Definition and Explanation

Mentoring or mentorship is used for development of people. It is used to expedite people's development and it is the developmental relationship between two people or two professionals where one person (generally a more experienced person) helps the other person (generally a less experienced person) in his development in some specifically chosen areas or in a general sense.

Person who assists or guides the other person is called a mentor and the person being guided is called a protege or a mentee.

The relationship between mentor and protege can be created formally or informally but it is mostly carried out or executed in an informal manner. That's why in some organizations, this relationship is called a "buddy" program and both the mentor and his protege behave like buddies to each other.

Types of Mentorships

  • Formal: This is normally an organizational mentoring program. Within this program, the organizational management appoints mentors voluntarily or as an organizational decision. Generally, new employees of the organization are the mentees and these mentees are assigned to particular mentors for mentoring process. Apart from the newly hired people being mentored, mentoring can be extended to the high potential employees who are evaluated as the future leaders of the organization.

  • Informal: Here any two persons can come together to form a mentor-mentee pair. At times, more number of persons can seek the same one person as their mentor.

Mentorship programs are also seen in educational or sports/games set up where students / apprentices / new players are mentored by teachers / professors or by expert counselors/coaches to support them in program completion, confidence building and further/advanced education and expertise.

Mentor's Roles and Functions

Mentors can play versatile roles as advisors, supporters, tutors, sponsors and models of identity or role models. Ideally, their role should be a combination of all these roles. They must open themselves to the mentee by sharing their reasoning and decision processes with them and allowing themselves to be observed in various situations. Mentor should possess skills to match the support they give with the mentee's development progression, thereby leading them incrementally. They should be able to express care and concern demonstrating empathy.

Personal and Professional Qualities of a Mentor

  • Interpersonal skills

  • Communication skills (including listening skills)

  • Approachable

  • Empathy

  • Genuine desire to be of help to others

  • Supportive and not controlling

  • Open mind and flexibility

  • Can give guidance to a mentee without making their decisions

  • Willing to empower the mentee

  • Gives honest answers

  • Facilitates solutions

  • Questions the mentee as necessary

  • Ability to probe and challenge

  • Willingness to debate and discuss

  • Has realistic expectations of themselves and others

  • Organizational skills

  • Aware of organizational values, culture, policies, systems and politics

  • Proficient and enthusiastic in his professional field

  • Knows about mentee's area of work

  • Can offer a range of perspectives and suggestions

  • Willing to sponsor his protege

Detailed Activities of a Mentor

  • Attend regular meetings with the mentee, preferably in an informal environment

  • Prepare for meetings

  • Set the agenda for discussions in collaboration with the mentee

  • Allow out of turn meeting with the mentee if the mentee needs one

  • Work out plan of action for the mentee in consultation with him

  • Maintain dialogue and discussions

  • Act as a sounding board

  • Observe the mentee and train mentee to observe others

  • Provide feedback to mentee

  • Acclimatize the mentee with the values, culture, policies and systems of the organization

  • Maintain confidentiality befitting mentor-mentee relationship

  • Take relevant training to become a better mentor

  • Share information with the mentee about continuing professional development and opportunities

  • Provide emotional support as needed

  • Guard against the exploitation of the mentee by other parties

Benefits of Mentorship

To the Mentee

  • Makes him feel at home in the organization in a short period of time

  • Smoother transition into the work place

  • Feeling of having a buddy or friend in the organization in addition to have formal bosses and colleagues

  • Availability of support and guidance

  • Having a confidant with whom discussions on some specific sensitive issues can be held

  • Developmental opportunity

  • Having someone who can back you up and sponsor in the organization

To the Mentor

  • Opportunity to develop new skill and career of mentorship

  • System to reflect on one's strengths and weaknesses

  • Channel to develop personal and professional skills further

  • Opportunity to network with other professionals

  • Job satisfaction and

  • Improvement in self esteem

Mentee's Responsibilities

  • Allow the mentor to take the lead initially

  • Act with courtesy with your mentor

  • Be an active listener and take notes when necessary

  • Enquire with purpose

  • Take the initiative for feedback and take it with open mind

  • Be considerate towards mentor’s time.

  • Return phone calls promptly and be on time with commitments and meetings.

  • Demonstrate that you have followed advice or commitments.

  • Express appreciation and thank the mentor

  • Do not talk loose about the mentor to others

  • Maintain confidentiality of relationship as needed

  • Prepare yourself to move beyond the mentoring connection once it has served its purpose

  • Keep the door open to return to the mentor for assistance or advice at a future time.

  • Follow up with the mentor after termination to keep in touch, to share progress and to continue to express gratitude.