Mentoring Your Future Leaders

mentoringMany organisations are using mentoring to help develop talented managers into future leaders. If you are considering introducing a mentoring programme then there are a number of factors to consider to ensure that it successful delivers the changes required.

Mentoring is different from coaching, although the two are often confused.

The CIPD defines coaching as “Developing a person’s skills and knowledge so that their job performance improves, leading to the achievement of organisational objectives”.

Coaching targets high performance and improvement at work, although it may also have an impact on an individual’s private life. Coaching typically lasts for a short period of time and focuses on improving specific skills to achieve agreed organisational goals.

Mentoring, on the other hand, is the long term passing on of support, guidance and advice.

In business, mentoring is used to describe a relationship in which a more experienced manager uses their greater knowledge and understanding of the work or workplace to support the development of a more junior or inexperienced managers.

Mentoring is a bit like an apprenticeship, where the inexperienced manager learns the "tricks of the trade" from their more experienced mentor.

Mentoring is essentially a supportive form of development that focuses on helping an individual manage their career. Unlike coaching, where the emphasis is on improving performance at work, personal issues can be discussed more productively in a mentoring relationship. Thus mentoring activities seek to support the achievement of both organisational and individual goals.

Whilst mentoring can be an important part of a young manger’s personal development, it is important to remember that mentoring is not for everyone, nor will it work in every organisation. Therefore, before introducing a mentoring programme for your managers, consider the following five essential conditions that must be met if a mentoring programme is to be successful:

1. There must be transparency in communication

To succeed mentoring needs a culture of communication transparency in which honest feedback and open communication creates a learning culture. Without this openness trust is not present - and trust is an essential ingredient in the mentoring relationship. The presence of silos, power games and differing, hidden agendas prevents people from embracing mentoring fully. Where such conditions exist the person being mentored is fearful that what is discussed isn’t treated as confidential or doesn’t really believe that they are being listened to.

You need to be able to answer “yes” to the following three questions:

  1. Does your business genuinely encourage honest, transparent communication?
  2. Is giving and receiving feedback a routine part of your culture?
  3. Do line managers engage in ongoing and timely performance reviews with their team members?

2. You must have dedicated resources, including a budget

To be done well mentoring requires a great amount of effort and time from your more experienced (already busy) managers. This time needs to be budgeted for and you may also need to provide training of those who will act as mentors.
This initial investment is repaid in the momentum the mentoring programme gains, its longevity and ultimately its tangible outcomes.

3. You must be clear on the aims and objectives

Mentoring is a well-established developmental method that can, and should, deliver hard tangible outcomes. But in order for these outcomes to be delivered, they first need to be defined. You must clearly and specifically identify what the outcomes will be for the organisation, the mentor and the people being mentored before you begin a mentoring programme.

4. Those involved must be willing

Mentoring is an inspirational and wonderful opportunity to learn in today’s hectic business world. Those mentoring and being mentored will need to invest their time and their effort to make it effective and be willing to accept that they will be challenged and so will sometimes feel out of their “comfort zone”.
The people involved therefore need to be willing recruits, not pressed men! They must feel committed to the process and must show this in their behaviour, whether they are acting as mentors or as mentees.

Not every manager is suitable to mentor and not everyone is willing to be mentored. You should never coerce someone into a mentoring relationship, and you should review each person’s commitment on an on-going basis.

5. You must provide support

To work effectively, any mentoring initiative must be actively supported by the most senior managers and should have a champion and sponsor from one or more of the executive team.

When the very top level of management in the business believes in the value of mentoring, then this message is communicated down, giving middle managers permission to dedicate time and resources to mentoring.

Even better is when the most senior managers become mentors themselves, so acting as role models.

If you are at the planning stage of setting up a mentoring programme, make sure you review the five points again. Addressing these will give you a greater chance of success.