Mentoring case Essay

Mentor is the person who influences a person by supporting, guiding and motivating to attain something - Mentoring case Essay introduction. As Phillips-Jones (1982) defines modern mentors as follows: ‘In modern-day terms, mentors are influential people who significantly help you reach your major life goals.’

The mentor shows positive affect in support of the mentee, typically by offering encouragement and support. More generally, mentoring is formed either formally or informally. Formal mentoring occurs as the relationship is formed under instruction from higher authority. Informal mentoring takes place when the members of the relationship mutually choose each other.

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Carmin (as cited in Caldwell & Carter, 1993) takes the concept of mentoring further by including a number of variables in his definition. He states:

“Mentoring is a complex, interactive process occurring between individuals of differing levels of experience and expertise which incorporates interpersonal or psychosocial development, career and/or educational development, and socialization functions into the relationship. This one-to-one relationship is itself developmental and proceeds through a series of stages which help to determine both the conditions affecting and the outcomes of the process. To the extent that the parameters of mutuality and compatibility exist in the relationship, the potential outcomes of respect, professionalism, collegiality, and role fulfillment will result. Further, the mentoring process occurs in a dynamic relationship within a given milieu”. (pp. 10-11)

Research in the United States (Ragins and Cotton 1999) questions whether mentors within a formal mentoring can replicate the benefits of informal mentoring. However, there are two lessons to be drawn from this and correlated research. First, it is important that the formal mimics’ valuable features of the informal as much as possible (Gibb and Megginson 1993). For instance in matching mentor and mentee, there needs to be as much choice as probable for both parties. Subsequent research by Viator (1999) indicates that the mentor having choice of mentee is mainly crucial. Walter (1997) in a survey for Focus Central London found that it was (by contrast) vital for mentees to have a choice of mentors! Second, formal mentoring comes off inadequately in the US context as one of the expected outcomes of mentoring in the US tradition is ‘sponsorship’ and bringing forward the mentee’s career through a type of patronage. Sponsorship is much harder to deliver in formal mentoring relationships; certainly, so it should be. However, sponsorship is not part of the expectation of developmental mentoring in Britain and the rest of Europe (Gibb and Megginson 1993; Megginson 2000). Therefore, formal mentoring is not as disadvantaged in Europe as it would be in the United States. Though formal, the relationships in this scheme required to replicate features of informal mentoring – particularly willing involvement by both parties, and a strong measure of choice for both parties in matching mentor and mentee. What the scheme offers and what it does not offer desired to be clearly spelled out.

However, according to (Kram, 1988, 22) both formal and informal mentoring functions can be divided into two broad categories: career functions and psychosocial functions:

Career functions. “Career functions are those aspects of the relationship that enhance career advancement. They include sponsorship, exposure and visibility, mentoring, protection, and challenging assignments”.  (Kram, 1988, 22).

Psychosocial functions. “Psychosocial functions are those aspects that enhance the protégée’s sense of competence, identity, and effectiveness in a professional role. They include role modeling, acceptance and confirmation, counseling, and friendship”.  (Kram, 1988, 22).


Both functions are viewed as critical to management development.

Carter and Lewis (1994) have developed four bases (resources) which put in to successful mentoring. These four areas can be seen as the ways in which mentors can help mentees. They are:

·         Organizational: mentors can support the use of position, networks and expertise within organizations to assist the mentee in achieving their goals.

·         Interpersonal: mentors can assist by using their personal access and skills to achieve support and advice for the mentee.

·         Development: identification of, and feedback on, development opportunities for the mentee is also a key job for mentors.

·         Context: recognition of purpose and goals of mentoring and how these can be supported is another significant aspect of mentor behavior.

In contrast to Walter’s (1997) stress on non-defectiveness, Garvey (1997) found that it is lawful for mentors to share their own experience. This is not, however, to tell the mentee what to do, but rather to be open concerning their own actions and mistakes; to demonstrate trust, and to offer a window onto what will be a new understanding for the mentee.

