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Mentoring: The Components for Success.

Mentoring is a process that has been used widely in the workplace as well as academia. The mentoring process has been utilized in different forms whether formal or informal as well as the relationships which might be CEO to vice-president, faculty to student, faculty to faculty, student to student, or CEO to CEO. The mentor is a person who is skilled, knowledgeable, a visionary, dynamic, and committed to the process of improving individual's skills. The mentor exhibit behaviors of guiding, coaching, nurturing, teaching, and modeling all for the advancement of the protege. Even though mentoring is not a new concept, the process has not always been successful for all persons entering mentoring relationships. The purpose of this paper is to address mentoring in terms of the components that cause these relationships to be successful. The components of mentoring are the process and the mentor assisting the protege Establishing the relationship will be addressed in terms of how to, to what extent and follow-ups nearing completion of the process, assist in assessing the potential of having a successful relationship.

Anyone who pursues a profession wants to be successful. Success may appear to be easy once a person has obtained the academic credentials, a position in the chosen field with a reputable company, organization, or institutions of higher learning. However, many people may find themselves in this position on a temporary basis because the rules of success are not written on a tablet of stone. Oftentimes persons in this situation are at a loss in terms of what to do. The question is, Is there an opportunity to regroup? What can I do so that I will not be in this position again? Where can I go or whom should I contact? These questions may be difficult to answer in the crisis, but if companies and/or academia want new employees to be successful, then these entities should consider mentoring as a way to guiding neophytes through the process to insure success. So the question is: "What determines successful mentoring relationships?" In this article, the components of successful mentoring relationships are addressed to assist in developing and assessing the process for persons seeking a mentor or persons desiring to become mentors.


The concept of mentoring has been visualized, "since the first telling of the mythical legend of a Mentor, friend, and counselor who was entrusted with the education of Odysseus' son" (Adams & Scott, 1997). Trusted advisors have been influencing the aspirations and advancement of a protege, those they guide" for a long time. This mentoring concept developed based on the actions of the individuals and success in the outcome of Odysseus' son. However, what actually happened still has mythical connotations. In fact, the Mentor was responsible for all facets of life, which included physical, intellectual, spiritual, social, and administrative development (Clawson, 1980). In addition to the development of aforementioned aspect of Odysseus son's life, the process also taught the son how to think and act for himself (Kay as cited in Crow & Matthews, 1998). Since that time, mentoring has been cyclic in the professional arenas of business and academia but appears to be making a powerful comeback (Michalak, 1999) and has become the heart of success in graduate education and K-12 (Kelly & Schweitzer, 1999). The relationship described between the Mentor and Odysseus' son can seldom be duplicated on the journey to success. As such, many researchers have developed definitions to assist in understanding the mentoring process for practical use in various professional arenas.

Mentoring has been defined as a process of an integrated approach to advising, coaching, and nurturing, focused on creating an viable relationship to enhance individual career/personal/ professional growth and development (Adams, 1998). Cory & Matthews (1998) defined mentoring in an administrative context which involves a person who is active, dynamic, visionary, knowledgeable, and skilled with a committed philosophy that keeps the teaching and learning of students in focus; and who guides other leaders to be similarly active and dynamic. According to Kogler-Hill, Bahniuk, Dobos & Rouner (as cited in Kelly & Schweitzer, 1999), mentoring has been defined by the nature of the activity when an older, more experienced member dons a guiding role with a less experienced protege. Another definition of mentoring offered by Anderson & Shannon, (as cited in Colwell, 1998) is: a nurturing process in which a more skilled or more experienced person, serving as a role model, teaches, sponsors, encourages, counsels, and befriends a less skilled or less experienced person for the purpose of promoting the latter's professional and/or personal development. Functions of the mentoring process are carried out within the context of an ongoing, caring relationship between the mentor and protege.

Whether mentoring success is based on the activities or the process, mentoring potentially can retain and assist a person with professional growth after they have entered the work place. The common words of guiding, nurturing, caring, and experience identify some of the characteristics of the mentor. Individuals with a mentor advance further, faster, and experience fewer adjustment problems than those without mentors (Adams, 1994). If this is so, then mentoring relationships need to be established that will be successful for the mentor and protege.

