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The Practice of Mentoring

The Practice of Mentoring

“Mentoring is a brain to pick, an ear to listen, and a push in the right direction” …John C. Crosby

A little background to Mentoring:

Unlike the term “coach” which seemingly dates to 1830, the earliest evidence for the practice of mentoring has its origins in Greek mythology, where Mentor was the tutor of Odysseus’ son, Telemachus. Perhaps with a little support from the Greek goddess of wisdom Athena.

If you have an interest in this history, you may research more through Homer’s epic poem “The Odyssey”. Additionally, check the works of French author Francois Fenelon. In his 1689 novel “Les Adventures de Telemaque,” Fenelon proposed that Odysseus’s Mentor was like a “guide and instructor” to the young Telemachus, but ultimately, Mentor acted like “another father” to the boy.

Changes in the practice of Mentoring today:

Today, the practice of mentoring is widespread, and most people can point to one or more people that have been particularly important to their growth and development. Many celebrities cite those that have been there for them – for example, Oprah Winfrey speaks very highly of her mentor, Maya Angelou, and Martin Luther King Jr. acknowledged Mahatma Gandhi as one of his most important mentors.

As stated on page 1 of the Brown Brothers Harriman Careerconnect “Mentors Guide,”

  • “Mentors can serve many purposes. Sometimes they will help an individual with immediate needs, helping them solve pressing problems, getting important information, or learning a skill quickly. Other times it provides longer-term support and guidance. Regardless of the specific need being addressed, mentoring is a giving/receiving relationship for everyone involved. It is about helping each other to expand and grow so that everyone wins.”

The 2016 Deloitte Millennial Survey indicates that one secret to maintaining the millennial workforce for more than 5 years is by providing a mentor. The survey finds that 68% of those staying will have been working with a mentor.

It is important to highlight at this stage that the original form of mentoring has been expanded. In the past, we experienced mentoring through senior leadership or “specialist experts” being appointed formally or adopting the role informally, but offering their insights and guidance to the younger, less experienced and while this is still practiced, there are few twists on that traditional approach.

The use of terms such as;

  • Reverse mentoring – where older executives are mentored by younger employees.
  • Micro mentoring – smaller, less formal opportunities through social media influencers
  • Group mentoring – either one mentor for a group or multiple experts for one individual

It could be argued however that these forms are not new just more visible. By way of example, this image depicts this author’s own group of mentors during a career spanning more than 40 years.

Benefits from being mentored:

What are the benefits that I can get from being mentored? What’s in it for you as a mentee? Obviously, there are many, so here are just a few:

  • You gain practical advice, encouragement, and support. Sometimes, when problems or situations overwhelm us, it is very hard to see beyond that situation. Having someone emotionally detached and removed to observe and think more objectively can help us move forward.
  • Learn from the experiences of others. There is no manual or step-by-step guide on how to be successful in life or in business but learning from an expert can greatly shorten that learning curve.
  • Increase your social and academic confidence. Having a network of people, you can collaborate with and learn from is one of the critical skills in business today. A mentor may be a great source for introducing you to others inside and outside your field.
  • Become more empowered to make decisions. Having a mentor that empowers you to make calculated decisions and act boosts confidence. Not only does a mentee have someone who presents to him/her the risks and benefits of a decision, a mentee also has a mentor who can be there for him/her when a roadblock occurs.
  • Develop your communication, study and personal skills.  A good mentor can support you to develop your skills in multiple areas.

Mentoring summary

Having laid out some of the personal benefits from having a mentor, we can get a sense of how this guidance and support, help individuals to realize their peak performance.  

Initiating a mentorship program in a company shows that this company cares about its employees. When there is a mentoring program present in a company, then junior associates and new employees have an option to as higher-ups. There will also be a more engaged workforce. With the mentors leading the way and teaching the mentees the ways of the company, it would be easier for these mentees to become an asset to the business.

A mentorship program would also provide a high satisfaction rate to almost all employees inside a company because the opportunity to grow, learn, and climb the corporate ladder is readily available. It decreases employee turnover and leads to higher job satisfaction. When people are satisfied in a company, it is guaranteed that they will become the next leaders that will help the business flourish in the future.

When this culture of mentorship becomes present in a company, it will be attractive for new talents to join the team. One of the things that millennials seek on a job is not just whether the salary is high or not, more often, these young people search for value and meaning. A company that offers a mentorship program would inevitably cater to these needs.

At the end of the day, the practice of mentorship can only be possible if there is a mentor who is willing to spend his/her time, talent, and treasure to help another person become the best version of himself/herself. The hope is that this mentee becomes a mentor for the cycle to continue. Then this cycle would create a better practice of mentoring that will ultimately lead a company to greater heights. The practice of mentoring is one of the surest ways to success.


Co-creating “Moments of Inner Magic”

– coaching, mentoring, facilitating towards transformative leadership in organizations.

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