Ibarra (2000) found that effective mentors

·         talked about what works

·         encouraged concern of a range of role models and offered criterion for judging them

·         gave emotional and practical support

·         Were there for the mentee in hard moments.

It seems that mentors overvalue the significance of encouragement. This fits with Walter’s (1997) research on the value of enhancing self-reliance. Geof Alred spoke poetically at the 1998 European Mentoring Conference of ‘being listened to touching that great hunger within us’.

Borredon (1998) developed a mentor profile emphasizing

·         devotion to learning

·         a extent of self-mastery

·         Ability to recognize the nature and purpose of the relationship.

There is no great common direction for an ideal mentor. However, it is suggested that they need to be listeners and competent of enhancing self-reliance and learning, rather than offering gung-ho encouragement. They require having a clear sense of the issues on which they are going to work. They might need support to gain this clarity.

Organizations have tried to exploit better on the learning potential of relationships by creating formal developmental relationships in which people are deliberately matched for the primary reason of learning and development. Two of the most popular strategies are formal mentoring programs and executive mentoring.

Formal mentoring initiatives usually involve matching an experienced manager with a junior manager; the experienced manager is anticipated to provide help, advice, and sponsorship to the junior manager (Douglas, 1997). Mentoring programs have identifiable phases: recognition and matching of participants, orientation and training, negotiation of the parameters of the relationship, development of the relationship, concluding the relationship, and valuation of outcomes (Gray, 1988; Murray & Owen, 1991; Newby & Heide, 1992).

These programs are most often initiated to help ease the transition of new managers into the organization, ease the development of women and minority managers (who lack access to informal mentoring relationships), or give challenge and support to high-potential managers on the fast track. Though formal mentoring programs have drawn some criticism (commonly limited accessibility and unintended impact on peers and supervisors), a wealth of practical experience and several research-based evaluations have yielded knowledge on how to design these experiences for the best developmental impact (Douglas, 1997).

Executive mentoring is used to help senior managers with their developmental needs. The senior managers are usually paired with external consultants who focus in executive mentoring, though some companies have internal consultants who can provide in this role. One-on-one mentoring by outside consultants is often used at this level in the organization so that executives can get candid feedback, focus several extra developmental efforts on a targeted need, and do so in a supple way that will fit within their typically chaotic schedules.

Sweeney and Bloch (1994) have identified twelve components of eleven mentoring programmes and ranked them in order of significance. These components are useful as they suggest issues to address when setting up a mentoring scheme. They are:

mentor training and development
compatibility when pairing mentor and mentee
monitoring and evaluating
support for mentors (Cashmore and Sweeney 1998)
briefing of line managers
creating an opportunity for the initial meeting (Arnold and Johnson (1997) show that regular contact is necessary to success)
establishing criterion for mentors
agreeing agendas (Tranfield (1994) recommends making a development plan)
communication to recruit participants and retain their engagement
training mentees
planned use of time between meetings
Formal contract (this was seen as substantially less useful than the others).
Key items for this scheme are mentor training and development, compatibility when pairing mentor and mentee, monitoring and assessing, support for mentors, creating an opportunity for the preliminary meeting and regular contact, establishing criteria for mentors, agreeing agendas, communication to retain participants’ engagement.

However, in matching mentors and mentees, there is an obvious tension between being paired with someone too similar on the one hand – not stretching or useful – and too diverse on the other – there is insufficient common ground for a prolific relationship to develop. This might explicate why there is evidence that informal mentoring has a lower rate of turnover of mentors than formal schemes (Viator 1999).