The Mentor

The mentor is the person who guides another to avenues of success. It is not enough to be a mentor, but it is important to be a good mentor, and/or role model for a desired outcome. As such, what are the characteristics of a good mentor? According to Rowley (1999), a good mentor has many qualities. Some of the qualities are being committed to the role as a mentor; accepting the protege; skilled at providing support; effective in interpersonal context; communicates hope and optimism; and a model of continuous learning. The mentor is also someone who understands the role and will meet the protege's needs; is knowledgeable in the desired field as well as respected; and is a person who listens and is a problem solver (Young, 1998). The mentor must accept and trust the protege (Gehrke & Kay as cited in Colwell, 1998). Another characteristic of the mentor is being able to take on the role as a guide. That is guiding the protege through the hurdles of success in the given profession. The mentor must be someone who is sensitive and understanding of the protege `s needs, responsive, excellent interpersonal communication skills, and is objective and clear in during the thinking process (Wittenberg, 1998). Knowing the characteristics of a mentor should allow the mentor and protege to assess if the mentoring relationship can be successful. If the person desiring to mentor knows through assessment that he/she possesses these characteristics, then one aspect of the mentoring relationship has great potential for success.

The Protege

The person who is being mentored is the protege. This person requires the guidance of the mentor and has responsibilities in the relationship. It is not solely the mentor's responsibility to make the relationship work. The protege must respect and trust the mentor to establish a caring relationship (Gehrke & Kay, 1984). The protege must understand that the relationship is mutual in terms of both persons gaining from the opportunity (Young & Adams, 2000 in press). Adams (1998) contends that the protege needs to be responsible by taking initiative and showing resourcefulness. The protege must be willing to enter into a mentoring relationship, develop a plan for accomplishing goals, and listen to advice and respond appropriately. Howard (1998) identified hurdles in the mentoring relationship if the protege is not clear in terms of the relationship. The protege must know and understand their need for a mentor and to not enter the relationship as a "needy-child." The protege must accept the fact that the relationship is seldom one of equals and is designed as an opportunity for growth. As a protege, one must be open to candid feedback as well as mindful of the perils that can be encountered by having a mentor (Arthur, 1997). Having a mentor can create the cause for jealousy of co-workers and associates. As such, the protege must be prepared and ready for these encounters and use discretion in sharing information obtained in these relationships. The protege must be committed and willing to learn. Understanding the characteristics and responsibilities of the protege can assist in establishing a mentor/protege relationship but knowing the steps in establishing the relationship is integral in the success of the relationship.

Establishing the Relationship

Before a mentor/protege relationship can be successful, one must begin the process of establishing the mentoring relationship, several steps must be taken. The protege must assess initially why a mentor is needed and what the protege hopes to gain from the mentor. This process also includes assessing if the need for the mentor is personal development, professional development or professional growth. Also, in the assessment process, the protege must address expectations by posing two (2) questions: 1) What do I expect from my mentor? 2) What characteristics will I bring to the relationship?

After making an assessment, the next step for the protege is to identify and solicit a mentor. To identify a mentor, the protege must search for someone who has the aforementioned characteristics to be a mentor, someone who will meet the protege's needs as a mentor, and someone who will meet the expectations of the protege. After a potential mentor has been identified, it is incumbent on the protege to solicit the mentor. To solicit a person to become the mentor requires interaction in a face-to-face meeting. The protege, in this face-to-face meeting, should identify their needs, expectations, and ascertain if the person desires to become a mentor. This step can be accomplished by posing a question to the potential mentor such as: "Are you willing to serve as my mentor?"

The last phase includes addressing the type of relationship that will develop between the mentor and protege. In this phase it is important to set ground rules to establish the relationship. Establishing ground rules can lead to a successful relationship. The information for setting ground rules should be gathered by assessing, identifying, and discussing. As mentioned previously, the protege must assess the why of having a mentor. It is also imperative that the mutual interest of the mentor/protege is identified, as well as the expectations of the mentor. The discussion should include understanding the type of relationship that is being established, how the process will be facilitated, and sharing with the mentor personality traits to assist in developing the mentor/protege relationship.

