Mentoring means many different things to different people and organisations. This leaves a lot of confusion around what’s involved and what to expect.
The real question is who is leading the way?
We adhere to the Mentoring Code of Practice which means mentoring is always focussed on the mentees agenda. This means the mentor is supporting and challenging the mentee to come to their own solutions.
In other words it’s about empowering mentees to become independent and to find their own path forward.
Often I see support named as mentoring when it’s something very different. It’s a support that has immense value - it’s just not mentoring. These include:
Line managers – Skilled leaders will include mentoring behaviours and a mentoring approach in most of what they do. The issue here however is that they cannot be a mentor in these cases as they aren’t fully independent so despite their right intention they will have a bias coupled with specific objectives to achieve.
Colleagues – Experienced colleagues are an invaluable resource to help, advise and signpost. In the right circumstances they can be a great mentor. However if they are responsible in any way for reporting, assessing, performance or giving advice and solutions to the mentee then that isn’t mentoring and it isn’t independent. It is training and guidance.
Training - This works brilliantly alongside mentoring. This is especially when the training is up front and the mentoring is then about how to make the training work in practice. Training often uses mentoring behaviours however its focus is on transferring learning not mentoring.
Counselling - A similar discipline to mentoring in many ways as it uses very similar skills. It’s important to recognise it is however different and often needs a person with many years of professional training and risk awareness to support in the right way. Mentors need to stay focussed on where their expertise lies and know enough to signpost on when the mentee needs this type of expert support in any counselling area.
Advising – Expert knowledge is always useful. In advice though you are telling someone something. This means it’s not mentoring behaviours that are being used.
Family and friends – They can be a brilliant source of knowledge, support and the occasional challenge! Generally too they have your best interests at heart. However their lack of independence plus probable limited breadth of view on all your capabilities in different environments means bias and independence will be an issue.
Mentoring has amazing benefits when it’s set up and structured so everyone understands and recognises what is involved.
I’ve explored this area some more in an interview I had with Martin Lucas. Listen to the podcast below.
If you are looking to create or develop an effective mentoring programme in your organisation, take a look at our flexible 2019 programmes.
Happy Mentoring 😊