Mentorship, Part II: Finding Yoda

In Part One of our two-part Mentorship blog, we talked about the value of mentorship programs. In Part Two, we’ll look at popular programs in the corporate world, and the success they have brought to the companies as well as the participants.

What Do You Want to Get Out of a Mentorship Program?

A good corporate mentorship program has defined goals. What does your company want to accomplish:

more diversity?
increased retention?
promotion from within?
knowledge sharing?

Mentorship programs are not interchangeable. Setting the company’s goals will allow for a mentorship program that is tailored to your desired results.

The UNC-Chapel Hill MBA department recommends employing the SMART principle when developing a mentoring program: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely. Linking these goals to the company’s already defined business objectives helps create a focused program designed to benefit the business as well as the participants. Once those goals are defined, one or more types of mentorship program may be adopted to achieve them.

…And oh, the variety!

In addition to the classic mentorship relationship, companies are also adopting less traditional programs that best serve the desires of the employees and the needs of the company. Check out some of the more popular alternatives below.

Reverse Mentoring

Reverse mentoring is an excellent way for new employees to acquire workplace and industry knowledge, while teaching older employees about the latest in technology, electronic resources, and social media networking and trends.

Because technologies change so frequently, some older employees may fall behind. This type of program engages Millennials, and brings them together with co-workers who may not normally be a part of their social work circle. This allows them share their different types of knowledge, improving each other as employees, and the company as a whole.

Diversity Mentoring

Diversity mentoring is aimed at breaking down common obstacles to mentorship relationships. People are naturally drawn to mentoring someone who “reminds them of themselves at that age.”

A formal diversity mentorship program inspires mentors to impart their wisdom to underrepresented groups, such as women and minorities, who might not otherwise have the opportunity to share their knowledge. And leadership learns more about incorrect assumptions, concerns, and barriers to minority groups in the workplace. Once again, both parties and the company as a whole, benefit.


Peer-to-peer mentorship programs are becoming popular with corporations looking to encourage innovation and knowledge transfer among managers at the same level. This allows new hires and existing staff to share ideas and information with one another. Peer mentoring has proven successful. In 2007, only 4% to 5% of US companies had such programs. As of 2012, however, that number had grown to more than 25%.

Woman creating a chart about mentorship


Benefits of Being a Mentor

There is a common misconception that mentors sacrifice their time and wisdom, but are not the ones gaining from the mentor/mentee relationship. But there are many benefits to becoming a mentor.

The successes of your protégés can be shared, as they reflect on you as a respected adviser. A 2013 Journal of Vocational Behavior Study showed those who serve as mentors experience greater job satisfaction and a greater commitment to their employer.

“The findings support mentoring theory in that mentoring is reciprocal and collaborative and not simply beneficial for protégés.” – Journal of Vocational Behavior Vol. 83, Issue 1

Some additional benefits of being a mentor include:
Learning about those new to the workforce, their goals, and what they value

  • Giving back to your industry and community
  • Gaining a new perspective on your company and industry
  • Developing leadership skills
  • Networking with a new pool of contacts
  • Reenergizing your work life

“The delicate balance of mentoring someone is not creating them in your own image, but giving them the opportunity to create themselves.” –Steven Spielberg

Benefits to Being a Protégé

A mentor, of course, has already made progress in his or her career. They’ve faced difficult decisions and refined their leadership skills over the years, and you can learn a lot from them as a trusted advisor.

Some additional benefits of being a mentee include:

  • Learn how to accept feedback and criticism
  • More visibility and networking opportunities
  • Earning a champion for your goals and abilities
  • Increased likelihood of career advancement
  • Understanding the nuances of corporate communication and business dynamics
How to Be an Awesome Mentor/Mentee

Mentorship programs have proven benefits, but it is critical that the relationship be built on the right foundation, and function within proper parameters. The most successful formal mentorships are built on clear expectations and mutual respect.

 A mentor is not a co-decision maker. A mentor counsels and advises—presents experienced insight on the issue at hand. But, your mentor should never make your decisions for you. A mentor is an advisor, not a surrogate.

A mentor should not be a direct supervisor. Part of what makes a mentoring relationship work is the freedom to speak your mind and the promise of confidentiality. The ability to be honest often leads to frank conversations where you get to the meat of the issues.

A protégé is prepared to listen and accept feedback. (If listening is something you struggle with, check out our post on how to become a better listener.) Your instinct should not be to challenge a mentor’s feedback if you don’t agree with it. There is a reason you were asking for advice.

Let their input sink in. You’ll be thankful for their point of view when it comes time to make decisions. Remember, mentors are expected to be forthright. That’s one of the things that makes their insight so valuable.

Mentor and protege talking

Invest in the workforce you already have.

A protégé should communicate successes to their mentor. Don’t just tell them about your issues, make sure they know they are valued, and that you are reaping the benefits of the relationship. Remember, your mentor is learning too. When they have helped you achieve success you should share that with them.

Don’t sign up for a mentoring program if you are not willing to fully engage. Statistics on the success of mentoring are fueled by participants with a willingness to put in the effort to give and to learn. Forced mentorships do not return the same results.

Don’t set unrealistic expectations for the relationship. If you both want to meet weekly, that’s great. But be respectful of your partner’s schedule, and shoot for a meeting frequency that is practical. It’s not uncommon for a mentor to meet with a mentee as often as once a month, or as infrequently as once per quarter.

“Find people who will make you better.” – Michelle Obama

Define the frequency of meetings at the outset, along with any other parameters. Can you call your mentor with a question? Would they prefer email?  Should interactions be limited to the predefined formal meets? Ensure all parties start off on the same page.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach. Mentorship arrangements can be valuable for new members of a sales team, a sales person with 20 years of experience, or a project manager working in an unfamiliar area. Since mentorship relationships have tailored goals, individual strengths and weaknesses can be addressed to provide a personalized learning experience.

Anyone can benefit from mentorship. Tech startups, small businesses, newly initiated members of the workforce, and the mentors themselves. Whether you participate in a corporate mentorship program, or find a mentor on your own, statistically, you’ll be better off with someone in your corner.

2016-10-21T11:03:08-05:00 By |Categories: Career, Development|Tags: , , , , , , |