Establishing the relationship requires thinking in terms of what should or should not be expected. One of the most phenomenal aspects is to realize that the relationship being established is not designed to be a FRIENDSHIP. Being a friend to the protege is not a requirement. Even though, the mentor should be friendly, the relationship should not be established as a friendship. Establishing a friendship is another relationship and should not be confused with a Mentor/Protege relationship.

Another idea that should be conceptualized is that the mentor may not be an advisor or counselor regarding personal issues beyond development in the professional field as well as the mentor may change. Because growth of the protege can be experienced in the relationship, it is also important to realize that one may require multiple mentors or the mentor may change. Changing mentors requires a detaching process that can be accomplished rather simplistically if goals, strategies, and objectives are established early in the relationship (Wittenberg, 1998). Being aware of these possible changes will allow the protege to gradually move on to another relationship and still have their mentoring needs met. If a potential protege can effectively progress through the phases of establishing the mentor/protege relationship, then the potential for a successful relationship is great.

Successful Mentoring Relationships

The success of the mentoring relationship depends on the mentor and protege possessing the previously mentioned characteristics and employing the skills embodied in those characteristics. In other words, what makes a successful relationship is what the mentor and protege bring to and do in the relationship. Success of mentoring relationships can primarily be determined if the needs of the protege are being met and the goals devised are accomplished.

According to the Twin Cities One to One Mentoring Partnership (2000), the successful mentor makes a personal commitment to be involved with another person for an extended period of time. Time involves commitment and dedication demonstrated by the mentor's accessibility which allows the relationship to become a seamless part of the learning culture. The time in the relationship is spent on developing the protege, listening, and helping the protege to solve problems. Mentoring can be a lifelong process that is cyclical whereas the protege eventually becomes a mentor and develop other proteges (Young, 1994).

The successful mentor exhibits flexibility and openness by providing constructive feedback (Lindenberger & Zachary, 1999) while helping the protege make the most effective decision (Wittenberg, 1998).

The mentor is successful when the ability to envision solutions and opportunities as well as barriers are exercised. Having a vision and being insightful can assist the protege' in attaining the goal of personal and professional growth and/or development. The successful mentor will use the power of their position and experience to assist in the development of the protege's career as well as derive considerable satisfaction from the achievements of the protege (Gray, 1998).


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Adams, H. G. (1998). The Mentorship briefing guide: Handbook for Establishing and Implementing a Mentoring Program. Notre Dame, IN: GEM Consortium

Arthur, A. (1997). Getting a helping hand. Black Enterprise, 28, (2) 72-73.

Colwell, S. (1998). Mentoring, socialisation and the mentor/protege relationship. Teaching in Higher Education, 3(3) 313-325.

Crow, G. M. & Matthews, L. J. (1998). Finding One's Way. California: Corwin Press

Gray, J. (1998). Mentoring the young clinician-scientist. Clinical & Investigative Medicine, 21 (6) 279-282.

Howard, C. (1998). The ties that blind. Canadian Business, 71 (3) 96-97.

Kelly, S. & Schweitzer, J.H. (1999). Mentoring within a Graduate School Setting. College Student Journal, 33 (1), 130-149.

Lindenberger, J. & Zachary, L. J. (1999). Play `20 Questions' to develop a Successful Mentoring program. Training & Development, 53, 2, 14-17.

Michalak, C. (1999). Is the mentoring idea making a comeback? Hydrocarbon Processing, 78 (9) 25.

Rowley, J. B. (1999). The Good Mentor. Educational Leadership, 56 (8), 20-22.

Wittenberg, P. M. (1998). Successful Mentoring in a correctional environment. Federal Probation, 62 (2) 75-81.

Young, C. Y. (1994). The Efficacy of a Retention Program for Culturally Diverse Pre-Service Teachers. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Illinois State University, Normal.

Young, C. & Adams, H.G. (2000). Mentoring: A Strategic Advantage Developing a Protege Plan for Promotion and Tenure (in press).

Clara Y. Young, Ed.D., Assistant Professor, Educational Foundations, Auburn University Montgomery. James V. Wright, Ed.D, Department Head & Professor, Department of Counselor, Leadership, & Special Education, Auburn University Montgomery.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Dr. Clara Y. Young, Assistant Professor, Educational Foundations, Auburn University Montgomery.
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Author:Wright, James V.
Publication:Journal of Instructional Psychology
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 1, 2001
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