As a result, a mentoring scheme must be designed so that there are points of both commonality and difference. For instance, an experienced exporter with thirty years’ experience of manufacturing forklift trucks can find it difficult to relate to a start-up in the book publishing industry, and vice versa. Though, if mentor and mentee were in the same or related industries, e.g. both in engineering, there can be more points of common interest. At the other end of the spectrum, two similar exporters starting up in the same industry can not result in improved exporting due to both parties having no related experience to share, although peer mentoring would be a possibility. Mentoring pairs must have enough points of commonality, but choice of pairs must rest with both parties rather than scheme organizers.

Mead et al.’s (1999) work on mentoring suggests that it is significant to consider supervision of mentors. They argue for a safe space for mentors to widen themselves and their skills with a mentoring supervisor – obviously, this relates to the issue of what mentors themselves get out of the mentoring relationship in terms of their own skills development.

Mead et al. (1999) offer a series of useful tips for mentors in which they argue that they, in their supervisory sessions, must

·         Focus on the particular and personal rather than looking for common advice on mentoring

·         Prepare their thinking for each session rather than trying to widen a fixed agenda

·         Bring significant issues and requests for help to each session

·         Trust their own experience, skills and intuition.

Witherspoon and White (1997) identified four types of mentoring that diverge in focus and intensity:

·         Mentoring for skills, which focuses on improving a particular skill or set of skills desired in a current task or project

·         Mentoring for performance, which focuses more generally on improving performance in the current job

·         Mentoring for development, which focuses on preparing an individual for future, broader job responsibilities

·         Mentoring for an executive’s agenda, which focuses on current organizational issues or changes the executive is dealing with and how to deal with those issues effectively

Executive mentoring has grown faster than any other area of consulting. The majority executives rate mentoring experiences certainly and report specific, value-added outcomes from their mentoring relationships (Hall, Otazo, & Hollenbeck, 1999).

Many organizations have developed formal mentoring programs. On the other hand, given the significance of the issue, a number of mentoring organizations have begun to spring up. Often the major purpose of these organizations is to facilitate create and monitor mentoring partnerships so that the right people are matched with one another. While done well, the mentoring process is beneficial for both the pupil and the mentor (Ronald R. Sims, 2002).

Not surprisingly, mentoring is also being done over the Internet. Known as e-mentoring, the procedure is mediated via Web sites that bring experienced business professionals together with individuals needing counseling. Although participants in e-mentoring typically never meet in person, several form long-lasting e-mail connections that tend to be very beneficial. Still, the majority participants see these connections as supplements to—rather than substitutes for—in-company mentors.

The diverse types of formal developmental experiences serve somewhat different purposes. Formal feedback provides broad assessment information and serves as the basis for forming development goals and plans. Training is for exposure to new knowledge and for skill practice and improvement. Personal growth programs are intended to motivate and energize participants and raise their confidence in their ability to lead. Action learning programs also expose participants to new knowledge concerning the business, but also permit participants the opportunity to practice problem definition, data analysis and interpretation, team problem solving, and presenting to top executives. Formal developmental relationships can serve a wide range of purposes, from special mentoring on a particular skill to broad career advice and support. As developmental experiences, each has its strengths and weaknesses.

To exploit the power of specific training and development experiences, organizations incorporate them into a broader program of executive development for a targeted set of high-potential managers. For instance, a national nonprofit organization, concerned about whether it had the bench force to fill top leadership positions, designed and implemented a two-year leadership development idea for twenty middle-level managers who were identified as having high prospective for moving into executive roles. The overall involvement integrated multiple developmental experiences.

The program was launched with a week-long, feedback-intensive program. Participants received feedback from multiple sources: their boss, peers, and subordinates in the workplace; trained observers of assessment exercises; peers in the program; and psychological tests. They were also exposed to models, concepts, and research findings regarding effective leadership.

The group experienced a number of educational events throughout the two-year period. For example, they focused a workshop on strategic planning and chose among several self-study courses on topics relevant to the history and philosophy of the nonprofit organization. Groups of participants were sent on special assignments to provide services to communities in a particular part of the world. These assignments provided the prospect to practice leadership skills and gain insights concerning the service challenges that nonprofit organizations face.

