State of Mentoring Survey

The mentoring space is changing. It's time to take stock of what's new, what's the same, and - most importantly - what works.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Overcoming Communication Barriers in Organizations

There is a wealth of knowledge to be gained from all individuals, ages, and levels within the organization. Having multiple generations not only working together but listening, communicating, and working to develop each other is a boon in many areas, including creativity in problem solving.

Many times the younger staff member is not invited to be a part of a brainstorming process – the thought is that they just doesn’t have enough experience, knowledge, or organizational savvy to be of value. The same thing happens when the mentoring initiative within the organization only focuses on the “top down” style of mentoring relationships.

But more than that, taking mentoring out of the context of “top down” mentoring relationships provides an opportunity for different levels – and/or generations – to learn how to overcome communication barriers in organizations, and ultimately work better together.  (Learn more in our article "Bridging the Generation Gap with Mentoring".)

Take two examples we’ve given out below.


Overcoming Communication Barriers in Organizations: Example #1 

Kevin was the Director of Operations for a large distribution company, and a mentor to Frank, who was a Manager in Finance.  As a mentee, Frank’s major goal was to obtain more exposure to senior management.

Early in the mentoring relationship, Kevin indicated that one of the ways Frank could obtain the exposure he desired was to become more involved in major, strategic presentations that would spotlight the accomplishments of the IT Division.  Kevin was a seasoned communicator, had given presentations throughout his long career with the organization and felt this was an area of expertise -- he felt he could be of benefit to Frank.  Frank felt that he was doing just fine in this area of communication, but didn’t want to upset Kevin since Kevin was in a much higher position within the organization and could influence his career.

As Kevin tried to impart the pointers he had learned through years of experience, Frank kept interrupting and questioning his approach and advice – it was different than what he had learned a couple of years earlier in a presentation course.  Kevin felt Frank was ignoring time-tested strategies for delivering an impressive presentation.  Equally frustrated, Frank wondered why Kevin was so dismissive of the new ideas he had learned that he felt made presentations much more interesting.

In the beginning, not much progress was made.  Kevin felt that in the role of “mentor”, he was more qualified to give advice, and Frank should listen to him because of this.  Frank felt that the newer techniques that he had learned were better than what Kevin was trying to impart to him.  The initial result of the mentoring partnership was that Frank listened to what Kevin had to say, but didn’t incorporate any changes in his presentations.

But as their mentoring partnership went on, Kevin changed how he worked with Frank.

As Kevin began listening to Frank’s ideas and making him feel that what he had to say had value, Frank became more open to the tried and true advice that Kevin had to offer.  They began learning from each other.

Kevin as the older, more seasoned veteran learned that there were new and creative ways in which to make his presentations more innovative and interesting.  Frank, a younger, newer staff member learned the importance of understanding the audience and culture of the organization and how he needed to focus his presentations so that they were well received.

They mentored and learned from each other. Age, seniority and title were not the determining criteria for who was able to impart knowledge, but they were communication barriers that mentoring was able to breach.


Overcoming Communication Barriers in Organizations: Example #2: 

Karen and George are mentor and mentee respectively.  George’s development need is in the area of project management.  This is Karen’s area of expertise.  Although they work in different divisions within the organization – Karen in manufacturing and George in IT - and have different job titles, both Karen and George are at the same job grade level.

Karen is about to plan and implement a major project.  This is a great mentoring opportunity for George to learn and obtain practical experience.   They design a Mentoring Learning Plan and include activities that match George’s learning style.  As the relationship continues, George obtains great knowledge and development working with Karen – the mentoring experience is very beneficial.

Throughout the experience, George feels that there is a better way to handle the manpower planning portion of the process than what is now being used by Karen and her team.  George, based on his area of expertise, provides suggestions for an enhancement to the present technology that will make this part of the project planning process easier and more efficient.  George not only designs this enhancement, but teaches Karen how to use it and how to incorporate with her expertise of project management to obtain the best results.

Learn more about the benefits of mentoring programs


Thursday, February 19, 2015

Formal vs. Informal Mentoring: Poll Results

As promised, here are the results from the poll we posted last Thursday:


Have you found that informal or formal mentoring is more effective?
  • Informal – 14%
  • Formal – 14%
  • A combination of both is most effective – 71%
  • I don’t know; it’s difficult to measure the difference – 0%

It’s not surprising to us at Insala that a combination is what most people are finding to be the most effective form of mentoring; you won’t have to look hard on the internet, in trade magazines, etc. to see that there’s an ongoing debate about the use and effectiveness formal vs. informal mentoring. There are big pros and big cons to using solely both.

However, how heavily you weigh each pro and con comes down to your specific organization, and how you fit mentoring inside your organizational structure and strategy.

If you combine formal and informal mentoring, how do you do it at your organization? Let us know, and keep an eye out for our next poll!

