Matt M. Starcevich, Ph.D.
(For individual usage only, not to be used in organizational training programs)
Mentoring is seen as a positive solution to many societal and organization problems. Formal mentoring programs are flourishing. You are probably wondering what role you should play when asked or volunteered to be a mentor. There probably are as many definitions of mentoring as there are writers on the subject. In a recent survey 130 partners were asked to think about their most effective mentoring relationship. Their response to three questions indicated that there is no single definition or one universal role for mentoring.
As final evidence participants said:
For a complete discussion of the survey results see:
Rather than base expectations about what role a mentor should fulfill on the values and motives of an author or program sponsor, we feel the mentor should pick a role or combination of roles to fit their preferences and level of commitment. In other words, mentoring should be situational and those who implement and evaluate mentoring programs need to communicate the differing possible roles instead of implying that one size fits all. When someone asks, "Do you want to be a mentor?" the response should be "if it is a role I am comfortable fulfilling and, based on my skills and style, where I can make a contribution".
How can we get more people involved in mentoring? One obvious answer is to show the commitment to mentoring by making it part of a person?s performance evaluation and reward system. A less obvious answer is to give mentors choices on the type of mentoring they do, to ask them to contribute as a mentor where they have the necessary skills and are comfortable with their roles. Defining mentoring as all-encompassing leads to feeling of inadequacy, false expectations, and an unwillingness to volunteer to be a mentor.
Based on research and consulting work the author over the past 25 years, the author has identified six appropriate mentoring roles. A mentor can choose to be a specialist, performing just one role or a generalist, performing a number of these roles. There is one universal, a mentor is a helper. Helping another person do what, or accomplish what depends on the role chosen by the mentor.
Looking at mentors who can perform very specialized roles expands the pool of potential mentors. Assume a research-based organization that depends on government grants for their existence has one individual who is head and shoulders above her peers in getting grants awarded. Wouldn?t it be wise to let this person perform in the "expert" mentor role? Setting up a group mentoring situation where she can transfer her knowledge, allow others to practice, and get feedback on how well they are learning and applying the lessons delivered. It would conceivably be very frustrating and inefficient to ask this person to be fulfill the "facilitator" role in a one-on-one mentoring relationships.
For mentors, partners, and those who administer mentoring programs here are some do?s and don?ts.
Matt Starcevich, matt@coachingandmentoring