Mentoring - issues worth thinking about

by Andrew Gibbons
Reproduced by permission from, copyright Andrew Gibbons

  1. Mentoring is much more than coaching, and can throw up complex and unanticipated issues.

  2. An effective mentoring relationship can, and often does, last many years beyond an initial purpose.

  3. How many people can you effectively mentor at one time? If pushed I would say one can be enough.

  4. There are pros and cons of the line manager being a person's mentor, but far more cons than pros.

  5. The selection of mentors/mentees is a big it best to follow the strawberry principle...PYO?

  6. To be effective, a mentor must have, and retain a genuine interest in those s/he is helping.

  7. Mentors do not inappropriately 'over help'...the best encourage mentees to find their own solutions.

  8. There is a structure to mentoring, and as the relationship develops, so formality tends to lessen.

  9. Mentors that are most effective tend to have an intuitive understanding of learning issues.

  10. What is the best label for mentees...protégés...learners? Do we need one at all?

  11. Excellent mentors make it clear the learning and development is mutual and are credible role models.

  12. The best mentors take the rejection of their ideas, advice or suggestions well...many find this hard.

  13. If for whatever reason a mentoring relationship is not working well either party must be able to say so.

  14. Confidentiality is a major mentoring issue - what if anything can be divulged to what third parties?

  15. Mentors need continuous contact and support to share learning and to develop competence.

  16. A code of conduct for mentoring, clarifying roles, boundaries and expectations has value.

  17. Mentoring can seem a bit elitist, and the process needs to be managed delicately.

  18. There may be gender issues to consider...are all men comfortable with a female mentor for instance?

  19. Mentoring is essentially an interpersonal process...big ears, small mouth...and lots of other skills.

  20. A lot of us have one or more significant figures that have had a major influence on our development.

  21. The various Mentor Awards can be both a reward, and a benchmark for competence development.

  22. Very competent mentors take real pleasure in others' success...even when this surpasses their own!

  23. More can be learned from the uncomfortable process of reviewing failure than a success fixation.

  24. Mentoring will only work well within supportive, rewarding organisations.

  25. Sometimes the 'wrong' sort of people want to become is in essence a giving process.

  26. How can mentoring be evaluated in terms of what happens differently and better as a result?

Any views - and any more?

Andrew is a management and development consultant with a particular interest in real learning within individuals, teams and organisations.

Since February 1987 he has kept a learning log, and this now has 1076 entries totally 620,000 words - not bad for a 19 scoring Activist on Honey and Mumford Learning Styles terms.

A Fellow of the IPD, and member of the upgrade panel, he helps this, and many other professional bodies with their continuous development efforts. He spends a lot of time designing and leading management development events with a learning focus - even when working on NVQ programmes!