Mentors, Mentees, Mentoring, Mentorship in Business: Measure Impact, Value, Outcome– The Promise of Mentorship Matters…

Mentors and mentoring relationships can be powerful and life-changing: If you examine successful people they typically have one thing in common: A Mentor. Nearly every successful person in history had someone who they could confide in and learn from when times were tough… They leverage knowledge and experience– guide and focus attention on things that matter, shorten learning curve and speed success…

According to Catherine A. Hansman; perhaps the most acknowledged root of ideas and definitions surrounding the concept of mentors is the well-known story from Greek mythology: The original Mentor is a character in Homer’s epic poem The Odyssey. When Odysseus, King of Ithaca went to fight in the Trojan War, he entrusted the care of his kingdom to Mentor who served as teacher and overseer of Odysseuss’ son, Telemachus.

The concept of Mentor  has continued through the centuries and reflected in the many definitions of mentors and in the expectations of mentoring relationships. Just uttering the word mentor brings to mind images of supportive people in the past or present who have assisted us and continue to sustain us in our professional and personal lives… But, according to Patricia Cross; mentoring is a slippery concept indeed, a search through the mountains of literature and research concerning mentoring reveals differing definitions for the term. For example, Levinson et al. defined a mentor as teacher, advisor, or sponsor, leaving the term open to personal or professional connotation…

Others choose to define mentors as helping more with professional life describing mentors– as people with advanced experiences and knowledge that are willing to provide upward mobility and support to the protégé (i.e., mentees) career development. Others add the idea of nurturing to their definition of a mentor, e.g., professional guide who nurtures and promotes the learning and success of his or her mentee…

The differing definitions of mentors reflect various characteristics that seem to define informal and formal mentoring relationships. Informal mentoring are psychosocial mentoring relationships for enhancing mentees’ self-esteem and building confidence through interpersonal dynamics, emotional bonds, mutual common interests, and relationship building. Formal mentoring, in contrast, are generally organized and sponsored by workplaces or professional organizations; a formal process that matches mentors and mentees for the purpose of building careers…

Different techniques may be used by mentors according to the situation and the mindset of the mentee… According to Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner; mentors should look for ‘teachable moments’ in order to expand or realize the potentialities of the people in the organizations they lead, and they underline that personal credibility is an essential for quality mentoring…

However, despite some of the positive benefits that have been linked to mentoring, some research has found that mentoring can have negative consequences, for example; jealousy, over-dependence, and feelings of failure… However, mentoring does matter– especially in the workplace– with the recognizing that such relationships require vigilance to prevent potential abuses…

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In the article Business Mentoring: What It Is Why It Matters by Chris Wallace writes: While it can be challenging to always quantify whether a mentoring relationship is successful (e.g. how do you measure things like increased confidence?) some studies and statistics do exist and are encouraging. Many in the mentoring field often point to a study conducted in 2006: The study compared the career progress of 1000 employees over a 5-year period and the results showed that those who participated in a mentoring program experienced many more benefits than those who did not.

An article in Forbes that talks about the study noted; both mentors and mentees were approximately 20% more likely to get a raise than people who did not participate in the mentoring program and 25% of mentees and 28% of mentors received a raise versus only 5% of managers who were not mentors.

Mentoring can also help reduce employee turnover, as an article in the Harvard Business Review noted: One of the most critical elements in retaining great people is effective mentoring. By investing in mentoring, you empower senior-level employees (who serve as mentors) and bolster junior-level employees who typically welcome (and thrive from) the increased guidance, support, and insight that mentoring provides.

The keys to a successful mentoring program include; oversight, training and guidance, and embracing of a mentoring spirit throughout the organization. A company that invests in its people often ends up having happier, more loyal and more productive employees as a result, which can only help a company’s bottom line…

Various mentoring models exist. Formal one-to-one programs match a mentor and mentee, while group mentoring involves having one mentor for a small group of mentees. Self-directed mentoring is an informal mentoring model where a gung-ho mentee who understands the benefits of mentoring goes out and finds a mentor on his or her own (either within or outside of the company). As business landscape changes, other mentoring models form to adapt to these changes.

