A Practical Guide to Mentoring
The Nature and Scope of Mentoring
Mentoring is an approach to people development that is independent of and takes place outside any line management relationship
The desire to achieve is important in all stages of life. Within education, at the primary and secondary levels, at university and elsewhere in higher education, standards have to be met and formal assessments and examinations passed. Within employment, particularly at the start of a new job, it is essential to become familiar with the detail and to develop competence in order to make a success of it. In the other spheres of life, in sport and leisure activities, or in pursuing a hobby, we are keen to get to grips with it as quickly as possible. In all these ‘development’ situations we depend upon the training and instruction given to us by more experienced people, some of who will be responsible for the work that we do. We build up a dependence on them to help us to achieve the necessary level of performance. Similarly, when we begin to think about longer-term ambitions there is a need for informed advice and help from an appropriate and trusted source.
SOURCES OF HELP
Many sources of help are available today, in many types of organisation, aimed at helping people to become proficient and to achieve their goals. The formal structures within education are there to help students to complete their courses successfully. In the world of work, most companies have systems of in-service training and development together with arrangements for individual members of staff to study and develop further through external providers. In many cases, these are linked to formal strategies of staff development and supported by appraisal and performance review. Even within activities associated with out-of-work pursuits such as sporting and social activities help is available for us to become familiar with the culture and proficient in the skills required. However, these sources of help often have common elements: they are provided formally and are undertaken within a line management or supervisory structure.
There is no doubt that that such formal training and development structures and programmes are intended to benefit both the individual and the organisation and, for the most part, are delivered professionally by well-intentioned trainers, managers and supervisors. It is within human nature, however, that some people do experience difficulty, and possibly embarrassment, in discussing their personal matters and their true career development intentions with someone in a line management relationship with them. In such cases, some other type of help and support is desirable. This is where mentoring can be of invaluable help.
MENTORING – AN INDEPENDENT SOURCE OF HELP
Mentoring is an approach to people development that is independent of and takes place outside any line management relationship. It is about one person helping another to achieve something that is important to them. It is about giving and receiving support and help in a non-threatening and informal environment and in a manner that is appropriate to the recipient’s needs. When properly undertaken, the recipient (the mentee) will value and appreciate the mentor’s involvement and will be empowered and encourage to move forward with confidence towards what they wish to achieve.
EXAMPLES OF MENTORING SCHEMES
Mentoring is being introduced, increasingly, into many different organisations and circumstances. Examples of mentoring schemes are found
- during formal periods of training;
- in preparation for vocational or professional qualifications;
- in the introduction of new employees into new jobs;
- to help members of staff to consider objectively their medium and long-term development aspirations;
- to prepare senior members of staff to prepare for their next posts;
- in the staff development processes of some universities and colleges of higher education;
- within schools to foster the development of gifted pupils and those with particular learning or personal problems;
- in social and sporting activities, to help new entrants to become acquainted with the culture and organisation and to develop skills.
This is developed in detail in the following chapters.