Understanding the Role of Mentor

Understanding the Role of Mentor

[#2 in a series of 9 articles]

Series compiled by leading business-mentor, Michael Donovan –iMentor-pro

The mentor function comprises multiple roles, these alternate between receptive and active roles:

1. As a role model. An effective mentor is invariably accomplished in their organisational role. They are generally admired and respected in their position, and their achievements in that position. Mentees will often look for a set of habits, approaches, style and skills that the mentor exhibits and that the mentee wishes to emulate and practice.

2. As a sounding board. Good mentors have to be good listeners. They need to foster confidence in the mentee. Mentors who provide opportunities for their charges to articulate and develop ideas without fear of pre-judgement, criticism or ridicule, contribute real value to the relationship.

3. As a guide. Mentors can offer guidance. Guidance is different to leading. Allow discovery, do not provide answers directly. The subject range is broad and can, for instance, relate to career development or strategies and tactics for achieving particular professional goals.

4. As a skills developer. It is valid for a mentor to sometimes assume a teaching or coaching role around a particular skill-set, helping the mentee to learn quickly, in the format and style of the culture. This role should be specific, short-lived and not perform a role by proxy.

5. As a advocate and champion: Good mentors may choose to do more than just interact with their mentee. They must actively and wisely foster support for the mentee across the organisation, influencing and promoting the mentee’s reputation, capabilities and worth.

Features of mentoring

What are the some of the features of mentoring that make it an effective means of developing talent?

- Mentoring is a form of learning and development it is flexible. The basic requirements are the existence of an experienced person and a commitment to devote the necessary time to the engagement.

- Mentoring provides ‘safe-space’ for learning. Mentoring can occur within or outside of normal operational activity. It should be private. It must have purpose and it must aim for progress.

- Mentoring is work-focused. While is creates a safe-space, mentoring needs to also focus on what is happening for the mentee in the workplace – it is to be connected.

- Mentoring is individualised. The prime focus is always on the learner. An example, is recognising that people have career aspirations that are individual and unique.

- Mentoring creates relationships across the organisation. These relationships may be disaggregated but they link through the upwards, sideways and downwards networks of the parties.

This diagram will assist in illustrating some distinctions between coaching and mentoring:


Primary Role and Objectives

Enhancing performance, potential and level of contribution to the enterprise while also having remedial application

Field of Play

Focused on enhancing skills and capabilities relevant to the immediate career path

Typical Credentials

Professionally accredited with proven experience in coaching techniques

Influence and Credibility

Role legitimised by company appointment and credibility enhanced by credentials

Method and Style

Generally follows a formal and well planned program using adult education principles and motivational techniques


Primary Role and Objectives

Developing political astuteness, providing wise counsel, being a source of inspiration and acting as a champion who believes in the mentee’s greater capacity

Field of Play

Longer-term career and/or broader horizons in both personal and professional endeavours

Typical Credentials

A seasoned and successful individual with deep insights to the organisation and the ‘lifetime journey’ of self-knowledge and self understanding

Influence and Credibility

Influence may stem from hierarchical power and credibility through reputation and proven experiential history

Method and Style

Informal approach depending on need and opportunity acting as a facilitator using gentle persuasion

The content of ideas, concepts and experiences that make up this series of nine articles have been contributed from a number of sources and authors. Assembly by leading business-mentor, Michael Donovan, Managing Director, iMentor-pro 1300 720 190


iMentor-pro is an alliance of former CEO’s, Senior Executives and Company Directors who have an interest in keeping fresh, involved and of assistance to others who are currently in the ‘hot seat’ as the leader, part of the leaders team / direct reports or in the line of succession within a business or a business unit. They will share their experience unreservedly toward your success and that of the business you lead. Led by Michael Donovan, former Asia-Pac CEO for global business-mentoring ...

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