Mentoring Programs – Vision for Success

Mentoring as a means to develop others can be a high-payoff endeavor

Overview Types of Mentors
Coaching vs. Mentoring
What Are Characteristics of Mentors
How to Develop a Strategic Mentoring Program
Why Consider Building a Mentoring Culture


mentoring for success                                

Mentoring is an accepted concept that is over-looked as a game changer.

When it comes to mentoring programs, managers and business owners may be over-looking the key to productivity and performance.

Most of us can look back to some point in our professional development and identify a person who acted as a mentor, formally or informally. Looking for added business unit performance? Take a closer look to how mentoring can boost results.

To help you solve this problem, I have created a thorough synopsis here to provide the impetus for integrating a well-defined mentoring program. Six characteristics for mentoring ideas that you can implement almost immediately. These concepts give you real, actionable results. And to make it easy, I have broken the mentor types down down into the four main categories.
Step 1 – Defining “Who is a Mentor?”

Whether we are talking about a business unit, team, business entity, civic or community organization, a mentor is an experienced person in a position to train, coach and influence the development of another person.

Since mentoring can be a formal program developed by the organization or an informal relationship by between someone with professional and life experience and a person needing or wanting to develop themselves. For our purposes we will refer to the recipient of the help as the “protégé.”

Practically, the mentor” invests time and energy with a protégé in an effort to provide guidance, knowledge and experience. The ultimate motive can be personal or professional development or both. The goal can be very specific, for example “how to take over and manage a business team”, or “how to use networking to advance your objective.”

The Process of mentoring a protégé and technique and methods vary based on the people involved and the goal being pursued. As we will see shortly, this is more than the common thought about coaching, while this is part of it, the mentoring process involves really influencing the thinking, values and philosophies of the recipient. The mentor passes on experience, skills, methods and ideas wrapped in a cloak of wisdom.

There is a view that the mentor is older and experienced but in today’s fast changing world, and the rapid evolution of technology, a mentor can also be a peer with extraordinary skill, knowledge and experience. The key is the mutual commitment to impart the “wisdom” needed in a relationship of trust and respect. This is very important. The relationship must have both trust and a real commitment on the part of the mentor to be invested in helping the protege to grow.

The goal of the mentor-ship is the growth of the recipient in order for them to become more productive and influential themselves.

Overview of the Types of Mentoring Relationships

There are clear and common types of mentoring relationships but plenty of room for variations. Here are the main types:

Top Down – where an experienced and prove mentor has accepted the responsibility to develop a less experienced person or trainee.

Peer Based Mentoring – In this case, a relative peer with significant, and sometimes specific, skills and experience that would qualify as an impart-er of the wisdom need to apply the development.

Cross-functional Mentoring – This borders on actual training and coaching where someone say in a different area of expertise or department, engages to impart the knowledge and experience being sought. For it to be a real mentor-ship, there needs to be relational interaction and “wisdom passing.”

External Mentoring – In this case, the mentor is not part of the protege’s organization but from another business of profession who is brought into the relationship on a formal basis or selected from a personal relationship.

Coaching and Mentoring Comparisons and Contrasts

It may be said that in most cases a mentor is also coaching and a coach may be mentoring as well. There is so much over-lap in many cases that it can be either confusing or irrelevant. That said, most companies and organizations don’t lack for coaching” processes (often as training programs or classes) but do not utilize true mentoring.

In a business or organizational setting, “coaching” involves the imparting of skills, techniques and knowledge aimed at a specific job function or responsibility. It can be a relatively short term relationship or it can last for several years. In the end, the “coaching” usually ends when the specific training objective is achieved.

Mentoring also can involve the imparting of skills, methods and directed knowledge but there is more to it. Remember the mentor is also trying to impart the wisdom and values needed to apply what is being learned. There is a log view that the protégé will evolve in a total person way. That is to say, they will gain knowledge and the capacity to apply it with wisdom and value, ethics and truth.

A mentor it trying to impart a cohesive whole “what to, how to and when to and why that molds the protege for success.This is en life changing and in the genre of “pass it forward.”

What are the Characteristics of a Qualified Mentor?

Whether the proposed mentor-ship is formal, the organization is directing the creation, or informal as when the protege recipient seeks out a mentoring relationship, the chose mentor needs to possess specific characteristics.

