Mike Pelfini — 31 May 2023
Leadership mentoring inside an organization can pass along company values, culture, and institutional knowledge. Leadership mentoring in the long term improves retention and benefits mentees, mentors, and the company.
“The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be kindled.” – Plutarch
Organizations need to prepare today for the challenges of tomorrow. A big part of that effort is to develop the leaders of the future. While training covers some of that ground, many current leaders endorse the idea of mentoring the next generation of leaders. Leadership mentoring occurs when senior, experienced leaders provide their knowledge, advice, and support to more junior, less experienced future leaders. The relationship can take many forms, formal and informal. To reap the greatest benefits, though, organizations should be prepared to invest in the process.
What Are the Differences Between Mentoring, Training, and Coaching?
Mentoring, training, and coaching are related but distinct processes. Let’s take a look at some of the differences before discussing mentorship.
Training vs. Mentoring: Training in a professional setting usually involves mastering a set of defined skills, often in a short amount of time. The focus of training tends to be on practical, “hard” skills like learning a new piece of software or meeting regulatory requirements.
Mentoring is a longer-term process with an emphasis on the mentor – mentee relationship. The focus is on broader goals including “soft skills” like managing people.
Coaching vs. Mentoring: Mentors share personal experience and advice, usually from within the organization. They can pass along institutional knowledge and organizational culture in the process. The mentor’s role tends to be one of offering advice, support, and solutions if needed.
By contrast, coaches are generally from outside the organization. Rather than giving advice, a coach is more likely to ask a client to reflect on areas for improvement, draw conclusions, and create a plan of action. The goal for coaching is to help the client find his or her own solutions.
Training, coaching, and mentoring are all part of a comprehensive professional development plan. Each has its place and benefits. Let’s take a look at some of the benefits of mentoring.
What Are Some Benefits of Leadership Mentoring?
Practical Knowledge. The most immediate benefit is the mentor sharing first-hand knowledge of the organization, industry, and issues that will be facing the mentee. Another facet of practical knowledge is helping to develop the mentee’s professional network inside and outside the organization.
Institutional Knowledge. The mentor’s long experience also means that he or she has a wealth of institutional knowledge about how things are done, and why they’re done that way. The mentor can pass along the organization’s culture and values to the next generation of leaders.
Improved Retention. Mentoring can provide a deeper connection between mentor and mentee – and, by cultivating a supportive environment, between the mentee and the organization. The feeling of being valued, and of having opportunities for advancement, are both contributors to employee retention.
Benefit to the Mentor. The benefits of mentorship are not a one-way street. Mentors can develop their own leadership skills by participating in the mentorship process. Mentors tend to report greater feelings of job satisfaction, too. As a bonus, there may be a “reverse mentorship” effect – in which the mentor learns new skills and perspectives by interacting with a younger mentee.
Ways to be an Effective Leadership Mentor
Set Overall Goals. While leadership mentoring is a more open-ended process than training or coaching, it may be helpful to set some goals at the beginning. The mentor may open a dialog with the mentee: What would they like to achieve? What would they like to improve? What do they find most challenging? By opening a dialog, the mentor can gain insights to provide the most relevant types of advice and support.
Be Open About Challenges. Everyone makes mistakes, particularly in the beginning stages of a career. While it can be tempting to focus on past successes, mentors also should be willing to share their own early challenges and struggles. What did the mentor find difficult? What would the mentor have done differently with the benefit of experience?
Be Open to Feedback. A final way to make the most of mentorship is to stay open to feedback from the mentee. Are the mentee’s goals being met? Is the relationship providing the right kind of support? Can the relationship be improved? Encouraging feedback from the mentee is an essential way to make sure things stay on track.
Mentorship can be an integral part of professional development for future leaders. It can provide benefits to the organization, the mentor, and the mentee alike. If your organization needs advice on setting up an effective mentorship program, we are happy to assist.
ForeMeta is a place where business leaders learn about self-leadership and about leading their teams and organizations. We offer both individualized coaching or group coaching to help you, your teams, and your organization achieve greater success and fulfillment. Please contact Mike@ForeMeta.com