Interested in participating in more benchmarking? Take the 2015 State of Mentoring Benchmarking Survey. A full report of the findings will be released after its close in Spring 2015.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Bridging the Generation Gap in the Workplace

bridging the generation gap
The term “mentoring” has always conjured up pictures of wise, older sages acting in the role of mentor as they impart wisdom and knowledge to the younger, less experienced mentee.

This model doesn’t translate to today’s workplace. You have at least three – and maybe four – generations working together. If we’re going to bridge the generation gap, we have to consider how well those generations are working together and communicating with each other in our workplaces.

The biggest questions we need to ask are:

  1. How can you ensure that leadership skills, competencies, and behaviors that are vital to your organization’s growth are instilled in new learners?
  2. How well do Baby Boomers, Gen X, Gen Y, and Gen Z communicate and work together on the same team, or in the same working environment?
  3. How can you leverage each generation’s strengths and experiences to maximize employee engagement and development?

Bridging the Generation Gap with Mentoring

Today’s mentors and mentees have less rigid roles, and are not constrained by age or generation – only experience. Looking at mentoring this way means throwing off our old and outdated perceptions and misconceptions regarding the concepts of mentoring.

Mentoring is the use of an experienced individual (mentor) to teach and train someone with less knowledge or experience (mentee) in a given area. Mentoring is a dynamic association between an individual who needs to learn and another who is willing to help and guide the learner.

A mentor is an individual with the experience, knowledge, and/or skills of a specific content area who is able, willing, and available to share this information with another individual.

A mentee is an individual who seeks experience, knowledge and/or skills in a specific area and who looks to another individual(s) to gain that which is lacking.

There’s absolutely nothing saying that the mentor must:

  • be older than the mentee
  • be at a higher job grade level or title than the mentee
  • have been with the organization longer than the mentee
  • have a higher academic degree or certification title than the mentee

The mentor simply must have a certain knowledge and/or experience to share with the mentee who needs this knowledge or experience.

Traditionally, mentor-mentee pairs were matched on the “top down” theory. The mentor was always at a higher job grade level or title than the mentee.  The mentee felt secure that they were gaining exposure to individuals that could have a positive influence in their career and upward vertical movement within the organization.

This focus, although still valuable, is now a small segment of how the concept of mentoring can and should be used.

What possibilities do you see for your workplace today – or even for the workforce at large?


Learn more in our article Mentoring for Knowledge Transfer.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

POLL: Formal vs. Informal Mentoring



In our 2015 State of Mentoring Benchmarking Survey (which is open until March 27 - take it here!) we're currently polling that our respondents who have a formal mentoring program in their organization use:

  • Formal mentoring only (19%)
  • Informal mentoring only (23%)
  • Both (58%)
That 58% using both is great - and we wanted to open the floor for more discussion:


And if you want to say more, we encourage you to leave a comment below. We'll post the results next Thursday!

(Don't be shy - share this around if you think it's valuable!)

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

How to Make the Most of Mentor Meetings

"The great dividing line between success and failure can be expressed in five words: 'I did not have time'." – Franklin Field

mentor meeting

Book the Time for Your Mentor Meeting Upfront 

How many times have you postponed a meeting, event, or activity because it wasn’t booked into your calendar… and someone else booked over it?

If you’re anything like me, probably a lot. Too many times to count.

Follow up question: how many times was the original thing you meant to do postponed indefinitely?

For me, once again, the answer is “almost every time.”

You already know this - and your mentors and mentees do too – but the most efficient way to ensure that mentors and mentees actually meet is to book the time upfront. Don’t look at it as getting them to commit to something “extra” week after week; this is all about setting a habit. After the third or fourth meeting, their mentor meetings will be ingrained in their schedules, and it will no longer feel like a strange occurrence.

What does it take to get them to make their mentor meetings a habit? 3 steps:

  1. Identify how often they will meet
  2. Determine where and when they will meet
  3. Put all their meetings on the calendar so that other activities don’t take over that time. 

As we all know, we can pretty much guarantee that if it’s not there, someone else is going to take that space, and your mentors and mentees won’t meet – let alone meet enough times for it to become a habitual thing for them.

Have an Agenda for Your Mentor Meeting

Once it’s in the calendar, the trick is keeping each mentor meeting focused and productive. We’ve all seen the plethora of articles circulating about the inefficiency of meetings in organizations, and the number one solution in each article is to set an agenda.

It’s no different here. Each mentoring meeting should have an agenda, so the time mentors and mentees are spending together is efficient and focused.

These agendas can be very simple as long as mentors and mentees are sticking to the learning plan and goals they set out in their first mentor meeting:

  1. Check in from last meeting, 
  2. Discuss what’s been accomplished
  3. Action steps for going forward. 

Do be sure to encourage mentors and mentees to make the most of the time they meet by knowing ahead of time what they’ll be discussing, and having the necessary documents to support that discussion – as well as any technology prepared for a virtual meeting.


Virtual Mentoring is Still a Mentoring Meeting

We use GoToMeeting, Skype, Google Hangouts, FaceTime, and any number of other video conferencing technologies in the workplace for business meetings – and we still consider them meetings.

