What Is Mentoring?

Mentoring is the Employee training system under which a senior or more experienced person (the mentor) is assigned to act as an advisor, counselor, or guide to a junior or trainee. The mentor is responsible for providing support to, and feedback on, the person in his or her charge.


What Is Mentoring?

Mentoring is the process of sharing your knowledge and experience with an employee.
  • Mentoring can be informal or formal:
    • Informal mentoring takes place spontaneously between senior and more junior employees.
    • Formal mentoring occurs through a program with an established structure.
  • A mentor can be an employee’s manager or not:
    • Management typically involves at least some employee mentoring. In acting as a mentor for an employee who reports to you, think of yourself as an advocate for that employee—not for any particular behavior, but for the person—for their personal growth and career. Discipline can then become a matter of helping an employee out of a difficult situation.
    • In formal mentoring programs, the mentor is typically not the employee’s manager, nor even in the employee’s chain of command

Mentoring is an ongoing relationship that is developed between a senior and junior employee. Mentoring provides guidance and clear understanding of how the organization goes to achieve its vision and mission to the junior employee.

Facts [+]

Mentis Consulting is an international consulting firm specialising in leadership assessment and development.  Our mission is Achievement through people™ – to help our clients to improve organisational performance by selecting, developing and retaining talented people.

Mentis was formed in 2003 and since then we have delivered management training and leadership development programmes involving many thousands of managers and leaders internationally. With offices in London, Abu Dhabi and Dubai and 25 consultants we offer world class leadership training programmes, talent management consulting and personality profiling tools to enable our clients to discover, grow and nurture talented people.  Mentis works with over 350 client companies across the UK, Europe and Middle East.

A recent AARP national survey of 1,500 workers age 45 to 74 showed that nearly 70% plan to work in some capacity during their retirement years. Companies can leverage this tremendous source of experienced human capital. Mature, older workers can be positioned as mentors or assigned to cross-generational teams so that workers of all ages can learn from and appreciate each other.


The purpose of a mentorship program is to match up a manager or other experienced employee with someone new to the company or position. The mentor takes a mentee, or protégé, under her wing and helps groom his professional career. A mentor program can be formal, as in the case of assigning a mentor to a protégé and following specific guidelines for the program, or it can be informal, such as to encourage people to volunteer their services or seek out a mentor and meet on their own terms. A successful mentoring program will not only help retain employees, it will assist your training efforts and help boost employee morale.

The meetings are not as structured and regular than in coaching. Executive mentoring is generally done by someone inside the company. The executive can learn a lot from mentoring. By dealing with diverse mentee’s, the executive is given the chance to grow professionally by developing management skills and learning how to work with people with diverse background, culture, and language and personality types.

Executives also have mentors. In cases where the executive is new to the organization, a senior executive could be assigned as a mentor to assist the new executive settled into his role. Mentoring is one of the important methods for preparing them to be future executives. This method allows the mentor to determine what is required to improve mentee’s performance. Once the mentor identifies the problem, weakness, and the area that needs to be worked upon, the mentor can advise relevant training. The mentor can also provide opportunities to work on special processes and projects that require use of proficiency.

Some key points on Mentoring
  • Mentoring focus on attitude development
  • Conducted for management-level employees
  • Mentoring is done by someone inside the company
  • It is one-to-one interaction
  • It helps in identifying weaknesses and focus on the area that needs improvement

Responsibilities of a Mentor

  • The responsibilities of all mentors:
    • Assist the employee in developing talents.
    • Maintain objectivity and balance.
    • Allow the employee to grow and become more independent.
    • Foster a sense of risk-taking and independence.
    • Balance the responsibilities you take on for the employee.
  • The additional responsibilities of mentors in a formal program:
    • Listen to and acknowledge the employee without undermining the role of the manager.
    • Encourage the employee to resolve problems directly with the manager.

