Mentoring: An outdated idea or a vital practice?

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This topic contains 21 replies, has 14 voices, and was last updated by  Terrence Hill 7 years, 10 months ago.

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  • #121632

    Ken Boxer

    We often hear adages about the wisdom of the elderly but rarely take a moment to reflect on how their lessons can lead to our success. It is my belief that mentoring is a vital part of successful business practices because it allows this wisdom to passed on. What follows is a brief list of some of the values I find in mentoring:

    • Attracting and retaining high performers
    • Upgrading employee skills and knowledge
    • Promoting diversity of thought and style
    • Developing leadership talent
    • Preserving institutional memory
    • Developing a line of succession
    • Easing the transition to new assignments

    Please share your thoughts with me as National Mentoring Month is coming to a close.

  • #121674

    Terrence Hill

    All great benefits of mentoring. I am intrigued by the notion of reverse-mentoring, which is also an effective way for senior managers to gain a new perspective. Sophisticated matching systems can be effective in pairing up mentors with mentees. Another new innovation is “speed mentoring” based on the same concept as speed dating. Also, don’t forget about the benefits of mentoring youth in our communities.

    Thanks to all the dedicated mentors out there.

  • #121672

    Allen Sheaprd

    Mentoring – vital!! Our brave new world is full of new things no one has seen befor. We use these new things – internet, twitter, excell, sharepoint, stumbleupon, etc to do age old tasks. People are still communicating, telling stories, manageing money and time, etc. Like our ancestors of 40,000 BC, we are social creatures.

    Mentoring to pass along what works is vital. They say “A smart man learns from his mistakes, a wise man learns from others mistakes” Mentoring helps push lessons learned down to a new generation without pusshing bias or out dated conceptions.

    Volunteering is a great example. So often people feel free to help eachother ” learn the ropes” of what to do.

  • #121670


    Vital practice…especially now with budget cuts, right? Why not mentor vs. sending employees to expensive training courses and educational institutions?!

  • #121668

    Tarryn Reddy

    Definitely vital– I think it’s a wonderful way to help employees with professional development, and I agree with Tricia that it could prove to be a great way to save money.

  • #121666

    Christina Evans

    Knowledge transfer: a way to pass on knowledge and experience before people retire.

  • #121664

    Ernest Sanchez

    Because of the makeup of the workforce (traditionals, boomers, Gen X, Gen Y), the need for mentoring, or coaching, is as important as ever. Informal mentoring is found to be more effective than a formal mentoring program, especially with Gen X and Gen Y employees. Find out the little differences in interests of the workforce groups (Xers and Yers); it’ll help in implementing any kind of mentoring arrangement. As for those few (hopefully) traditionals or boomers who might hold the thought that “no one showed me the ropes, let others figure it out as I had to”, think about this value of mentoring: it can actually be a means of “leaving a long legacy”. I think greatest value for mentoring is the (1) retaining of institutional knowledge and, (2) setting up employees for success.

  • #121662

    Mark Hammer

    Mentoring, and what I like to call “wisdom transfer”, is critical to the preservation of the institutional mission. What I am fond of reminding people is that there is always a paper trail of what decisions were taken during the history of an institution or an individual career. But there is not always a paper trail of how the decisions were arrived at, and how priorities were balanced off. Mentoring fills that gap.

    The problem, however, is that the folks you want to be mentored by most are the ones with the least amount of time or flexibility in their schedule to do it. They’re all for it, but damned if they can find time for it, and it just slips to the bottom of the stack. So how to overcome that hurdle? My suggestion is to make that wisdom/knowledge transfer part of the senior bureaucrat’s performance agreement. In other words, they have to provide tangible evidence that they have spent so many hours or such and such a percentage of their time engaged in knowledge/wisdom transfer, whether it is one-on-one mentoring, or Friday afternoon brown-bag lunches on “Lessons I learned the hard way”, or “The toughest decision I ever had to make”. It needs to be a formal part of the job, and not just something people wave the flag for, and fit into their schedule when time permits.

  • #121660

    Ernest Sanchez

    Mark, I like your suggestion about formalizing. Thanks for sharing.

  • #121658

    Mark Hammer

    My pleasure. Even the most sincere intentions don’t get followed through on unless you build in a mechanism to support a good habit.

    Besides, knowledge transfer is not simply a nice-to-have or an OCB. It is a fundamental and critical aspect of organizational effectiveness. It IS “doing the organization’s work”. So why shouldn’t it be a formal part of the job description for management?

  • #121656

    Steve Ressler

    Have you seen any web 2.0 examples of mentoring? Online mentoring? Live chats? Network speed dating style online?

