Click here for a
Free Consultation


Making a difference. Inspiring growth.

Leaders and Teams Individuals Schools

Mentoring Made Easy

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

What is Mentoring?

One of my favorite pop culture images is the "Mean Joe Green and the Coke" commercial.  A kid comes up to this HUGE, dirty, and limping football player and offers him a drink of his coke.  Mean Joe drinks it all and starts to walk away as the dejected little boy watches.  Joe turns and says, "Hey, kid, catch," and throws him his jersey. That was the beginning of a mentoring relationship between Joe, the seasoned veteran, and the inexperienced boy. They each shared something of value-the coke and the jersey-and both benefited from that sharing.

In today's business world, mentoring is a partnership that works to develop the skills and leadership abilities of the less-experienced members of an organization or of different organizations.  This facilitated learning process enables the mentee to take ownership of their development. Mentors take personal interest in their mentees' careers and guide them to reach their full potential.

Do You Need a Mentor?

No matter where you are in your career, if you are asking yourself any of the following questions, NOW is a good time for you to consider a mentor:

How Do You Establish A Mentoring Partnership?

Mentoring partnerships can begin informally or formally. Here are a few examples of informal mentoring:

  1. A manager attends a recognition event and takes the opportunity to talk to a leader of the organization about a project and asks her for ideas on how to handle a particularly difficult situation. During the discussion, the leader gives some helpful insights about a similar effort, and offers a copy of a presentation that she gave about it. The manager follows up with the leader to thank her and to let her know how much her advice helped.  The door is now open for additional mentoring. 
  1. In the process of checking out another department to understand what they do, a supervisor requests an informational interview with a senior manager from the department. During the interview, the supervisor's well-researched questions impress the senior manager. When he comments that the supervisor has really "done his homework," the supervisor asks the senior manager if he would be interested in becoming his mentor.
  1. Another mentor/mentee pairing began while working on a presentation for a professional organization to which they both belong. The mentor sees the potential in the mentee and offers to mentor her.

In facilitated or formal mentoring relationships, the organization that is implementing the program usually determines the criteria for pairing mentors with mentees. 

What Do Mentors Do?

Whether formal or informal, mentors must be prepared to invest time and effort in helping their mentees.  Mentors provide perspective, an empathetic ear, and much more.   According to mentoring expert Gordon Shea, there are seven types of assistance that mentors can give, which are helpful in encouraging mentees to grow:

  1. Help a person to shift his/her mental context
  2. Listen when the mentee is facing a challenging opportunity
  3. Identify mentee feelings and provide feedback
  4. Effectively confront negative intentions or behaviors
  5. Provide appropriate information when needed
  6. Delegate authority or give permission
  7. Encourage exploration of options

According to Shea, these seven items are very critical for personal and professional growth.  They will not meet all of a mentee's needs, but they meet the key needs and can help a mentee face career challenges, make decisions about them, and move on.

Mentoring Resources

For further information, please review the following books on mentoring:

Bell, Chip R.  Managers and Mentors: Building Partnerships for Learning.

Berrett-Koehler, 1998. 

Shea, Gordon F.   Mentoring:  A Practical Guide- How to Develop Successful

Mentor Behaviors.  Crisp Publications, 1992.

Wickman, Floyd and Terri Sjodin (Contributor).  Mentoring:  The Most Obvious Yet Overlooked Key to Achieving More in Life Than You Ever Dreamed Possible: A Success Guide For Mentors and Proteges.  Irwin Professional, 1996.

Liesl Piotti is a consultant, writer and speaker in the areas of Leadership, Team, and Organizational Development.  With more than ten years of consulting and corporate experience and a Master’s degree in Industrial/Organizational Psychology, Liesl designs Human Resource systems that align with Business goals.  She has worked with a diverse range of clients, including highly technical organizations, telecommunications, HR consulting, a Fortune 500 retailer, and an international subsidiary in India.