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.

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.
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.



Purpose of a mentorship

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.


5 ways to become a good mentor at workplace

Successful people usually attribute a part of their success to their mentors. A good mentor can actually guide and advice a mentee in reaching great professional heights. Here are five ways you can become a great mentor.

Have interest
Being a great mentor works only when you have genuine interest on your mentee. Choose your mentees well so that you happily invest time in the relationship. Understand the mentee’s background and narrative and help him figure out his current situation as well as dreams and aspirations.

Perceive
Be sensitive to the mentee’s environment and situation and use your understanding and personal experience to hear and understand the things that the mentee did not share. Be perceptive in anticipating challenges and share from your life to encourage communication. Maintain confidentiality to increase trust.

Listening and learning
Have a regular conversation with your mentee. At least once a month works well. Find a common time and informal environment for meeting. Give your mentee undivided attention and ask open ended questions to help the mentee speak freely and openly. For best outcomes, constantly learn from your interactions.

Commitment
Have an open door policy for your mentees to approach you and seek help whenever required. If they are serious and committed to their personal growth, use your network to make the appropriate connections for them. Be committed to fulfilling your promises to your mentees and hold them accountable too.

Provide feedback
Ask questions before you advise. Be non-judgmental and drop biases before you give feedback. Be proactive and assertive in discussing areas of improvement. Figure out how your feedback chats can be structured for maximum effectiveness. Finally, encourage your mentees to take their own decisions.

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


Reality - mentors for startup founders and companies?

A startup can have mentor is a good idea, an expanding customer base, provide funding, a great outlook — yet find itself  struggling to deal with a growing team or figuring out the best way to use those bucks for expansion. And that’s where the right mentor could be invaluable, encouraging the founders in the right direction and helping them grow both personally and professionally.

“Having the right mentor is most important. It could be the difference between making a good decision and a wrong decision,” said Abhishek Verma, founder of 9 months old startup Mojostar, a celebrity-driven retail business. Verma gets advice from those who have been there and done it before him on three counts — steering big partnerships and negotiating, hiring the right people, and learning how to allocate capital. Verma, who was part of Myntra’s brand team earlier, has drawn his mentors from the fashion etailer’s old management team.

TIES OF ADVICE

Warren Buffett - Bill Gates

The Microsoft founder has often said that famed stock investor Warren Buffet is his adviser when it comes to ideas and investments, apart from being a best and close friend. Gates has said Warren Buffett asked him a number of hard questions in the early years of Microsoft, which helped him build the company into the IT giant.

Larry Ellison – Marc Benioff

They’ve have had public feuds but they’re also best friends, and Oracle co-founder Larry Ellison supported Benioff through the early days of Salesforce, offering advice, help and time off from work.

Bill Campbell - Jeff Bezos

A former Columbia University football player and coach, Campbell worked with and mentored with some of the biggest names in IT industry, including Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos, Larry Page and Eric Schmidt

Building personal bonds
While mentoring is usually about an informal, personal relationship with a senior or more experienced person who takes an interest in a younger entrepreneur with spark and energy, in most cases the relationships are more formal. A number of accelerators assign mentors to the startups in their programmes, while some angel investors play the role of adviser. In other cases, “professional mentors” take a stake in the company to dish out advice.

A study by Endeavor Insight, a non-profit entity that supports high-impact entrepreneurs across the world, found that 33% of founders who are mentored by successful entrepreneurs went on to become top performers in their domain. “The magnitude of difference between the performance of companies with successful mentors and companies that lack them suggests that the value of effective mentors for startups may be especially high,” Endeavor Insight’s director Rhett Morris writes.

Sagar Yarnalkar, founder of grocery delivery platform DailyNinja, said his mentors are also his angel investors — TaxiForSure’s Aprameya Radhakrishna, Freecharge’s Kunal Shah and Anupam Mittal of Shaadi.com. “Aprameya Radhakrishna helped me plan my incentive structure to work with partners and milk vendors under the system. He had experience in working with vendors during his time at TaxiForSure,” he said. Freecharge’s Kunal Shah and Mittal helped set up meetings with key investors. All this helped Yarnalkar bag another round of funding from Sequoia Capital last December. “A good mentor will want the same thing you want and back you to the hilt,” he said.

