A mentor is someone who serves as a counselor or guide. Being asked to serve as a mentor is an honor. It indicates that the company has faith in the person’s abilities and trusts him or her to have a positive impact on the career and development of another person.
Many companies have discovered leadership mentoring for new employees not only helps employees settle into their job and company environment, but also increases employee retention. The use of a mentor may be an informal, short-term situation or a more formal, long-term assignment.
In an informal mentoring program, the mentor helps the new employee for a limited period of time. Advice from the mentor may include the most basic of information about everyday routines including tips about “do’s and don’ts” not found in the employee manual to helping the employee learn job responsibilities. A mentor available to answer routine questions also saves time for the supervisor or manager. In addition, new employees often feel more comfortable asking questions of a mentor instead of a supervisor.
In a program of this type, mentors often are volunteers. Forcing someone who does not want to serve as a mentor to do so can quickly create problems. Obviously, someone with a negative attitude, who might encourage a new employee to gripe and complain, should not serve as a mentor.
A more formal version of mentoring occurs when an organization appoints an individual with extensive knowledge and experience to serve as a mentor to a new professional the company feels has excellent potential for growth. The mentor’s role usually lasts for an extended period of time and may not end until the person mentored reaches the level of the mentor.
Whether informal or formal, both parties need to understand the parameters. These may be more important in a long-term, formal mentoring situation, but can also influence the success of short-term, informal mentoring.
- The mentor’s role is to teach and advise the new employee. The mentor does not interfere with the supervisor or manager’s decisions. The new employee, while expected to seek the mentor’s advice particularly on critical issues, is not bound to accept that advice.
- Confidentiality is important. Both parties need to feel confident that discussions remain between them–not immediately relayed to a supervisor or manager.
- Certain areas may be considered off-limits. The mentor needs to outline these areas at the beginning.
- Decide in advance how you will communicate. Will you have regularly scheduled meetings? Will discussion be face-to-face, over the telephone or even via E-mail. Both parties need to make their preferences known at the beginning and reach an acceptable compromise if the preferences are different.
- Professional relationship: The relationship between the mentor and his or her protégé is a professional one, not a personal one. This is particularly important for the new employee to understand.
- Compatibility: It would be helpful to use a behavioral survey/assessment on both the mentee and mentor. This will help both understand each other’s communication styles, strengths and limitations.
Greg Smith | Lead Navigator | 770-860-9464 | Chart Your Course International