A Guide to Guided Mentoring


guided mentoring

What makes a mentoring programme truly effective? Is it rigid rules and regulations about how the relationship should work? Or is it trusting your employees, leaving them to develop the relationship as they see fit? 

The truth is fostering truly effective mentoring relationships is a balancing act. You need to empower your employees to take ownership of the relationship, while also ensuring it works and is delivering the learning experience intended. There are two popular approaches to mentoring: Structured and Unstructured.

Structured vs. unstructured mentoring

Structured mentoring programmes are adopted by over 70% of the FTSE 500. They ensure consistency throughout your organisation, and set expectations, holding both participants accountable for their half of the relationship. However, rules, deadlines and ‘red tape’ can be off-putting and limit the number of sign-ups to your mentoring programme. 

In contrast, unstructured programmes foster more organic, natural relationships and have very few rules to follow. This empowers employees and drives communication, while creating a relationship that is tailored to the mentees bespoke needs. However this approach sometimes falls short, if either party fails to prioritise the mentoring relationship.

But, there is a third approach that organisations can foster to ensure success: guided mentoring.

A guided approach to mentoring

Guided mentoring brings together structured and unstructured approaches and is based on The Inverted U Theory. Often used in sports or athletics, the inverted U depicts the relationship between pressure and performance. It shows that when there is too much or too little pressure performance lags. But it also highlights an optimal situation, an ‘area of best performance’.

Too little structure and the mentee may get side-tracked and not achieve as much as they could. But too much structure means there’s no room for an organic relationship to grow and this is equally as important to the prosperity of the mentorship.

With unstructured mentoring sat on the left of the inverted U, and structured on the right, guided mentoring sits in the middle – in the area of best performance. 

Why you should add a little flexibility to your mentoring programme

Guided mentoring provides a whole host of benefits to both mentor and mentee, and in turn increases buy-in from both sides. A study conducted by the University of Sydney reported that flexible mentoring helped mentees achieve their career goals and unintentionally provided emotional support, an increased sense of direction and time for reflection. This same study also showed an increase in willingness from mentors, stating they found the programme “extremely rewarding”. 

Who benefits from guided mentoring?

These emotional benefits undoubtedly lead to more enthusiastic, driven and inspired employees – a win for all involved. However, there are some cohorts of employees who might find guided mentoring exceptionally beneficial, including: 

1. New starters

Mentoring programmes are most often targeted at new starters – the employees further down the corporate ladder, who could benefit from a little guidance from those who have been in the field for a while. However, traditional approaches to mentoring can sometimes be intimidating for the company newbie. A structured programme could lead to your new starter feeling overwhelmed;  juggling both their work commitments and mentoring schedule. But, an entirely unstructured approach could leave them apprehensive, not wanting to pester their mentor for help, support or guidance. So, it’s easy to see how guided mentoring will provide the flexibility and support needed in those all important first few months at your organisation.

2. New managers

New managers are likely to have been in your business for some time, or at the very least have experience working in the relevant field. But no two new managers are the same, some may take to the next stage in their career like a duck to water. Whereas others may find their new role nerve-racking. Each new manager will have unique learning and development needs. Therefore mentoring programmes ridgid with structure will suffice. However, a completely unstructured approach may not be conducive to success either. A new role will undoubtedly lead to an increased workload and some may struggle to prioritise the mentoring relationship over their other commitments. So, it’s easy to see why guided mentoring might be considered the perfect sweet spot. 

3. Future leaders 

Finally, mentoring develops future leaders for your organisation, forming a pipeline of individuals who truly understand your business and what it takes to succeed. These future leaders need a range of skills, not least communication, listening and decision-making. Traditional approaches to mentoring usually involve a range of pre-planned meetings, activities and so on. This eases the mentoring process but does not provide an opportunity for mentees (or their mentors) to take charge of the relationship and implement their communication or decision-making skills. Guided mentoring empowers potential future leaders to take ownership, and in turn helps them develop the skills critical to their career success. 

So, what makes a mentoring programme truly effective? Here at Grasp we believe it’s a programme that empowers employees. One that fosters a culture of sharing, relationship building and trust. And in our opinion, guided mentoring is a great way to achieve just that. 

Image by Hello I’m Nik 🎞 on Unsplash

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