Training mentees makes the difference

Research from Henley School of Management found that, where organisations invest in both mentor and mentee training, there was a 30% increase in effectiveness. That’s a significant amount of additional value for a mentoring programme.

Too often, the focus and resources are put into mentor development only, with mentees getting little more than a short brief or an email. Little wonder they rely on the mentor to do a lot of the work.

A recent article in Coaching at Work canvassed the views of thought leaders in the world of Coaching and mentoring about trends for the future.

Mentee training

It’s clear from their responses that mentoring will continue to grow as a development solution and organisations recognise the value of a truly effective scheme. However, too often we find frustration from all those involved. What are the common themes?

  • Lack of clarity about the purpose of mentoring
  • Confusion about how “hands off” or structured the scheme should be
  • No clear accountability or visibility of outcomes
  • Too little ownership on the part of mentees

I’m not tackling all these issues here. However, a lack of ownership by mentees is probably the one I hear most often and I believe it’s core to the success or otherwise of mentoring.

Turning to coaching for a moment, most coaches believe that the client has to own and drive the coaching relationship for it to be truly successful. Mentoring, I suggest, is just the same. I’m not arguing that a lack of ownership by mentees is disastrous for mentoring, but I do believe that it prevents both mentors and mentees from maximising the value and the learning from the experience.

In today’s climate where organisations are driven to optimise the returns on all their investments, this is an area that can, pretty easily, be fixed. Why do mentees fail to take responsibility for the relationship? I suggest a number of reasons:

  • A lack of awareness and training / preparation for mentoring so roles and responsibilities don’t get clarified
  • Mentors, usually more senior and therefore used to taking a leadership role, collude unconsciously by stepping up and taking more responsibility for the process and the relationship than perhaps they should.
  • A frequent phenomenon which we call the Awe Factor. The mentee, from the start may be inclined to view the mentor as “in charge” and be reluctant to challenge, set the pace, drive the agenda etc.

It doesn’t have to be onerous. Half day workshops can make a significant difference to the mind-set with which a mentee begins a mentoring relationship. Just a few of the benefits include:

  • Clarity about the roles and responsibilities of everyone involved – including the, often overlooked, mentees line manager
  • Enabling powerful, smart goals to be set for mentoring
  • Ensuing the first meeting sets the tone for the future
  • Tackling the Awe Factor up front so that it doesn’t become a barrier
  • Increasing awareness about learning opportunities and how to use them
  • Building confidence and a sense of ownership in mentees

Obviously, any training has to be appropriate for the type of mentoring on offer but it will make a big difference whatever the scheme looks like. Crucially, it will, when done well, ensure that the mentee enters the relationship energised, confident and committed to its success.


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