I am asked on numerous occasions to respond to questions regarding mentoring, mentoring process and how mentoring can bring value to individuals and/or organizations. Here are some of those questions and my responses.
Q: Is it possible to fix a toxic work environment without changing the company's leadership?
A: If the toxicity is evident in the company's leadership it is difficult to completely change the culture and eradicate the toxicity. You can give the employees the tools that they need to work within that culture but at the end of the day it is still a toxic work environment.
Think of this as learned behavior - in that if the behavior is not changed then people (employees) begin to think that it is acceptable. The toxin will continue to spread and the outcome is that the good employees will leave because they can.
In the culture assessment work that I do I see this often.
Q: What is the best way to reconnect with a mentor?
A: That depends on how long it has been since you last met. If it has been a while then you would need to define the terms of the relationship again and revisit the building of trust. If it has recently happened then you may not need to re-establish the trust as it will already be there.
If your question is more on logistics - depending on the nature of your past relationship and reason for disconnect you may be able to just reach out.
I always leave a mentoring engagement with the comment that they can reach out to me at any time after we have formally ended the relationship. For me the door is never closed and we can always reconnect when the need arises.
Q: Do you feel a counselor could also be one's mentor? Are they sort of one in the same?
A: Interesting timing for this question. I am doing some research on mentoring and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and how a mentor can be a resource for support. I always come back to the definition of mentoring - a two way trusted relationship where both the mentor and mentee learn and grow personally and professionally. Where the mentor encounters situations that should be dealt with by a trained professional then they have the ethical obligation to help the person find the right resources to address their situation. The mentor still owns the relationship and is encouraged to stand beside their mentee no matter what.
There are some elements of counseling that take place in a mentoring relationship. The mentor needs to make sure that they do not mentor beyond their capability. Trained mentors are essential if we are dealing with something that may need to be referred to a professional counselor.
Be mindful of any conflicts of interest in this situation. I also encourage you to do some research on the hierarchy of mentoring - mentor, great mentor, extraordinary mentor. As you work your way up the pyramid your ability to address situations like this become more prevalent.
Q: What is business coaching and mentoring?
A: There are a number of definitions that are out there. I have found that this one works the best. If you apply all that is stated below in a business context you should have the answer to your question.
Mentoring: Ongoing relationship that can last for a long period of time
Coaching: Relationship generally has a set duration
Mentoring: Can be more informal and meetings can take place as and when the mentee needs some advice, guidance or support
Coaching: Generally more structured in nature and meetings are scheduled on a regular basis
Mentoring: More long-term and takes a broader view of the person
Coaching: Short-term (sometimes time-bounded) and focused on specific development areas/issues
Mentoring: Mentor is usually more experienced and qualified than the ‘mentee'. May be a senior person in the organization who can pass on knowledge, experience and open doors to otherwise out-of-reach opportunities using techniques such as the Socratic Method and story-telling. Industry specific knowledge is a nice to have not a need to have.
Coaching is generally not performed on the basis that the coach needs to have direct experience of their client's formal occupational role, unless the coaching is specific and skills-focused
Mentoring: Focus is on career and personal development
Coaching: Focus is generally on development/issues at work
Mentoring: Agenda is set by the mentee, with the mentor providing support and guidance to prepare them for future roles
Coaching: The agenda is focused on achieving specific, immediate goals
Mentoring revolves more around developing the mentee on a personal and professional basis. The mentor will also learn and grow in the relationship.
Coaching revolves more around specific development areas/issues
Q: What are the benefits of a mentoring program in the workplace?
A: The research shows that mentees receive career and psychosocial benefits from formal mentoring. Career-related benefits include an increase in job performance ratings which lead
to salary increases and promotion, and improved competence in the job. The psychosocial benefits, or mentor-mentee interpersonal support, include friendship, emotional support, satisfaction and personal development (Kram, 1985). Mentoring has been found to positively impact career success, through more promotions, more mobility, higher income and career satisfaction (Chao, Walz & Gardner, 1992).
For mentors, research has shown increases in personal satisfaction and job satisfaction. In addition, mentors receive assistance from their mentees on projects and also enhance their own skills by learning from the mentee. The relationship can help a mentor learn new perspectives about the organization (Murray, 2006). One study (Gentry, et. al., 2008) found that mentoring helps the mentor gain support through mentee networks that supply critical information that assist the mentor in some way when needed. This research implies that a reciprocal relationship can be created between mentor and mentee where both learn and educate the other.
For organizations, the benefits of mentoring include retention, promotion, productivity and personal and professional development. With these benefits, organizations with formal mentoring programs create a learning environment that fosters personal and professional growth for mentors and mentees. In turn, this accelerates the processes for identifying, developing and retaining quality talent (Kahle-Piasecki, 2011).
The benefit of mentoring extends to the company culture if it is well integrated and does not utilize it as a one-time intervention. This means that, for example, mentoring relationships can create an integrated learning and development culture with increased communication, collaboration, and support between all employees in an organization, resulting in a more informal matching system between mentors and mentees (Burr et al., 2011). In fact, research shows that matching based on mentor-mentee similarities (e.g. personality, interests) leads to more positive psychosocial outcomes, such as interpersonal satisfaction, compared to formal assignments (Kendall, 2007).
Today, organizations are combating negative trends such as disengaged employees, lack of succession planning, and talent shortages. As the research shows, organizations cannot afford not to fully develop their human resources. If they're unsure how to develop their HR then they should get hr consultancy to help guide them. The return on their investment is seen in employee productivity and optimum organizational functioning that positively affects their bottom line. Therefore, it is essential for mentoring programs--or any training and development programs--to be evaluated both in terms of successful functioning and return on investment.
Q: Can unjustifiably high expectations from a mentor block your success?
A: First off the mentor's role is to guide and encourage not to set expectations for you. This question almost sounds like your mentor is focused on career development and is not taking into account your personal growth. When we focus solely on the career development piece we are not addressing the barriers/obstacles that may arise from personal growth challenges.
I always start with some level of exploration regarding my mentee's personal growth challenges whether it be self-esteem, self-confidence, etc. Addressing those first can pave the path to a better career development journey.
Doug Lawrence is the founder of TalentC®.
Doug leads organizations to experience the benefits how mentoring will encourage workforce culture to flow in harmony (mentors), improve productivity from employees (mentees), reducing costly employee onboarding improving the bottom line (organizations).
Doug is an International Certified Mentor Practitioner (ICMP), an International Certified Mentor Facilitator (ICMF), and has obtained his Certificate of Achievement – Mentoring and his Certificate of Competence – Mentor from the International Mentoring Community (IMC).
Doug's Practice of Mentoring has resulted in his accumulation of 1,904 hours of mentoring (in person and virtual), 197 hours of speaking opportunities and 672 hours teaching others how to effectively mentor.
Doug is recognized as a "Most viewed writer in the Business Mentoring and Mentors and Mentoring categories on the Quora website (www.quora.com).
Doug is a volunteer mentor with the Sir Richard Branson Entrepreneur Program in the Caribbean and with the American Corporate Partners in the United States working with military personnel in their transition from military life to civilian life.
Doug is currently working with researchers to examine the role of mentoring as a support for those struggling with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). His experience in law enforcement coupled with working with people suffering from PTSD has afforded him a unique view of mentoring and PTSD.
Doug is an international speaker and author about all facets of Mentoring. He published "The Gift of Mentoring" in 2014 with his second book set to publish in 2020.
Doug works with organizations to establish mentoring programs, influence mentoring as a culture, and provides one-on-one direct mentoring for individuals of all backgrounds and levels globally.
Contact Doug directly to discover how mentoring can improve your organization.