Mentoring Basics: Part 1

Mentoring is such a great topic. There is no greater personal legacy than that which you invest in others.

Mentors show the way.

Mentoring is universal and can be done just about anywhere; at work, at home, at school, at church, with a child, with a student, with a team, with a co-worker, and the list goes on.

There’s nothing like seeing people that you have invested time and effort in go on to do great things.

Personally, I don’t think I have always been a good mentor.

In fact, in hindsight, I can think of former mentees that I could have done so much more for, but quite honestly at that point in time I didn’t have a lot of experience in mentoring and/or didn’t have the tools in my locker to be a good mentor. Even today, I know that I have a long way to go to reach the level of some of the great leaders that inspire and mentor me, but I am better than I was yesterday and I learn every day.  Mentoring is just as much about the mentor learning how to grow others as it is about the mentee learning from the mentor.

For the purpose of this series of posts on Mentoring Basics, I am going to approach the topic from the “role of the mentor”, but I think the lessons have equal application for mentees as well. I am also going to approach it from a business standpoint, but again, I think the lessons have equal application in mentoring relationships outside of the workplace.

Throughout this series on, we are going to talk about mentoring basics, including:

  • How to put structure around your mentoring relationships
  • How to start a mentoring relationship
  • Key mentor Do’s and Don’ts
  • How to handle some of the tough conversations

A great place to start this conversation is around defining what mentoring is in the first place and how it differs from management.  In doing a little research, I found the following, which I thought was a good explanation from

What is mentoring?

Mentoring is a relationship between an experienced person and a less experienced person for the primary purpose of helping the one with less experience develop and/or reach their goals.  The mentor provides wisdom, guidance, advice and counseling as a mentee advances in their life, career or education.

What is the difference between a manager and a mentor?

While many managers demonstrate mentoring behavior on an informal basis, it is very different from having a structured mentorship. There is a qualitative difference between a manager-associate relationship and a mentor-mentee relationship.

Managerial Role

The manager-associate relationship focuses on achieving the objectives of the department and the company. The manager assigns tasks, evaluates the outcome, conducts performance reviews, and recommends possible salary increases and promotions.

Because managers hold significant power over associates’ work lives, most associates demonstrate only their strengths and hide their weaknesses in the work environment.

Mentoring Role

The mentor-mentee relationship focuses on developing the mentee professionally and personally. As such, the mentor does not evaluate the mentee with respect to his or her current job, does not conduct performance reviews of the mentee, and does not provide input about salary increases and promotions.

This creates a safe learning environment, where the mentee feels free to discuss issues openly and honestly, without worrying about negative consequences on the job.

The roles of manager and mentor are fundamentally different. That’s why structured mentoring programs never pair mentors with their direct reports.

This is a basic contrast, but does provide some boundaries on the roles of managers and mentors.

In the next part of the series, we’ll look at how to put some structure around the mentoring relationship.




5 Responses to Mentoring Basics: Part 1

  1. Pingback: Mentoring Basics: Part 2 « The Leader's Locker

  2. Pingback: Mentoring Basics: Part 3(a) « The Leader's Locker

  3. Pingback: Mentoring Basics: Part 3(b) « The Leader's Locker

  4. Pingback: Mentoring Basics: Part 3(c) « The Leader's Locker

  5. Pingback: Mentoring Basics: Part 5 (series finale) « The Leader's Locker

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