Executive Mentoring

Mentoring is not new. On the contrary, the term “mentor” originates from Greek Mythology and the practice of mentoring even dates back to earlier times. Mentoring is a relationship between two individuals based on a mutual desire for development towards career or personal goals and objectives. The relationship is a non-reporting one and replaces none of the organisational structures in place. It is additional to other forms of assistance, such as developmental assignments, classroom instruction, on-the-job training, and coaching.

Common to all successful relationships at this level, however, is a strong sense of trust, a degree of mutual learning, and an openness and willingness to say what has to be said.

Executive mentoring tends to fall into three approaches.

The Executive Coach approach is usually part of a short-term relationship, based on a clearly defined skills or behavioural issue for the executive concerned. Some coaches shadow the executive closely for a period, to observe what they do and provide objective feedback. This approach is most appropriate when executives:

  • are deeply concerned about some aspect of their performance
  • want to make some specific changes in behaviour
  • want to acquire some specific skills.

The Elder Statesperson approach is typically a senior player who has “been there, seen it, done it.” The elder statesperson gives the benefit of their experience, may act as a role model but withholds judgement and advice, until it is needed. Elder statespersons tend also to be very well networked and able to introduce the executive to new sources of information and influence. This approach is most appropriate when Executives:

  • want a successful role model to follow
  • simply need a sounding board
  • want to tap into a source of much greater experience.

Reflective Mentors operate at a more intensive holistic level than either the coach or the elder statesperson. They help executives explore their own issues, build their own insights and self-awareness and develop their own unique ways of handling how they interact with key colleagues and the business. They use current issues to examine recurrent patterns of thinking and behaviour, asking penetrating questions and stimulating the executive to take control of issues s/he has avoided. They build the executive’s confidence through greater self-understanding. This approach is most appropriate when Executives:

  • recognise the need for constructive challenge, beyond what they will receive from insiders and non-executives
  • want to build and follow through demanding personal learning plans
  • are committed to managing their own development and owning the processes involved
  • want to explore a wide range of issues as they emerge and become important to them.