Mentoring in Organisations: What Is Mentoring?

Oct 7, 2016Coaching Conversations

Kevin Watson

Kevin Watson

Director & Lead Coach

In the first of a series of short articles on mentoring in organisations, let’s start by taking a look at what mentoring is.

Firstly, let’s be clear that mentoring is not new. Although the term mentor originates from Greek Mythology, mentoring can be traced back to even earlier times

In modern times, the Oxford English Dictionary has defined the word mentor as an experienced and trusted counsellor and is commonly used to describe someone who assumes a guiding and coaching role.

In organisations, it’s mostly used as a powerful personal development, supporting business succession plans and high potential programmes.

It is one way for an organisation to develop employee performance, helping achieve their potential through a structured programme of support and guidance.

Mentoring is a brain to pick, an ear to listen, and a push in the right direction.John C. Crosby

Although there are specific aims unique to an organisation, the overarching aim is to support individuals’ development and strengthen their contribution to the organisation’s success.

In simple terms, mentoring is a partnership between two people (mentor and mentee) based on mutual trust and respect.

Formed as a confidential ‘offline’ relationship, a good Mentoring Programme will aim to make positive changes in mentee work practices, knowledge or thinking.

A mentor acts as a guide, helping the mentee develop their own solutions to the issues they face, navigate internal barriers to success and support their goals.

Why does it work?

Well, one answer could be that mentoring taps into a basic instinct most people share – the desire to pass on their learning, to help other people develop and fulfil their potential.

Mentoring is to support and encourage people to manage their own learning in order that they may maximise their potential, develop their skills, improve their performance and become the person they want to be.Eric Parsloe

Unlike a management relationship, mentoring tends to be voluntary on both sides, although it is possible for a line manager to also act as a mentor to the people they manage.

Some organisations run formal mentoring programmes that match mentors with learners. However, less formal mentoring relationships can also work well.

Importantly, mentors are chosen for the skills and experience they bring to the relationship, not their seniority.

More and more leaders are seeking mentors from more junior positions, specifically when it comes to technology skills!

The Mentor offers the Mentee a safe environment to discuss and explore issues relevant to them and helps the Mentee recognise their talents, making appropriate comments or suggestions.

The Mentor uses basic coaching skills to help the Mentee find his or her own solutions to problems and difficulties.

It’s a powerful way for people to share information and ideas in order to learn a variety of personal and professional skills, providing an opportunity for mentors to share their first-hand personal and working experiences with a colleague.

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