WELL - KNOWN MENTORS IN INDIA
  1. Kunal Shah, founder of Freecharge
  2. Anupam Mittal, founder of Shaadi.com
  3. Aparameya Radhakrishna, founder of TaxiForSure
  4. Phanindra Sama, founder of RedBus

Globally, too, founders of tech giants like Apple’s Steve Jobs, Google’s Larry Page and Amazon’s Jeff Bezos have said about how having a mentor helped them build and scale their companies.

In India, there are many successful entrepreneurs who associate with younger entrepreneurs to help build them startup ecosystem. Year 2017, Niti Aayog invited applications for its ‘Mentor India’ programme, under which mentors could guide schools students in government Atal Tinkering Labs. Around 750 mentors have been selected for that programme across the country. While some entrepreneurs just put their name down as a mentor therefore a startup can raise funds, others are genuinely interested in the growth of the company and help when possible.

Some feel the word ‘mentorship’ has been wrongly used in India. “Mentors in India are overvalued. In reality, 90% of the time an entrepreneur takes the name of a person as a mentor because it sounds good. Sometimes an angel investor invest money and leaves but is credited as a mentor,” says Somdutta Singh, vice-chairperson of Nasscom Product Council and a member of the core management committee of Women Entrepreneurial Cell, NITI Aayog.
She says many highly-valued startups in India grew by putting big names as mentors when they were starting but the relationship wasn’t truly one of nurturing and advising.

If entrepreneurs get a “ good professional mentor”, it comes for a monthly charge. Singh herself is a mentor to startups through her consulting firm and her roles at Nasscom and Niti Ayog and charges a fee for her time on it.

“A few accelerators charge startups fees every month for an hour of mentoring them, but mentorship is not just consultancy service. You can’t pay them by the hour,” said Ishan Singh, who has led three investments and is a mentor to 10 startups, including WeDoSky and PeeBuddy. He was previously a mentor to the founders of 91 Springboard. An advisory equity stake, usually 1 to 5% in the company, helps the mentor be fully aligned to the growth of the company, he said.

There are still risks when, PeeBuddy co-founder Deep Bajaj recalls the time a “mentor” disappeared after requesting a 2% stake in the company. “Fortunately we hadn’t issued it. But I know many startups who haven’t been as lucky,” he said.

To oppose this, in Israel, its innovation authority has a formalised mentor-mentee programme, which ensures that the people signing up as mentors are tracked online for the number of hours spent helping startups. Nasscom’s Deep Tech Club has started a similar programme with lawyers, accountants and entrepreneurs acting as mentors, and they have to visit the startups twice a week.

So how does one choose the best mentor?
Somdutta Singh has an ‘ART’ —Aspiration-Responsiveness- Transition — for it.
  • The startup’s aspiration should match with the mentor’s.
  • Responsiveness is helping them connect with the right people.
  • Transition is to help startups grow.
A mentor should do all these, she said.

Verma said a startup should have a clear goal and define specific outcomes for the relationship. Ishan Singh, too, advises startups to explian the expectations they have from the mentor and to do extensive research before signing one on. Mentors should be honest enough to say if help or they can’t help, Singh said. “I have rejected quite a few startups offers because I don’t think I am the right person to help them,” he said.



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

Reverse mentoring

Reverse mentoring
where older executives are mentored by younger employees— is still a new concept. If done well, it can make the leader and the organisation more effective.

Buy-in and Acceptance

It’s important for the leader to accept that a much younger person can provide valuable and often surprising feedback. The leader needs to do it not because it’s “trendy”, but because they truly want to learn from it, Like all mentoring relationships, this is most successful when it is mentee-led. Mentees need to prioritise, find time and give it due importance.

Getting the Mix Right
Creating the right pair by choosing a younger and senior talent based on their personalities and aptitude is an important part of the exercise. HR should analyse their behaviour in advance to ensure there are no ego issues in either of them. Also, avoid pairing people who have little or no interest in engaging with others as this can harm the well-being of the organisation.

Coaching the Mentor
For most reverse-mentors, it may be the first time they are engaging in such a conversation with a senior leader. “S/he may have inhibitions, lack of clarity, or simply nothing to say. HR, or another experienced mentor, can assist here.

Bridge-Building Exercise
Reverse mentoring helps both the freshers and the experienced to understand the finer nuances of each other’s working style. It can help them broaden their horizons, build trust, and share technical and social skills with each other.

Push the Limits
The conversation mostly starts around “generational” or diversity topics, but it can go anywhere. “Leaders can get feedback and ideas on any aspect of their leadership. Therefore, it’s an advantage to select someone who has multiple opportunities to observe the leader in a daily work context, yet is still not directly reporting to the leader.