Virtual mentoring doesn’t only have to apply to mentors and mentees who are part of a distance mentoring scheme – especially if one or both mentoring partners travel for business often, it can be difficult to schedule face-to-face meetings, and in these cases virtual mentoring can be an excellent way to ensure that regular mentoring meetings occur.

Just remember to stick to preparing an agenda beforehand!

Learn about how mentoring training can assist you with managing your mentoring program - including helping your mentors and mentees make time for mentoring.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Mentoring Training Courses Are for Managers, Too

We have discussed mentoring training courses previously, but only in terms of mentors and mentees.

Wait, you’re saying. There’s another group I need to train for my mentoring program?

Absolutely. You'll definitely need to train your mentors’ and mentees’ managers – and here’s why.

Mentoring Training Courses and Managers

Your mentors’ and mentees’ managers have to be able to support their subordinate’s mentoring partnership. But before they can do that, they have to know what they’re supporting, why they’re supporting it, and what’s in it for them.

A lot of organizations drop the ball here because they’re focused on active participants – mentors and mentees. And don’t get me wrong: focusing on mentor and mentee engagement and participation is a great thing! They’re your primary players. Of course you need to focus on them.

However, managers are very much instrumental players too, acting in two instrumental roles:

  1. Gatekeepers to your mentors’ and mentees’ time 
  2. Influencers of their subordinate’s mentoring partnership. 
Obviously, you’ll need managers to be understanding of the mentoring partnership and allow time for it, but you also want them to think positively of the mentoring partnership so that they are a positive influence on it… rather than naysaying it, or even taking an apathetic stance to it. Having managers champion mentoring can make all the difference in the world when it comes to how mentors and mentees think about and prioritize their mentoring meetings in a world of busy schedules and limited time.


Mentoring Training Courses Are For Managers Too

Realize that managers have WIIFMs too - just like your mentors and mentees have WIIFMs, and just like your leadership has WIIFMs. If you don’t address them, you may have one more enemy of your mentors’ and mentees’ time. Providing mentoring training to managers allows them the opportunity to:

  • Open up about issues they perceive about time
  • Resolve or compromise on those time issue
  • Communicate and discuss the benefits of mentoring to them and their business unit
  • Identify key developmental areas they want to see addressed for their subordinate
  • Ensure that mentors and mentees work on developmental activity to address those key areas that they identified. 
A mentoring training course can not only give managers a voice and a chance to resolve any issues upfront before they start negatively impacting the mentoring partnership – it also gives them the opportunity to provide their own input toward developing mentees in areas they have probably already been thinking about. Win-win for all involved.

Learn about how mentoring training can assist you with managing your mentoring program - including helping your mentors and mentees make time for mentoring.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

WIIFMs and Your Successful Mentoring Program

“The key is in not spending time, but in investing it.” – Steven Covey

Your Successful Mentoring Program Depends on Your Marketing

We discussed in Your Business Mentoring Program Is Still Business that you need to position mentoring as a business strategy to not only your leadership, but to mentors and mentees too, so that they understand from the very beginning that working on mentoring is working on business.

And while we can’t stress enough how important it is that you stress that business mentoring = business to all stakeholders, for the most successful mentoring program possible you also need to appeal to the more WIIFM-y aspects of mentors and mentees.

Successful Mentoring Programs: WIIFMs and Your Communications

But how do you know what those WIIFMs are in order to appeal to them?

Ask them, or – better yet, get them to consider for themselves what their WIIFMs are. Be careful here: these WIIFMs shouldn’t necessarily pertain to their part (or potential part) in your mentoring program, but rather to their role at your company, their developmental needs and wants, and their overall career aspirations.

Mentoring training is particularly good for allowing participants to think this through, put it in a framework, and cement it in their minds as something to work toward in a way that allows you to:

  • Structure the conversation
  • Take care of any mentoring misconceptions
  • Gather the information you need to excite your mentoring program participants and get them to invest in their roles. 
This has the added benefit of oftentimes jumpstarting mentors’ and mentees’ thinking process, leading them to realize benefits they hadn’t previously considered.

Successful Mentoring Programs: WIIFMs and Setting Developmental Goals

The next step after you and you participants have talked though and identified the mentees’ WIIFMs is to translate them into targeted developmental goals and action items. Much of this should be done with their mentor in the first few meetings of the mentoring partnership, but for the time-shy mentor or mentee, this does two things:

  • Sets them on the path for getting the biggest bang out of their time “buck.” 
  • Gives them incentive to truly drive the mentoring partnership. 
Mentoring has tremendous power precisely because it’s a process of personal discovery, challenge-setting, and achievement. This is just the first step of that process. It’s up to you to not only make sure that it happens, but that you reinforce that process to all your stakeholders throughout the rest of your program for the most successful mentoring program possible.

Learn about how mentoring software can assist you with managing your mentoring program - including helping your mentors and mentees make time for mentoring.