What is Mentoring?

Where did mentoring come from?

The word “mentor” originally came from Odysseus

Odysseus entrusted his house & the education of his son to his friend, Mentor, saying to him, “tell him all you know”

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

Mentoring is often used within workplaces to act as a guide and wise counsellor and can be described as detailed below:

  • A relationship in which a person with greater or different experience (the mentor) guides a less experienced person (the mentee) by acting as a sounding board.
  • Successful mentoring is based on encouragement, constructive comments, mutual trust, respect and a willingness to learn & share.
  • The skill of the mentor comes from past experiences & is broad-based.
  • Mentors can provide information regarding the cultural & political attributes of people & situations
  • The mentor’s skills & knowledge can be used to capitalise on future opportunities or overcome past problems

In 2004, David Clutterbuck, a renowned HR Consultant and keynote speaker on mentoring developed this acronym:

Managing the relationship




Offer mutual respect

Respond to the learner’s needs


In order for there to be a successful mentoring relationship, both parties should be committed to it but it does not need to necessarily be a formal relationship.
Both parties can benefit from a mentoring relationship. The mentee benefits by being able to clarify their goals, explore their learning and new ideas, being challenged and reflecting on experiences. The mentor can gain by further developing their communication, reflecting and leadership skills. The mentor also gains by knowing that they are giving something back.

When an individual has a career plan, a mentor can be beneficial to help them achieve their career goal and keep them on track despite obstacles they may encounter along the way.

Many executives have a mentor, often from outside the organisation. Being a leader within an organisation can be lonely but a mentor can be beneficial to act as a sounding board on areas that the leader may not initially be able to discuss with those within the company. The mentor is also impartial.

I have found mentoring to be really rewarding; it’s great to see people overcome an issue or progress on their career path through your mentoring. Sometimes, there may be “lightbulb” moments where they come to realise something about themselves that they had been blind to previously. It’s not always a comfortable relationship; there may be times when you’re challenging takes them outside their comfort zone. Overall though being a mentor is rewarding and can really benefit those you’re mentoring at whatever level they are at

Success factors for being a good mentor

  • Relates well with people
  • Open minded, flexible attitude
  • Builds trust & respects confidentiality
  • Suspends judgement & actively listens
  • Empathises
  • Questions and challenges
  • Encourages reflection
  • Committed
  • Well networked
  • Motivated
  • Good reputation for developing others
  • Gives time & commitment to develop relationships


There are 4 key stages to a mentoring relationship, as described below:

Getting started /exploration

Meet & build rapport & establish ground rules

Ground Rules

The mentor & mentee need to agree ground rules on how the relationship should be progressed & these may include:

Frequency of meetings

Where to meet

Typical duration of meetings

Who is responsible for driving the meetings –diaries & agendas etc.


What the objectives are

What areas are/are not to be addressed

How to make the most of the sessions –what will you both commit to so that you make effective use of time


The Mentee should take ownership of issues

Revisit what your mentee has done since your last meeting.

What went well? What could have been better?

Are you asking the right type of questions/are they effective?

What support/advice do they want from you?

Was the level of challenge you gave previously enough?

Share your experiences


Review their objectives

What progress has been made against them?

What is hindering their progress?

How can these obstacles be overcome?

What have they learnt from any development since your last session?

What successes have they had?

Taking Stock

Celebrate successes

Acknowledge when the relationship has come to an end point or “run out of steam”

If the chemistry is not working, say so

Draw the relationship to a natural conclusion by meeting up


If you would like to learn more about mentoring , then e-mail: Amanda@strivedevelopment.co.uk