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Advice Mentoring

New directions

What is the next step for mentoring? David Williams discusses


entoring, whether in business, sport or social care, is a complex relationship that focuses on the short- and long-

term development of the mentee. An effective mentor does much more than just give advice. Their role is to motivate, engage and empower their partner, helping them to identify and reach personal and professional goals. Mentoring differs from management and coaching. Although definitions may be blurred, mentoring is relationship based rather than role based. A manager’s remit is usually confined to developing the individual within their current job, ensuring their performance meets required standards, deadlines and budgets. A coach’s role is more process-driven and aims to help the individual find their own solutions and answers, thus improving performance. Again, there is usually a specific, task-related agenda, closely linked to the job in question. When it comes to mentoring, however, the focus is much more on the individual. The mentor acts as a facilitator and trusted advisor, with no agenda other than to support and challenge the mentee in their development. They create a safe, non- judgmental learning environment, and add value and guidance by sharing experience, resources and networks. The current focus on mentoring can, in part, be attributed to the concept of the 70:20:10 learning model, which continues to gain momentum in the world of Learning and Development. Mentoring plays a key role in the ‘20’ – the proportion of learning that is to come through others – via mechanisms and activities

such as feedback, coaching and mentoring. As increasing numbers of organisations recognise the power of development opportunities outside more traditional formal courses, mentoring plays an increasingly pivotal role. With greater L&D focus in this area,

approaches to mentoring are changing, and becoming more fit for purpose. One key trend emerging is a more democratic approach, which recognises that everyone in an organisation has something to bring to the table. This sees benefits for the mentor as well as the mentee. Reverse mentoring, where younger employees mentor upper management, is already proving an excellent way for fresh talent to share their expertise in areas such as technology and social media, and for older workers to gain insight into new markets. As approaches to mentoring develop, I

believe relationships will extend even further with the emergence of circular mentoring, where groups with common issues and challenges come together. With the right structures and facilitation in place this circular mentoring can add great value, not only in promoting learning and dialogue, but also increasing cross-functional networking. The widening circles don’t stop there. New forms of mentoring involve organisations mentoring each other. A collaborative approach, delivered in the right way, can generate fantastic leadership development, as well as serving to broaden perspectives, revitalise strategy and add new insights to business challenges. Co-creation, collaboration and strategic alliances will become increasingly important in the new talent economy, where

we must cope with complexity and uncertainty on a daily basis.

A sophisticated and creative approach to mentoring can result in it being a key part of L&D strategy across – and even between – organisations. Used correctly, it provides the basis for a vast and successful social learning network. So, what is the best way to build a robust mentoring strategy and culture of learning? The formalised route by appointing mentors where you see fit? Or should you let the process happen organically, allowing people to develop and use their own networks? There’s no easy answer, but encouragement is better than enforcement. Ask your line managers to role model – support them to build up and use their own bank of mentors so that they can describe the experience and value first hand. Consider building an advisory board of senior representatives from a wide variety of external organisations who, through your senior leaders, can act as mentors to your entire business. Most importantly, create opportunities for your people to learn from one another – after all, that’s what mentoring is. Give them time. Allow them to share their thoughts. Equip them with a mindset for learning, where they see all experiences as a development opportunity that they cannot bear to miss. n


David Williams is founder and CEO of Impact International

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