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A Discussion Paper


Mentoring Background

What is Mentoring ?
A mentoring relationship is usually where one wiser and more experienced person assists another person to grow and learn. It is not a new management technique. Since humans have lived in social groups we have learnt our norms, values and behaviours by the example and coaching of others.

The business world has adopted the tradition of an older and wiser person fostering the growth and development of the younger generation. This has sometimes resulted in perpetuation of old ways at the expense of diversity and development. However, new adaptations of mentoring allowing individuals to interact as colleagues in a helping relationship, on a more equal basis, can cultivate growth and learning to mutual benefit.

Experience, skills and a genuine desire to help are more valuable assets in a mentoring relationship than age or position. Open and assertive communication and the trust of both parties are essential.

Both partners in the mentoring relationship benefit. Learning must be a lifelong process and one of the most effective ways to learn is to assist in the development of others. The best teachers learn much from their students, counsellors constantly learn from clients and partners in any successful relationship grow and develop along the way.

Mentoring happens in all organisations whether it is fostered as a development strategy; allowed or encouraged as an informal process; or is an activity that occurs below the consciousness of individuals. People ARE learning from others, adopting modelled behaviours and attitudes and absorbing the culture and perceived values of the organisation through their personal interactions with co-workers.

Organisations may choose to:

Leave mentoring as an informal process, in which case it will operate randomly. Its impact on individuals and the organisation will be a matter left to chance and will be largely unrecognised by the organisation;

Help mentoring, by formally or informally providing an environment where mentoring is regarded favourably, self-development is encouraged and it is acceptable to take time for the mentoring activity; or,

Focus and develop mentoring, by designing a mentoring tailored to the achievement of the organisation's specific mentoring objectives. This approach will harness the benefits of effective informal mentoring within a formal and managed framework.

Benefits to the Organisation

  • Increase in morale and motivation
  • Greater productivity
  • Discovery of talent
  • Development of leadership for future survival and prosperity
  • Communication of values, goals and plans
  • Demonstration of personal and professional standards
  • Achievement of excellent service
  • Implementation of equity initiatives
  • Fostering of shared values and team work
  • Enhancement of leadership and people management skills of managers
  • Re energise plateaued managers
  • Increase in staff satisfaction
  • Building a learning organisation
  • Managed careers
  • Development of cross-organisational networks

Benefits to the Mentoree

  • Development of potential and knowledge about the organisation
  • Flexibility - Mentorees negotiate with their mentors to work within available time and other commitments
  • Self directed learning - Mentorees choose specific learning objectives
  • Complements ongoing formal study and/or training and development activities
  • Leads to career mobility and more opportunities as a result of the mentor relationship
  • Give and receive feedback
  • Receive encouragement and support to achieve goals
  • Develop new networks
  • Develop new and/or different perspectives
  • Get assistance with ideas
  • Demonstrate strengths and explore potential
  • Develop visibility within or outside an organisation
  • Be challenged to use talents and share expertise

Benefits to the Mentor

  • Obtain a greater understanding of the barriers experienced at lower levels of the organisation
  • Enhance their own skills in coaching, counselling, listening and modelling
  • The sense of being needed and recognised professionally
  • Develop and practise a more personal style of leadership
  • Gain additional recognition and respect
  • Learn new perspectives and approaches
  • Contribute something to others in the organisation
  • Extend professional networks
  • Demonstrate expertise and share knowledge

Why organisations implement mentoring programs

Purposes for mentoring programs include

  • Induction, to help new recruits, trainees or graduates settle into the organisation;
  • Skills Enhancement, to enable skills to be passed on in the workplace by experienced, highly competent staff to others who need to acquire specified skills;
  • Career Development, to help staff in the planning, development and management of their careers and to help them become more resilient in times of change, more self-reliant in their careers and self-directed learners;
  • Affirmative Action, to assist women and minority groups to redress the imbalance at higher levels in organisations, provide support and help overcome barriers that often block their progress;
  • Leadership and Management Development, to encourage the development of competencies more easily gained through example, guided practice or experience than by education and training;
  • Education Support, to bridge the gap between theory and practice. Formal education or training is complemented by the knowledge and the hands-on experience of a competent practitioner;
  • Organisational Development and Culture Change, to share the values, vision and mission of the organisation. To communicate and work on a one-to-one basis to develop required changes; and
  • Customer Service, to model desired behaviours, encourage the development of competencies, motivate for service quality, and above all to cultivate the right attitudes.
  • Staff retention

Our Approach

In order to assist you in our discussion, these are elements of mentoring programs with previous clients.

