1. Models of Mentoring
In some organisational and geographical cultures, mentoring is seen as an activity within a managerial responsibility, with the mentor having authority and influence over the protégé. This approach often involves mentoring being viewed as similar to coaching or teaching, or as a type of ‘godfather’ relationship. In other cultures, this is seen as incompatible with the fundamental openness of the relationship. Relationships are ‘off-line’ and mentoring is seen as primarily a developmental activity, with the emphasis on empowering and enabling the mentee to do things for themselves. These different perspectives represent two competing models of mentoring, which we will now explore further.
This is largely US-derived and emphasises sponsorship and hands-on help from the mentor. The mentor’s power and influence are important to the relationship and the more junior partner is typically referred to as a protégé. Definitions of mentoring from this sponsorship perspective include:
- A process in which one person (mentor) is responsible for overseeing the career and development of another person (mentee) outside the normal manager/subordinate relationship’ (Collins, 1979)
- A mentor is a professional person who is a wise, experienced, knowledgeable individual who “either demands or gently coaxes” the most out of the mentee (Caruso, 1992)
- A special type of colleague, who informally guides, counsels, and teaches the techniques of survival and success to a protégé (Banjnok and Gitterman, 1988)
- An experienced, objective sounding board with the power to influence events (Conway, 1995)
The second approach, which is more European driven, emphasises helping people to do things for themselves. It is concerned with co-learning and helping someone make better decisions and develop in wisdom, as a result of increasing their self-awareness. Instead of using the label protégé, this kind of mentoring uses the term mentee, to place less emphasis on any difference in power.
Definitions that reflect this model of developmental mentoring include:
- To help and support people to manage their own learning in order to maximise their potential, develop their skills, improve their performance, and become the person they want to be (Parsloe, 1992)
- A confidential one-to-one relationship in which an individual uses a more experienced person as a sounding board and for guidance. It is a protected, non-judgemental relationship, which facilitates a wide range of learning, experimentation and development. It is built on mutual regard, trust and respect (Business Wales, 2013)
- Helping someone with the quality of their thinking about issues important to them. (Clutterbuck, 2012)
- The role of the mentor is one of support to the mentee. The mentor will listen and give advice and guidance, when it is appropriate. Mentoring focuses on developing capability by working with the mentee’s goals to help them realise their potential. The mentee is responsible for their learning and development and setting the direction and goals for the relationship. The flow of learning is two-way in a mentoring relationship and the mentor often gains as much as the mentee. (Merrick, 2005)
- Off-line help from one person to another in making significant transitions in knowledge, work or thinking. (Megginson and Clutterbuck, 1995)
Let’s look in a bit more closely at the last definition, which has become the most commonly used definition of developmental mentoring in Europe. The rationale behind the use of ‘off-line’ is because it is difficult to be fully open in a relationship where one person has authority over the other. In the cases where mentoring relationships have been set up between individuals and their managers or their manager’s manager, the managers in particular have found a conflict of role – either the mentee holds back information, or the managers find themselves in possession of confidences, which they cannot use without damaging the relationship. There are rare occasions when an off-line mentoring relationship becomes an inline relationship and, if it is sufficiently strong, may continue informally. However, most programmes would withdraw support for a formal mentoring relationship in these circumstances.
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Can Developmental and Sponsorship Mentoring work together?
2. The Dynamics of Mentoring
3. The Roles and Behaviours of a Mentor
Roles of a mentor
4. Mentor Reflection
Infographic—The roles of a Mentor
Additional Content—Skills Training Video
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