  • The time and energy to invest in a mentoring relationship
  • A nurturing personality that can demonstrate empathy
  • Effective communication skills such as as effective listening and teaching
  • Can be trusted to maintain a level of confidentiality
  • The ability to provide feedback and constructive criticism
  • The trust and respect of the organization (in the case of a formal mentor-ship)

It may be hard to measure one of the most important characteristics, empathy and nurturing, but these are critical. A person desiring mentoring or being developed for the benefit of the organization will need to be molded and enhanced. They will have feelings and concerns, fears and misgivings, and the mentor must be able to recognize, discern and sense the needs of the protege. Likely the empathy is the result of having been in the protégés shoes and walked that road themselves.


coaching and mentoring the vision

Mentors provide the Vision and the Wisdom to apply life lessons. by Expositus  ©2011-2014 Expositus

An example may be informative here. I had a protege in an informal mentor-ship that was working to become a successful manager of a business team. I uncovered an issue with the protege’s reluctance to address poor performance on the part of an employee. This was not a skill issue but more of a “I don’t want to hurt their feelings” situation.

My experience came from learning the hard way that not directly and quickly addressing performance issues causes far more problems than confronting the issue ever could. We talked about the value of both helping the individual confront the fact that they were hurting themselves and the organization.

A manager must directly, calmly and with sincerity address the issue of bad performance. They need to get the under-performer to open up to “why the performance was sub-par.” That once the concern has been directly laid out, the manager must state something to the effect that “…I need you to show improvement for the benefit of the team and I will help you in anyway I can to improve. I believe you are better than your performance but this had to improve quickly. Do we have an understanding about what I expect.”

This is passing on the wisdom of why as well as how this needed to be addressed.


How to Develop a Strategic Mentoring Program

There are many aspects of developing a really top level organizational based and formal mentor program. For the purpose of this paper, here are the top level ingredients.

  • Develop very clear and specific strategic purpose for the program
  • Bring together a team experienced in mentoring and invest the time to develop the Plan
  • Make sure that each mentor will have the support, tools and resources needed
  • New Mentors, otherwise qualified, may need some training and orientation
  • Set out specific goals as well as check-points and updates
  • A mentor reporting and evaluation process (but respecting confidentiality)

Why Consider Building a Mentoring Culture

This is where the vision and belief of senior management is a must. No formal program for mentoring will achieve the potential available without a top down commitment to inculcating mentoring as a cultural imperative. It just won’t happen or at the best will fall short.

If you are a business owner or senior leader in your organization consider this question.

What if a cultural commitment to mentoring could create significant progress, productivity, morale and results?

What if over time, your company evolved to a point of almost unassailable excellence, the best in class reputation?

Would customers benefit? Would employee performance and loyalty increase? Would it create a truly sustainable competitive advantage? Would recruiting and retaining the best people energize the company? You bet!

Who wouldn’t want to lead and be a part of such a culture? I know I would in a heart beat.

What If Your Mentoring Program Were a Showcase of Excellence?

Yes, it takes time, effort, commitment and focus but what a miracle such a program can really be.

Companies are fighting to become more productive. Business owners and executives seek ways to increase their competitiveness and over-come the competition. Successful companies strive to recruit the best people. Many have solid training programs.  But…most pay little attention to mentoring, often assuming that is the responsibility of the managers.

Today’s manager are multi-tasking wonders.  They have multiple responsibilities and priorities. When they find the time, many do a good job of coaching.  However, this type of activity is “issue bound”. It is on-the-job training or skill development for a specific type of task.

A manager is also concerned with performance management. This is not the concern of a mentor. Managers may certainly have empathy and be sensitive to what is going on with a given employee.  That said, they must be focused on immediate results and performance. 

When the company or business owner identifies a talented and promising employee that they believe can be groomed for greater responsibility and future leadership, mentoring comes directly into play. If you are seeking to develop a leader for the organization, mentoring can develop the total person and provide guidance, values and insights into what it takes to be a true leader and how you must lead.

Certainly, skill and knowledge come into play but it is wrapped in the intangibles of wisdom and values.  It is somewhat like “how do you recognize a leader…you know one when you see one.” Mentoring fills in the blanks, provides a look at what leadership is really about and how you present yourself, how you interact and gain “follower-ship.”

There are many talented people who have leadership qualities but are an unfinished product.  The organization’s aim is to develop the qualities and type of leader that will advance the mission and beliefs at the core of the companies very existence. You do not get this in a leadership training program or from your MBA. The surest way to take real potential talent and develop it is through mentoring. Someone to guide the protege on the journey and “polish the stone.”

An organization who identifies their best leaders, at whatever level, inside or outside the company and builds a sustainable mentoring program has moved into the highest level of potential greatness. You can’t really clone a new leader but you can model and mentor them within the traits and characteristics they bring to the table. The strength of these mentor-protege relationships anchors the pillars of the companies future. The connectivity between current leaders and future leaders breeds a culture of excellence that others will only marvel at and envy.

Wouldn’t this be worth it?

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