The participants were consigned to two formal relationships. First, each was matched with a senior executive whom they visited, shadowed throughout his or her work, and discussed the challenges of executive positions. This relationship was created to assist the participants get a better understanding of what an executive leadership position entails. The second link was one that the participants established with a recognized leader in their community but outside their organization. The goal was to be exposed to new and diverse perspectives of effective leadership and to set up a relationship with someone who could coach the participant in his or her efforts to attain developmental goals.

To prepare managers for executive-level positions, organizations require providing them with a diversity of developmental experiences, for two important reasons. The first is that diverse experiences tend to be best at developing different capacities. For example, managers learn a great deal concerning setting and implementing agendas and about handling relationships from challenging job assignments. Important value lessons often come from relationships with others. Humility and responsiveness of personal limits are strongly linked with hardships. Feedback-intensive programs are best at providing in-depth self-awareness. Technical and business knowledge are frequently mastered in training programs. Serving on a cross-functional task force or an action learning team exposes participants to perspectives from those who work in other parts of the organization.

Even within a kind of experiences, there is variety. Starting a new operation teaches diverse lessons from those learned in a turnaround assignment or a staff job. What is learned from a longtime mentor is diverse from what can be learned from an assigned coach who has expertise in a particular area in which one is trying to develop or from a colleague who serves as a sounding board and confidante.

Second, changing one’s behavior, learning new skills, or developing a new perspective is hard work; one experience is typically not enough for mastery. For example, the manager who wants to be more effective at persuading peers needs to plan a series of experiences, all of them aimed at at improving this competency. She may start with a training program, get mentoring from her boss, get formal feedback from her peers, provide on a task force where she can try out her skills, and eventually take an assignment where she has to influence groups across the company without having direct authority over them.

Organizations require ways of thinking about how to sequence developmental experiences. Some capacities can need to be demonstrated or developed earlier in an executive’s career than others. For example, Bonoma and Lawler (1989) suggest that functional expertise, the capability to work with and motivate others, a commitment to high performance, and inspiration need to be developed early in a manager’s career if he or she is going to move to top levels in an organization. These are the screens for junior managers to be considered as having high prospective to move to the next level.


Experiences in middle management ranks require building the future executive’s capabilities in additional areas: compassion to others, the wisdom to make decisions in both familiar and unfamiliar situations, self-belief in one’s own judgment, and good instincts. Bonoma and Lawler suggest a sequence and assignment paths for developing each of these capacities, together with the kind of supervision needed. Dalton (1998) provides similar assignment path suggestions for developing the capacities for effectiveness in global leadership roles. Organizations require modeling these sequencing approaches, though they will adapt them to their own proficiency models and types of experiences available in their organizations.

As mentoring has become part of normal management practice, managers and academics are beginning to replicate upon mentoring as a process. Thus, for mentorship development to have its planned organizational and individual effect under the new pattern the dedication of the organization is completely critically. Those accountable for today’s and tomorrow’s mentorship development cannot give to take the organization’s commitment for granted. The real test of the organization’s commitment can finally only be found in funding, mentorship participation, attendance, long-term program evaluation, and the degree to which leadership development is an equal partner in the organization’s strategic plan.

Like any commitment for senior leadership there is no one means to ensure their commitment to mentorship development. Though, one way to establish whether there is commitment to mentorship development is in a documented vision or policy that specifically makes clear the role and purpose of mentorship development. The subsistence of such a vision or policy should help establish and give meaning to mentorship development in the organization. This means that mentorship development subsists to support the organization’s overall goals or strategic agenda.

Mentorship development either formal or informal should be viewed as a key element in the achievement of the organization’s visions and attainment of expected results. It is the role of mentorship development to make this connection as a part of the organization’s commitment to its vision and thus to leadership development. Those who responsibly for mentorship development must always be attentive to ensuring that mentorship development are part of the overall organizational strategy and vision.



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