Reverse mentoring is one such model that’s growing in popularity, especially with millennial… An article in The Wall Street Journal noted; in an effort to school senior executives in technology, social media and the latest workplace trends, many businesses are pairing upper management with younger employees in a practice known as reverse mentoring…

In the article Business Mentoring by Mike Morrison writes: According to a Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) Survey; 87% of businesses in the UK utilize mentoring; mentoring in a business sense is a vehicle for self-development. Having a formal relationship with a respected senior within an industry or organization is valuable to both the mentee and mentor; it’s an effective people development strategy and one that can support succession plans…

Mentoring is in essence the sharing of experience and learning from one person to another… It’s interesting to observe that often in education, mentoring is used for those that are under performing whilst in business, mentoring is used for those with potential– the high fliers in organizations and support of people starting their own business.

There are in essence two basic approaches to mentoring and they can be portrayed as– American and European methods or sponsoring (informal) and developmental (formal), respectively. In the informal process, it tends to occur naturally and involves individual choice like sponsoring… Whereas, the formal is structured with a formal facilitated process that can be managed and monitored…

The informal approach is more associated with the roots of mentoring, and emphasizes the need of a more senior experienced and wiser person, the mentor, to pass down their skills, knowledge and experience to a younger individual appropriately named as a protégé rather than a mentee.

The relationship between mentor and mentee is naturally developed often by choice of how and whom the mentor wishes to take under their wing. The pace of the relationship is controlled by the mentor and consists of a more authoritarian and influential approach…

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In the article Mentors Make a Business Better by Emily Keller writes: It’s never too late to have a mentor. If there’s an area in your career or personal life you want to improve, don’t think it’s too late. For workers who are seeking to change direction in their industry, climb to the next level or adjust to a merger or structural change at their company, management experts say finding a mentor could be their best transitional tool.

Successful mentorship can be in any number of forms: online or in-person, formal or informal, temporary or long-term, or between individuals or in groups: What experts say are the essentials– direction, dedication, and openness… To be sure that your time as a mentee is fruitful, experts recommend setting specific goals at the outset and revisiting them along the way, as well as looking for a mentor who has traveled the career path you seek and has the skills you need, instead of seeking out a mentor whom you like for personal reasons.

According to Lois Zachary; people put too much weight on personal chemistry-likeability, but they are not a prerequisite for learning. So what makes a good mentor? Ask the right questions are the key but receiving all the answers is not always expected. Your mentors shouldn’t tell you what your goals are; they should just ask you what your goals are… The benefits are far-reaching: In addition to improving managerial skills, company mentorship programs may also aid in recruitment: More and more people are attracted to organizations that help them grow and learn…

For the whole purpose of talent attraction and talent retention today, mentoring is a vital part… Yet mentors and mentees must be dedicated to skill-building for the relationships to work. Mentees should avoid seeking relationships for political or nebulous reasons, like trying to get a promotion and mentors should avoid making promises they can’t keep...

Research confirms what we already know– anecdotally or intuitively– mentoring works… To be successful in life it’s very important to have a mentor, a coach, someone with more experience than you, someone who is in a position in life that you desire to be in future. Most people underestimate the value of a mentor: A mentor offers valuable insight to things that only experience can teach… A good mentor will motivate you with a simple statement that affirms that you are on the right track, even when things do not seem to be going well… A mentor will help you prevent mistakes that you otherwise would have no way of avoiding… There are only two ways to gain wisdom in life; making your own mistakes or learning from others mistakes

According to Elizabeth Alleman and Diana Clarke; the first step in developing a business mentoring program is to answer three questions: 1) What business issues are you trying to address (e.g., turnover, recruitment cost, productivity or some other problem)? 2) Why is addressing this issue important? Companies address issues that have a financial impact or affect the quality of the products and/or services.

3) How will the organization be different as a result of the program? When business issues involving the effectiveness of employees have been identified, the next two questions arise: 4) Who do you want to change or develop? (i.e., who will be the mentee? and 5) How will those people be different? Answering these questions establishes program objectives. These objectives must be specific, measurable, and realistic and they must have an appropriate time frame…

While the intangibles benefits of such programs are often the most important outcomes; it’s also very desirable, if possible, to simply convert one of the intangibles into a significant tangible benefit; e.g., personal productivity into a monetary value which shows an ROI for the program.

This type of quantifiable result allows the proponents of the program to speak in the language of business and possibly influence upper management on the value of the program… We live in constantly changing world and mentoring programs are increasingly important in the workplace; but perhaps its greatest benefit is as a way to offer some kind of security in insecure times…