confidential (if necessary). Create a safe space for mentees to ask questions and discuss concerns.
  9. Enjoy being a mentor. Not everyone has the opportunity to be a mentor. Enjoy being proud of your mentees’ achievements and help them through their challenges. Remember that your mentee may turn out to be a very special, life-long colleague.

The business case for mentorship

  • About 70% of Fortune 500 companies have a mentorship program.
  • Employees who participated in the program were five times more likely to advance in pay grade, and mentors made even more progress.
  • Mentees were promoted five times more than those not in the program, and mentors six times more.
  • Retention rates were significantly higher for mentees (72%) and for mentors (69%) than for employees who did not participate (49%).
  • Mentoring programs boosted minority representation at the management level by 9% to 24%.
  • Mentoring programs dramatically improved promotion and retention rates for minorities and women—15% to 38% as compared to non-mentored employees.