People in conversations

What is mentoring?

There are numerous definitions and descriptions of mentoring. Most of them involve concepts such as guiding, supporting, advising and career planning. For example:

"Mentoring involves listening with empathy, sharing experience (usually mutually), professional friendship, developing insight through reflection, being a sounding board, and encouraging." David Clutterbuck

“Mentoring is a long term relationship that meets a developmental need, helps develop full potential, and benefits all partners, mentor, mentee and the organisation.” Suzanne Faure

“The purpose of mentoring is to support and encourage people to manage their own learning in order that they may maximise their potential, develop their skills, improve their performance and become the person they want to be.” Eric Parsloe

One to one mentoring is a positive, developmental relationship, which is driven primarily by the mentee, and through which the mentee can take responsibility for her own development. The mentor acts as a guide, supporter, sounding board and, sometimes, as a role model. This form of mentoring creates a confidential partnership between two people, one normally more senior and experienced than the other, based on understanding and trust. Its main aim is to build knowledge, capability and self-reliance in the mentee, although it is often described as a two-way learning relationship which provides useful feedback and reflection opportunities for both mentee and mentor. In fact, there are many different ways of running mentoring relationships. They can be wholly face to face or online (e-mentoring), they can involve peer relationships or small groups, they can be structured or informal. Organisations need to design their programme to fit their structure and culture and to meet the needs of the mentee.

How is it useful for the mentee?

Mentees often cite benefits to their mentoring experience as being:

  • increased self-awareness and self-confidence
  • dedicated ‘me time’ - that is a window of opportunity to focus on her own career, professional development, ambitions and challenges
  • an opportunity to learn about the workings of the organisation, including its history and informal networks
  • helpful with career planning
  • able to provide access to a knowledgeable but empathetic sounding board for testing plans, new ideas and strategies
  • providing greater visibility amongst senior colleagues
  • creating opportunities to reflect on and more clearly define own career goals
  • new professional contacts
  • support with professional challenges, such as resolving conflict, preparing for promotion, making career decisions
  • an opportunity to observe and interact with a role model
How is it useful for the mentor?
  • skills development through participating in the mentoring process (e.g. active listening, appropriate challenging, coaching, giving motivational feedback)
  • new professional contacts
  • an opportunity to reflect on own life experiences and career choices
  • learning about a different part of the organisation/career path
  • enjoyment, satisfaction and a new challenge
How is it useful for the University?

There are many ways in which mentoring is useful and valuable to the University, such as:

  • creating and enhancing connections and relationships across the University
  • increasing wellbeing and development for our staff
  • practicing and applying effective leadership skills
  • capturing and transferring skills from one person to another

What is your current mentoring scheme?

People Development run an annual mentoring programme called GROW for all professional staff, across all faculties and Professional Services departments. Further information can be found on our GROW web pages.

What else should I know about mentoring?

We would encourage you to adopt a mentoring approach wherever possible. If you do want to enter into a mentoring partnership outside of the current scheme, we would recommend you considering the below points:

  1. Be clear on what you want out of a mentoring relationship - you should identify any objectives you want to work towards.
  2. Identify who you want to work with! Approach them to see if they have the capacity and interest to enter into the partnership. Share why you think they would be a helpful mentor, and be mindful of other commitments they may have that might not make entering into a mentoring partnership possible.
  3. If you have agreement from a mentor, it is really important to spend some time clarifying any expectations that you both may have (e.g. confidentiality arrangements) and practical points of having a mentoring partnership (e.g. who will arrange meetings or how often will you meet etc).
  4. Make it a SMART partnership. Be Specific with what you want to work towards. Consider how you will measure and track your progress through the mentoring relationship. Make sure your identified objectives and expectations for the partnership are attainable or achievable but also relevant (i.e. consider how these objectives and your mentor support your professional development at the University). Most importantly make your partnership time-bound! Mentoring partnerships are best when they are focused on specific objectives rather than open ended. We recommend no more than 4 meetings to keep your time focused.
  5. To ensure that your mentor is available to provide the same opportunities to others, consider how you will close your partnership. It’s always fantastic when mentoring relationships go well and mentees achieve their objectives, so do think about how you will share and celebrate your progress and communicate in the future.
Role of the mentee
  • Take charge of their own development
  • Set their own agenda for meetings
  • Interest in learning new things
  • Ability and willingness to work as a team player
  • Carry out tasks by agreed times
  • Creativity in work
  • Seek guidance and advice for professional development
  • Try to imbibe new skills and knowledge and apply these in a professional context
  • Maintain confidentiality
  • Reflect, reflect, reflect
  • Listen
Role of the mentor
  • Facilitate the mentee’s professional growth
  • Create a positive counselling relationship and climate for open communication
  • Help your mentee identify problems and guide them towards solutions
  • Share own thought process with the mentee
  • Refer mentee to others when you don't have the answers
  • Provide information, guidance and constructive comments
  • Evaluate the mentee’s plans and decisions
  • Support, encourage and critically assess performance
  • Maintain confidentiality
  • Listen

If you want further information on mentoring and the skills required, you may wish to consider the below courses on LinkedIn Learning (available via My Services). Please ensure you are logged into MUSE to access this service.

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