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Powerful MENTORING for Results.

Let's start with a bold concept-"Mentoring can change the trajectory of a career." Over the course of almost two decades, I have seen incredible career trajectories attributed, in part, to great mentorship. In fact, most of the successful leaders I have worked with in my own career were happy to share stories about the mentors in their lives who have helped them. Truly great mentoring can achieve tremendous results and mentees who benefit from capable and confident mentors can grow as leaders. That type of results-driven learning relationship is what I call Powerful Mentoring.

Powerful Mentoring is defined as, "a sustained social learning relationship between two or more individuals, based on mutual trust and respect." That's a mouthful so let's break it down!


To begin with, powerful mentoringcan only be achieved over time. Learning events, such a classroom training or eLearning, have limited reach and a steep forgetting curve. However, learning that is stretched and reinforced over time not only has a greater impact in the long run, but new skills and behaviors are more likely to last. Therefore, a Powerful Mentoring relationship must be sustained, lasting three to twelve months or even longer, depending on other factors.

The phrase "social learning" is also important. Too often, mentoring relation ships are all social or all learning but for the relationship to achieve its full potential, these concepts need to be balanced. The social aspect means that mentors and mentees find significant connections to strengthen the relationship. Finding connections could include discovering experiences or preferences you have in common, but it is just as important to connect and explore what makes you different from each other, as well. This discovery process enhances trust and helps to establish a strong foundation. The learning aspect of the relationship is important so that the "real" work can be done. Without a focus on learning, mentoring will not achieve results. On the other hand, learning has to be balanced with social connection because too much emphasis on learning will result in a weaker and less trusting relationship.


There are a lot of ways that Powerful Mentoring can show up in the world. There are many types of mentoring relationships, and many of them are not just one mentor and one mentee. Some of the strongest and most impactful mentoring programs I have built utilized multiple types of mentoring relationships.

The traditional type of mentoring relationship, or structure, is one-to-one, which is a relationship between one mentor and one mentee. In some cases, a mentor may have two simultaneous relationships with mentees, but should not have more than that. Overall, this a strong choice because of the individual attention and investment that comes with one-to-one relationship development, and is particularly popular for use with leadership development programs. However, some drawbacks include larger program costs, administrative time and potential personality conflicts.

Another type of mentoring is Mentor-Led Groups, which is usually a single mentor leading a group of four to six mentees all sharing a common developmental goal. There is also Peer Mentoring Groups, which are also groups of four to six mentees, but are self-led instead of relying on a mentor. Both formats are strong community-based learning and have lower resource and administrative costs than one-to-one mentoring, but they don't provide the individual attention of one-to-one.

There are several other types of relationships you may choose for your organization, such as reverse mentoring, speed mentoring, and rotational mentoring. However, sometimes the best option is to combine structures for maximum impact. Choose the approach that will work best for your organizational culture and mentoring participants.


The final component of our Powerful Mentoring definition specifically highlights the need for a relationship that has a foundation of mutual trust and respect. One of the more common questions I have received after creating and collaborating on dozens of mentoring programs is, "What if participants have a personality conflict or a bad match?" Organizations building a mentoring program internally are understandably concerned that mentees will not get value out of their mentoring relationship if they clash with their assigned mentors.

The best way to circumvent conflicts is to have a mindful pairing process and help mentees and mentors establish deep trust and respect early and with purpose once they are matched. Empower participants with guides, workbooks, videos and resources to navigate the early conversations to quickly build trust. If a connection is built on mutual trust and respect, mentees will be more inclined to be open, honest and vulnerable, and mentors will feel more relaxed and invested in the mentoring relationship. Positive measurable results are more likely to follow. It is also important to have a program suppprt system in place, in the event that the pair needs additional help navigating their relationship.


Organizations can choose to implement a formal mentoring program in which mentoring relationships are formed and monitored, or informal mentoring, in which organic relationships are formed by individual choice and supported usually by a human resource or training department. Formal programs take a lot of effort to implement the right way, but create tremendous lasting results and transform leaders. Informal, organic relationships require few resources, but do not create predictable results. The right choice is the one that will work best for your organization's culture.

Mentees seeking mentors for informal relationships should be encouraged to look internally in other departments or divisions or externally in professional organizations, conferences, and industry thought leaders. Mentees should seek potential mentors who have experiences or careers that they are looking to build themselves. Ideally, they can find a personal connection or colleague that can help with introduction to a potential mentor.

Formal programs should recruit mentors from across the entire organization, generally encouraging under-represented groups to participate and share their experience. In most programs, matches should be made based on developmental need instead of role or title. One notable exception is for programs specifically built for succession planning purposes. Succession planning programs should match primarily for role exposure. At all costs, avoid forming mentoring relationships with direct supervisors, as the dynamics will be effected by job performance issues and power dynamics.

