COMENSA defines mentoring as “a partnership in which a mentee is assisted in making significant advances in knowledge, perspective and vision in order to develop their full potential; the mentor’s wisdom is utilised by the mentee to facilitate and enhance new learning and insight.” The mentor’s focus is the development of the learner, and about passing on personalised, domain-specific knowledge. Mentors help to set the agenda, their primary aim to develop an individual or small group to learn more comprehensively from their day-to-day working experience.
We all know of famous mentoring relationships. Ian Botham for example was mentored by Brian Close, Kevin Keegan by the great Bill Shankly. There are many business mentoring relationships, notably Chris Gent and Arun Sarin at Vodafone and there are many more examples from politics and other fields. A recent Times article2 offered the opportunity for readers to be mentored for example in theatre directing, novel writing, entrepreneurship and other high profile fields, often by celebrity mentors. This often leads to the popular belief that mentoring can only be carried out by the best in the field. To paraphrase Clutterbuck, who has written extensively on mentoring, anyone can be a mentor if they have something to pass on and the skills, time and commitment to do it. (Extract from CIPD, UK, Fact Sheet on Mentoring)
According to research conducted by the Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development (Coaching & Buying Services, 2004), Mentoring:
- Is an ongoing relationship that can last for a long period of time
- Can be more informal, meetings can take place as and when the mentee needs advice, guidance or support
- Is more long-term and takes a broader view of the person
- Mentor is usually more experienced and qualified than the “mentee”. Often a senior person in the organisation who can pass on knowledge, experience and open doors to otherwise out-of-reach opportunities
- Focuses on career and personal development
- Agenda is set by the mentee, with the mentor providing support and guidance to prepare them for future roles
- Revolves more around developing the mentee professionally
There has been ongoing debate in COMENSA about how coaching and mentoring are differentiated. Both are implemented for the purpose of improving the performance of individuals in the work place. Coaching tends to have more specific goals, and there are professional coaches who come in from outside a firm – indeed COMENSA is trying to professionalize coaching. Mentoring tends largely to be implemented inside an organisation, such as in Unilever, with the mentor being the more experienced, senior member of staff.
Mentoring in organisations
Professor David Clutterbuck outlines a number of key examples of mentoring in practice in the workplace.
Click here to download the COMENSA Gauteng presentation April 2010
- The Civil Service Public Sector leader’s scheme allows fast stream civil servants to pick a mentor to help in developing their leadership capability.
- Ericson the mobile phone company now owned by Sony uses mentoring from top executives to help grow its future leadership talent.
- BAE gives its graduates a mentor for the first year of their training programme
- Shell Exploration uses mentoring to develop local “indigenous” talent for its engineering and management activities in Brunei.