Our policy at The Growth Connection is to pass on our skills and expertise to our clients so we would work closely with the program coordinator(s) and others as appropriate throughout the project. Our approach aims to be as participative as possible, involving key players to ensure that their needs and expectations are being met.

There is a need for a part-time dedicated coordinator throughout the program.

Your pilot program will include some or all of the following suggested activities to be managed through by your program coordinator

  • develop clear objectives and deliverables
  • identify potential mentors
  • develop criteria for mentors and agree method of selection
  • define the role of the pilot mentor program coordinator(s)
  • specify benefits to the organisation, to mentors and mentorees
  • build understanding of what mentoring is and gain commitment from key players and participants
  • design an initial mentoring program that is flexible, targeted and specific to your needs and objectives
  • specify pilot program milestones, build in proven success factors and avoidance of common pitfalls.
  • design and schedule mentoring skills workshops for mentors and mentorees.
  • communicate the pilot mentor program to participant managers ie managers of the pilot mentors and mentorees, and to the rest of the organisation.
  • delivery of mentoring skills and information workshops to mentors and mentorees
  • delivery of information sessions to managers of mentors and mentorees
  • decide on inclusion of a mentor project to form part of the pilot and be included in the training
  • design monitoring, reporting and evaluation methods and instruments, e.g. a quarterly report from mentors on progress, frequency of meetings etc
  • analyse pilot outcomes and design ongoing mentor program for the organisation.

The Growth Connection can assist with any of these aspects of mentoring where you need external expertise.

The following is indicative of the overall mentor skills workshop content, to be tailored to your needs after discussion

  • Organisational objectives for the pilot and mission statement/links to other EEO and HR initiatives as appropriate ie Career Development, Staff Development, Executive Development, Performance Management, Affirmative Action, Women in Management
  • Information on what mentoring means, the role of the mentor, benefits to mentor, mentoree and the organisation
  • Mentor skills and practice exercises ie listening, questioning, conflict resolution, coaching
  • Equity and diversity issues
  • Identify own strengths as a mentor
  • Phases of mentoring relationship
  • Discussion of the Mentoring Agreement
  • Managing the mentoring relationship
  • Roles and responsibilities of mentors / mentorees
  • What to do in the first two meetings ie
    - clarify expectations
    - mentoring agreement
  • Rapport building
  • Role play first meeting
  • Role play second meeting
  • What can go wrong in the mentoring relationship and how to handle problems
  • Guidelines and suggested rules of behaviour
  • Outline of the pilot mentoring program and evaluation methods
  • Success indicators for the program / milestones

We provide a Mentoring Skills Workbook as support material for the workshop. It also acts as a post-workshop ready reference guide to assist the development of the mentors' coaching skills.

The Growth Connection's approach has been successfully implemented and refined with over twenty four clients. A selection includes the following organisations:
  • State Rail Authority of NSW
  • Pfizer Australia
  • Citibank
  • BHP Engineering
  • BHP Port Headland
  • Westpac Banking Corporation
  • MLC / Lend Lease
  • Zurich Australia
  • Austrade
  • Commonwealth Department of Finance and Administration
  • Sydney Water Utilities
  • Australian Libraries & Information Association
  • AGL
  • Department of Health & Family Services
  • Australian Film Commission
  • Restaurant and Catering Industry Association of NSW
  • Australian Securities Commission
  • IIR Conferences
  • ABC Television
  • City Rail South
  • Ministry for the Status and Advancement for Women (NSW)
  • Lend Lease Learning


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