Mentoring Matters

Mentoring is not a special program for special people, but a business focused value for valuing employees focused on the business. A great piece was written over at Fast Company about Intel’s new mentoring movement, and it informed some of my thinking for this blog post.

A mentor/mentee relationship is more than merely providing advice; it’s a two-way relationship where the mentor and the mentee both work with – and benefit from – the other. Anyone can mentor, regardless of position. What matters is the experience and wisdom of the mentor, not the job title or organizational hierarchy. Intel does a great job of demonstrating that, so be sure to read that article.

“The currency of a successful mentor/mentee relationship is personal satisfaction.” – from FounderCorps

As with much of what I write about, I orient mentorship programs around clearly defined Objectives, supported by Goals, articulated through Strategies, and tracked through Actions.


GOALS (What by When)



Good Structure/Principles for Mentoring

Set a Start and Stop Date

That’s not to say a person cannot, or should not, be a life-long mentor, but by defining a start/stop date, the expectations for specific training or availability are clearly understood within a defined timeline.

Document Progress & Feedback

Though relational connection is key and should trump a checklists of task lists (that’s coaching, not mentoring), it is helpful to document the objective and goals for both parties. Tracking milestones along the way both ensures the focus is maintained and that expectations are being met.

To be clear: Coaching is task oriented, mentoring is relationship oriented. Coaching is performance driven, mentoring is development driven.

Learn When to Delegate Real-world Work

The delegation of actual job tasks can be a helpful, and guided, way to provide mentees with real-world scenarios. However, inappropriate delegation can happen when a mentor gives the mentee work to do that the mentor should be doing. Helping a mentee on a project means both are working together to see it through to completion.

Mentoring Happens Best When:

  • an organization is seeking to develop its leaders or talent pool as part of succession planning
  • an organization actively engages to remove barriers that hinder the success of new hires
  • an organization seeks to develop its employees in ways that are not directly related to job specific skills/competencies
  • an organization wants to create a culture that honors the professional and the personal development of employees

Mentor Beyond the Job Descriptions

Finally, mentors should actively develop the skills and knowledge that go beyond the mentee’s specific role. Skills such as business acumen, conflict management, effective communication, flexibility to adapt to the environment (and people), as well as developing innovative thinking habits.

Relationship vs. Compliance

The best mentor/mentee relationship is based upon advice and support freely given and freely ignored, largely eliminating conflict. Since conflict is merely a lack of congruence between the best interests of the person giving advice and the person getting the advice, when both give and take freely, the success of the mentor/mentee relationship isn’t based upon compliance.

Even without a formal mentoring structure, mentoring should be (and is) happening anyway. Encourage this amongst your team and help them reach out to others who can help them in both their job and career.

What have your mentoring experiences taught you? Comment below.


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