Detailed Activities of a Mentor
  1. Attend regular meetings with the mentee, preferably in an informal environment
  2. Prepare for meetings
  3. Set the agenda for discussions in collaboration with the mentee
  4. Allow out of turn meeting with the mentee if the mentee needs one
  5. Work out plan of action for the mentee in consultation with him
  6. Maintain dialogue and discussions
  7. Act as a sounding board
  8. Observe the mentee and train mentee to observe others
  9. Provide feedback to mentee
  10. Acclimatize the mentee with the values, culture, policies and systems of the organization
  11. Maintain confidentiality befitting mentor-mentee relationship
  12. Take relevant training to become a better mentor
  13. Share information with the mentee about continuing professional development and opportunities
  14. Provide emotional support as needed
  15. Guard against the exploitation of the mentee by other parties

Facts [+]

Mentoring and Sponsorship
Mentoring is a need felt by women recently, when they see the rise of their male counterparts in the workforce. Having a mentor means you have a formally appointed 'guru' at the workplace.
But, mentoring alone is not sufficient - sponsorship is also increasingly becoming a need for advancing women in the workforce. Sponsors don't just invest time in you, but are ready to use their power and influence to your benefit.


Mentoring Techniques

The focus of mentoring is to develop the whole person and so the techniques are broad and require wisdom in order to be used appropriately.

A 1995 study of mentoring techniques most commonly used in business found that the five most commonly used techniques among mentors were:

  1. Accompanying: making a commitment in a caring way, which involves taking part in  learning process side-by-side with the learner.
  2. Sowing: mentors are often confronted with the difficulty of preparing the learner before he or she is ready to change. Sowing is necessary when you know that what you say may not be understood or even acceptable to learners at first but will make sense and have value to the mentee when the situation requires it.
  3. Catalyzing: when change reaches a critical level of pressure, learning can jump. Here the mentor chooses to plunge the learner right into change, provoking a different way of thinking, a change in identity or a re-ordering of values.
  4. Showing: this is making something understandable, or using your own example to demonstrate a skill or activity. You show what you are talking about, you show by your own behavior.
  5. Harvesting: here the mentor focuses on "picking the ripe fruit": it is usually used to create awareness of what was learned by experience and to draw conclusions. The key questions here are: "What have you learned?", "How useful is it?".

Different techniques may be used by mentors according to the situation and the mindset of the mentee, and the techniques used in modern organizations can be found in ancient education systems, from the Socratic technique of harvesting to the accompaniment method of learning used in the apprenticeship of itinerant cathedral builders during the Middle Ages. Leadership authors Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner advise mentors to look for "teachable moments" in order to "expand or realize the potentialities of the people in the organizations they lead" and underline that personal credibility is as essential to quality mentoring as skill.


Tips on Mentoring
  • For all mentors:
    • Let the employee learn from you.
    • Whenever possible, give encouragement.
    • Point out alternatives.
    • Remember that mentoring also takes place in phone calls, e-mail, etc.
  • For mentors in a formal program:
    • Introduce the employee to people who would be helpful.
    • Keep your program administrator informed, and seek assistance when needed.
    • At the end, allow the employee to keep in touch.

Objectives of a Mentoring Program

  • To retain and advance talented employees.
  • o retain and advance women and minorities.
  • To give mentors satisfaction and a rewarding experience.
  • To open up new channels of communication, information, and education.
  • To demonstrate that the organization invests in people and encourages opportunity for a diverse workforce.
  • Non-goal: The program is not intended for sponsoring anyone for a particular position in the
  • organization.


Benefits of Mentorship

To the Mentee [A Person who is under Mentor]

  • Makes him feel at home in the organization in a short period of time
  • Smoother transition into the work place
  • Feeling of having a buddy or friend in the organization in addition to have formal bosses and colleagues
  • Availability of support and guidance
  • Having a confidant with whom discussions on some specific sensitive issues can be held
  • Developmental opportunity
  • Having some one who can back you up and sponsor in the organization