At the beginning of any mentoring relationship, participants should display genuine enthusiasm for their work and learning, be open and vulnerable, and demonstrate an active interest in development. Mentees should show a commitment to their own learning. Mentors should be ready, be available, and be kind. After all, that's what Powerful Mentoring\s all about!


Any relationship takes effort to keep it strong. Participants in mentoring relationships should take time to discuss their behavior styles and communication preferences, as well as personal limitations and constraints. Expectations should be set about meeting frequency, how and when meetings will occur, the kind of relationship to be built (casual or strictly business), and the roles each person in the relationship will play.

Early in the mentoring relationship, the mentee and the mentor should collaborate to create no more than three developmental goals which will guide conversations moving forward. Developmental goals should be challenging and stretch mentees, but still be attainable. Use an Individual Development Plan (IDP) to help craft strong goals and a vision for success.


When you decide to create and support mentoring within your organization, you get closer to creating lasting, measurable results. However, there is still one common obstacle organizations fail to address and it can undermine all your efforts. Mentors and mentees need the skills required to be successful in their mentoring relationships.

Great leaders do not always make great mentors. The mentoring skillset is not necessarily one that comes naturally to most people. For example, mentors need to be able to give both positive and critical feedback, listen actively, coach for performance and use questioning as a tool. These skills need to be acquired, practiced and reinforced.

Mentees also benefit from development of learning agility. Learning agility is the ability to find real and lasting development from your experiences, including mentoring conversations. Mentees receiving help to improve their learning agility gain much more from their learning relationships and see longer-lasting results.

Be sure to create opportunities for both mentors and mentees to grow and hone their skills through training programs, video resource libraries and mentor-coaches. This will not only create better mentoring experiences but also create strategic leadership impact.


You can create Powerful Mentoring experiences for your organization that change the trajectory of careers. Help establish formal or informal mentoring relationships supported with skills development for mentees and mentors. Create sustained social learning relationships between two or more individuals built on mutual trust and respect. Empower and equip mentees and mentors with guides, videos and reinforcement of these critical skills.

The results of Powerful Mentoring are better leaders who are more capable of innovation, developing others and strategic thinking and an organization better equipped with stronger and more invested talent.


1. Be a Credible and Positive Role Model

* Mentees respect mentors who are good role models, and they can learn a lot just from observing how their mentor behaves in situations.

* Mentees will seek out people who can provide them with the best answers for the specific skills they are trying to build at that time.

* Your mentee doesn't just need you to tell them what to do. Your experience, wisdom and actions will guide them to reach the right answers.

2. Show Interest in Your Mentee

* Mentoring is a complicated relationship. It often covers personal, as well as professional, areas of your mentee's life.

* By learning your mentee's background, interests and dreams, you can have a better understanding of their personality and have a great vision of what kind of learning will serve them best in the long run.

3. Share Your Story

* Describe your experiences with your mentor(s)--both positive and negative--and how they affected you.

* Be open about mistakes that you've made in your professional life, and help your mentee see that learning from mistakes is an effective way to grow.

* Talk about what worked for you in the past and what didn't.

4. Balance Guidance with Questions

* The best mentors know when to offer advice, and when to ask critical questions

* Avoid using "Should" language ("You should do this next ...")

* When providing feedback, begin by asking permission and highlight the benefits of the information to your mentee.

5. Acknowledge Your Mentee's Achievements

* This will help to build their confidence.

* This is also an opportunity for you to learn something from your mentee.

6. Be Proactive with Your Time

* Review your notes before meeting.

* At the end of the meeting, establish the agenda for the next time you meet.

* Be fully present during your meeting--don't take calls, check your texts, etc.

* Make punctuality a priority--everyone's time is important!

7. Set Expectations at the Beginning

* Discuss alternate ways to meet, such as phone calls, Skype, Webex, etc.

* Establish check in methods and timing to keep in touch between meetings.

8. Build Your Communication Skills

* Practice active listening, which is one of the greatest skills a mentor can have!

* When talking with your mentee, ask open ended questions that will help your mentee work towards their own solutions.

9. Find Growth Opportunities for Your Mentee

* Suggest meetings, committees or conferences that they should attend or in which to participate.

* Introduce them to other mentors who may have an area of expertise that will benefit the mentee but that you cannot help them with.

* Provide reading materials.

* Suggest professional groups for them to join.

10. Help Your Mentee Move On When the Time is Right

* Ending a relationship can be difficult but it doesn't need to be!

* Work out what signals the end of the relationship at the beginning of the relationship--achievement of goals, time frame, etc.

* Both the mentor and mentee should have the opportunity to talk about what they have learned from their time together. Celebrate your success and growth within the partnership.

Jenn Labin is the owner of T.E.R.P. associates, lie, a full-service consulting group that provides a broad range of mentoring and talent development services. In addition, Ms. Labin is the author of the book Mentoring Programs that Work, which provides a unique approach to creating sustainable and scalable programs.
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Author:Labin, Jenn
Publication:Defense Transportation Journal
Date:Oct 1, 2017
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