  • #121654

    Ken Boxer


    I think this is wonderful insight and exactly what I emphasize when discussing mentoring with companies. Now the challenge is to move this to ACTION! Any thoughts or strategies on how to encourage implementation of mentoring practices?

  • #121652

    Terri Jones

    I think mentoring is essential and such a great help to the mentor. There is so much to learn about the organization and how to navigate in those waters, as well as how to be a professional. I find that the effort of mentoring also reinforces the goals, mission and action items in the mentor’s mind.

  • #121650

    Mark Hammer

    Well certainly, a necessary first step is the signalling of “permission” from the highest management levels, and a message that makes unambiguously explicit the very things I noted in my earlier post: this is a normal and expected part of our activities and your job.

  • #121648

    Ken Boxer

    Hey! My company offers these types of solutions and we have consultants who have conducted numerous on-line mentoring training sessions, including: conducting mentoring training online for mentors and mentees that were dispersed globally and were going to mentor each other virtually.

    Can you expand on the specific need you are trying to meet? Are you interested in discussing ways to implement 2.0 mentoring processes on GovLoop?

  • #121646

    Richard Wong

    It’s critical, but I think the mentor and mentee need to be able to find each other, rather than being assigned to each other. It works best when the interest is shared, but a forced pairing needs a lot of commitment and effort to make things happen. Kind of like dating and marriage! 🙂

  • #121644

    David Dejewski

    Mentoring has been a vital component of my career, both as a mentee and a mentor. While I can clearly see the value that my mentors have brought into my life – exposing my blind spots, kicking me in the pants when I needed it, challenging me to grow and become well rounded – I’ve also realized tremendous value in mentoring.

    As a mentor, I’ve been challenged to open myself up to other people. The role has allowed me to embrace the idea that life isn’t about me. The best relationships (and results) have come when I have been able to engage from a perspective of abundance and generosity – when I truly and deeply cared about the future of the other person. This sort of “opening” was growth for me personally and it multiplied my own effectiveness.

    As a mentor, I’ve also been fascinated by the way those I have mentored solved their problems. Each person has a unique way of handling life. My way is not the only way, and the best way seems to be a combination of the person, the environment, and the problem. Often, the ones I’m mentoring handle situations (and their mentors) way better than I did – which leaves me with a mixed sense of awe, pride, and enlightenment.

    Oddly, I’ve personally had better luck with the informal rather than the formal. In the informal, “pair bonds” just occured naturally. Mentor and mentee came together through a sort of gravitational pull. Both benefitted and understood the value while it was happening and parted as friends when the relationship evolved.

    In the few formal mentor programs I participated in, we put together our resumes, posted them online and attempted to pair. It seemed scripted and somewhat sterile to me. The bonds were weak. Natural bonds were messy and usually ranged beyond the borders of mere work. A healthy work life is correlated to a healthy whole life. When this kind of relationship occurred naturally, there was trust enough to allow us to engage as whole people. I think this made a difference.

    Overall, I believe the mentor / mentee relationship is a great human gift. Everybody wins.

  • #121642

    Steve Ressler

    Totally agree…

  • #121640

    John Sim

    So many great responses and I agree as well – there are myriad benefits for all involved in mentoring!

    OPM has a “Best Practices: Mentoring” publication (Sept 2008) on their website at:

    It has a pretty a good overview of mentoring with sections on: why organizations implement mentoring programs; types of mentors; formal and information mentoring programs; benefits of mentoring for the mentor and the protege; and things to consider if/when developing and implementing a mentoring program.

  • #121638

    John Sim

    I like the approach of having mentoring, or coaching, a required part of the job.

    What would the metrics look like? Would effective/successful mentoring be measured by the quantity or frequency of the mentoring sessions? Or, if its measured by how well mentoring is done or is received, how would that be measured? Any thoughts?

  • #121636

    Andrew Ian Derksen

    I will second this opinion. While it may be all good and fine to “encourage” mentoring, there are individuals whose skills lie in other areas, and to require them to make the effort to do so could be disastrous for both mentor and mentee. You do not want to be forcibly paired with someone whose vision or interests do not match your own. As pointed out elsewhere in this thread, the ideal mentoring relationship should be volutnary and bidirectional. Information should flow both ways. Seniority and authority by no means imply expertise in all fields (particularly new and developing ones!), but requiring someone to pass along their “wisdom” implies that they posess it in the first place.

  • #121634

    Ken Boxer

    Definitely! The challenge lies in creating an atmosphere that is conducive to cultivating these crucial connections.

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