The Three M’s of Mentoring

Mentoring can have enormous benefits for all involved but is one of those strange, unknowable beasts that can be hard to do and difficult to explain. Both mentors and mentees find significant value in the process – which is more like a dance and less like a business relationship than you might imagine.  According to a SHRM Survey (1999), (Klasen and Clutterbuck 2002) 87% of businesses in the US utilize mentoring.  Interestingly, in today’s multi-level, matrixed organizations, finding just the right mentor-mentee relationship can be like finding a four leaf clover. As a result, it is important to understand the three most critical areas of the mentoring process to include meaning, method, and movement to apply them effectively to a mentoring solution for your organization.

The Meaning

The meaning of the mentoring process can shape and enhance the basis for inclusion and exclusion in ones’ point of view and contextual lens. We often use the word “mentor” without really thinking about what it means, so it is often helpful to refer back to the definition of the word, and refer to its continuous metamorphous to help us stretch and grow. To many, mentoring in business is a highly effective way to improve performance.  I am often inspired by the quote, “A business mentor is someone whose hindsight can become ones’ foresight.” Beyond the standard definition, effective mentoring means that organizational thought leaders have the opportunity to enhance their leadership skills and expand their perspectives. However, most important in the meaning of the mentoring definition and process is the understanding that mentoring is a major contributor to the development of talent and provides formal leadership skills for the leaders of the future.

The Method

What method do you use to recruit effective mentors? In most organizations impacted by a flattening design and downsizing caused by retirements, employees are asked to address more challenging roles with very little preparation or support. In these cases, recruitment to secure mentors may be ill-conceived as an additional workload, instead of an exciting new proposition. To combat this outcome, experts suggest that the role of a mentor should be considered as an alternative to help individuals with their own career goals.
Packaging the recruitment request as one that will enrich individual professional goals is an effective method to enlist experts into this process. The incorporation of the term “role model” is one that has always encouraged individuals to want to participate in the mentorship role. When observing the key attributes that mentees suggest they are looking for in a mentor, the recruitment terms they include are: ethics, values, standards, styles, beliefs, and attitudes can be incorporated into one’s recruitment methods and approaches. Each mentoring situation is different, so when you are defining the roles of the mentor it is important to understand the clear methods that will be achieved through this assignment.

The Movement 

When moving high-potential managers around the organization, we forget that they are gathering experience while often times missing out on time to reflect on what they are learning. There are 5 phases to a mentoring relationship, which as illustrated below show the movement of an individual through the mentoring continuum. The most effective way for individuals to move through their professional mission and goals is to utilize and be actively engaged in a mentoring process that is poised to have significant impact on their professional lives.

The Mentoring Continuum
The Mentoring Continuum

Mentoring is a rapidly growing process, and its use is developing across all fields of work, education and society. It is a key component used by all kinds of individuals and organizations. Mentoring Programs such as the one we use in our organization, Coley & Associates, Inc. can be modeled to fit the specific – and constantly changing – needs of individuals, organizations, employees, students, communities and educational establishments (Klasen and Clutterbuck 2002). The information gathered through various research indicates that (facilitated) mentoring is a power-free, two-way mutually beneficial learning situation where the mentor provides advice, shares knowledge and experiences, and teaches using a low pressure, self-discovery approach. Have you considered incorporating mentoring and the 3 critical M’s into your organization?


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By Janet Williams

As Director of Human Capital and Performance Consulting for Coley & Associates, Dr. Janet E. Williams provides Government clients and commercial companies insight on how to leverage resources and maximize services for improvements to company operations. She specializes in mentoring, progressive management process improvements, accountability and control, revenue enhancements, and other organizational change methods. For almost 20 years, Dr. Williams worked in government and head an Emerging Leaders Program for mentoring youth. Janet holds a bachelor’s degree in Accounting from Hampton University a MBA from Troy State University, and her doctorate in Public Policy and Leadership from Walden University.

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