Lesson of the Day


Mentoring is a process focused on the development of one person by another. Through regular contacts, the mentor guides and nurtures the protégé towards an agreed-upon goal. This process enables the protégé to make a greater contribution to the organization.

Mentoring is one of a number of options that an organization can use to further the development of its people. Unfortunately, mentoring is successful in less than 50% pairings. There are however, a number of things that mentors can do to ensure that the relationship does not end in failure. As a mentor, consider these actions before beginning a partnership with a protégé.

Before Starting

Establish whether your organization has a mentoring program. If it does, and it has been well designed, take advantage of the service, which will:

  • Match your talents with the needs of a protégé
  • provide you with the tools - forms, systems and training - to manage the process
  • provide you with ongoing advice as needed

Take advantage of training programs that will focus on giving you the tools to:

  • get the process started on the right foot
  • set goals with your protégé
  • help your protégé develop a training plan that is compatible with her learning needs and style
  • assist the protégé in identifying his own solutions to problems
  • provide effective feedback to the protégé
  • know when and how to bring the relationship to a happy conclusion

Insist the your protégé also get suitable training before you begin. Such training will help her to:

  • become a full partner in the process
  • set her own goals for the relationship
  • understand her role and responsibilities
  • give your feedback on your effectiveness

Starting the Process

After each of you has the skill to make the relationship work, set up your first meeting. The focuses of the meeting should be to:

  • get to know each other
  • clarify the objectives for the relationship estimate how long the process is likely to take
  • decide how often you will meet
  • pick a place for ongoing meetings
  • set up ground rules for the relationship

Maintaining the Relationship

Maintain the effectiveness of your relationship by:

  • ensuring that each meeting has clear objectives
  • following up on previously agreed-upon goals and action items
  • dealing with items systematically, one at a time
  • ensuring that each decision taken is recorded in an action plan, together with a date by which it will be completed

Learn to influence your protégé

  • Avoid giving straight answers to his questions. Rather, ask him for his opinion. If you are unable to get an opinion from your protégé, provide him with some alternatives. Then ask him which one would be most acceptable and why. This will help him develop his self-confidence and problem-solving abilities.
  • Illustrate a solution through a story of your personal experience. Let her then figure our whether your solution might work for her.
  • Allow her to teach you.
  • Listen intently to his ideas. Mentors can learn, too.

Bring the relationship to a graceful, successful conclusion. You will know that the time is drawing near when:

  • the meetings are getting shorter
  • there is less and less to discuss
  • the discussions are becoming less focused

Celebrate the achievements of the relationship by:

  •  informing human resources that you will not be meeting formally any longer
  • inviting your protégé to give you formal feedback, evaluating what worked well for you
  • having a meal together so that you can toast your mutual achievement
  • writing a letter to the protégé recording your feelings about her letting her know how you have benefited from the relationship.

The above text is one chapter from Cy Charney's revised copy of, The Instant Manager, published by AMACOM. ISBN #978-08144-7213-2.