A mentor is defined in the Oxford Dictionary as an “experienced and trusted adviser.”

Mentoring is essentially about helping people to develop more effectively and can add significant value to the growth and development of the mentee, their teams and the business as a whole.

It is an informal relationship between 2 people designed to build confidence & support and to provide guidance to the mentee based on the mentor’s experience.

Mentoring can be used at different points in someone’s career:

  • As a new starter to help the induction process and to settle into the company
  • When working towards a specified goal or promotion
  • When taking on a new role
  • As part of a structured development programme or CDP (continuous professional development).

Value of Mentoring

There are many benefits to be realised from being mentored:

  • Learning from others with more experience
  • Increasing self confidence & motivation
  • Being challenged to think differently
  • A sounding board to discuss ideas or work challenges
  • Increased exposure to more senior colleagues
  • Feedback to support personal growth

We all have the opportunity to build capability within ourselves and to share our knowledge with others . Mentoring is 2 way and one of the most effective and rewarding learning opportunities is to become  both a mentee and a mentor   – learning from others and adding value to others.

So what skills do you need to become an effective Mentor?

  • The ability to listen & understand
  • Self awareness – to understand your own strengths and development needs
  • Empathy – the ability to emphasise with others
  • To inspire and motivate others
  • Inventiveness – be open to new ways of doing things and different ways of working
  • To empower others to take action

Reverse Mentoring

Many organisations are now also realising the value of ‘reverse mentoring.

Mentoring is traditionally a top down process where by a more experienced  individual will support , encourage  & advise someone less senior to themselves.

However, there may be more to gain by reversing this process

We should recognise that regardless of seniority or experience that we all have different strengths, weakness and areas of expertise and that no one will have all the answers or be fully versed in every aspect of the business. There will always be something that we can learn from others whether that be about company strategy, leadership, or how to get the best out of social media and new technologies.

Reverse mentoring gives the opportunity for the younger and junior staff members to educate and inform the more senior especially useful in the areas of social media and new technologies where the more senior experienced executives may benefit from individual help and support.

Mentoring v Coaching

There are some clear differences between mentoring and coaching

Mentoring is more about guiding and teaching someone in a specific task or job, drawing on past experiences to recommend possible solutions to consider whereas coaching will encourage the individual to find a solution by themselves through questioning and challenge.

Mentoring puts in advice, content & information where-as coaching pulls out solutions and information.

‘A coach has some great questions for your answers – a mentor has some great answers to your questions’ (unknown)

Both approaches support growth and development and can be used in different ways to leverage maximum impact dependant on the needs and opportunities of the individual.

Whether your approach is mentoring or coaching or even a mix of the 2 the key is to provide the attention, time and support to the individual to develop their potential, no matter what form it takes.