Mentoring is a powerful personal development and empowerment tool. It is a process whereby more experienced managers actively guide less experienced managers. The mentor provides guidance through direction, advice, criticism, and suggestions. Unlike a management relationship, mentoring relationships tend to be voluntary on both sides, although it is considered possible for a line manager to also be a mentor to the people that they manage.
Traditional One-on-one Mentoring
A mentee and mentor are matched, either through a program or on their own. Mentee-mentor partners participate in a mentoring relationship with structure and timeframe of their making or as established by a formal mentoring program.
The most common mentoring model, one-on-one mentoring matches one mentor with one mentoree. Most people prefer this model because it allows both mentor and mentoree to develop a personal relationship and provides individual support for the mentoree. Availability of mentors is the only limitation.
Resource-based mentoring offers some of the same features as one-on-one mentoring. The main difference is that mentors and mentorees are not interviewed and matched by a Mentoring Program Manager. Instead, mentors agree to add their names to a list of available mentors from which a mentoree can choose. It is up to the mentoree to initiate the process by asking one of the volunteer mentors for assistance. This model typically has limited support within the organization and may result in mismatched mentor-mentoree pairing.
A mentoring relationship in which the two parties (or group) are in different locations. Sometimes called “virtual” mentoring. Sometimes the most effective mentor or mentee is located elsewhere. Distance mentoring has evolved as a resourceful strategy that enables the mentee to find the perfect match no matter what the location of the mentor is. The immense surge of technology in the workplace has assisted this style of mentoring as most of the communication relies on electronic tools such as e-mail, audio/video-conferencing, etc.
A single mentor is matched with a cohort of mentees. Initial program structure is provided while allowing mentor to direct progress, pace and activities.
Group mentoring requires a mentor to work with 4-6 mentorees at one time. The group meets once or twice a month to discuss various topics. Combining senior and peer mentoring, the mentor and the peers help one another learn and develop appropriate skills and knowledge.
Group mentoring is limited by the difficulty of regularly scheduling meetings for the entire group. It also lacks the personal relationship that most people prefer in mentoring. For this reason, it is often combined with the one-on-one model. For example, some organizations provide each mentoree with a specific mentor. In addition, the organization offers periodic meetings in which a senior executive meets with all of the mentors and mentorees, who then share their knowledge and expertise.
This model is tied directly to a training program. A mentor is assigned to a mentoree to help that person develop the specific skills being taught in the program. Training-based mentoring is limited, because it focuses on the subject at hand and doesn’t help the mentoree develop a broader skill set.
This top-down model may be the most effective way to create a mentoring culture and cultivate skills and knowledge throughout an organization. It is also an effective succession-planning tool, because it prevents the knowledge “brain drain” that would otherwise take place when senior management retires.