What’s your mentoring style?

Kai Kirkkopelto

When it comes to mentoring styles, there is no one size fits all approach. Each and every mentor will bring a different offering to the table, so that’s why when you’re choosing your mentor you need to make sure their mentoring style suits your needs. In fact, it’s the very reason you may want more than one mentor. But as a mentor, it’s important to be self-aware of your own mentoring style – and how it pairs up with your mentee’s needs. 

Mentoring Style Guide

Here at Grasp, we’re passionate about helping you get mentoring right. Which is why we’ve developed our Mentoring Style Guide – helping to match mentors and mentees, whilst also providing a useful pathway to follow throughout the mentoring process. 


Prioritising the mentees needs

The heart of the Mentoring Style Guide is the same as the heart of any mentorship: The needs of the mentee. On the whole, mentees needs fall into four key areas: 

  • Spark: The mentee that likes to be challenged, and given a gentle nudge along their desired career trajectory.
  • Learn: This mentee wants to develop new skills, so they’ve picked their mentor based on experience and skillset. 
  • Support: Sometimes mentees look to their mentor for support, reassurance and direction. This mentee needs just that. 
  • Network: Networking is a critical component to career growth.  This mentee is looking for a stepping stone to expanding their network.

However, often mentees will not know exactly what they need – they simply know that they need some help, and often the mentor’s first task is establishing exactly what the mentee needs, and if they can cater to these needs. And this task sometimes proves challenging for mentors. But have no fear – our Mentoring Style Guide can help with this too. 

Determining mentees needs

The axis of our Mentoring Style Guide helps mentors determine specific needs of the mentee. You will need to ask open questions to your mentee to find out what motivates and drives them – which will help you identify the general direction of the mentee’s needs. The axes identify mentees needs based on:

  • Drive (which are external factors, such as their position in the organisation)
  • Foundations (personal goals, such as developing skills)
  • Development (driven by their performance and development)
  • Navigation (when the mentee feels lost in their role)

These areas will then pinpoint how the mentee needs you to support them. For example, a mentee that falls into ‘Drive’ and ‘Navigation’ may need you to advocate for them – championing their growth throughout the organisation. Similarly, if someone falls into ‘Foundations’ and ‘Development’, you may need to impart some knowledge, or teach them a new skill. 

Now think about your mentoring style…

All good mentorships start with the mentees’ needs front and centre. So it’s only once you’ve established the above, it’s time to think about you and your mentoring style. In our Mentoring Style Guide, we’ve grouped these into four key categories: 

  1. The Motivator: The motivator will use storytelling and task setting to inspire and challenge their mentee. They’re full of high energy and optimism – and they’re highly proactive when it comes to their mentorship. 
  2. The Sponsor: The Sponsor is similar to The Motivator, but is focussed on connecting and advocating for their mentee – ensuring their network expands to help their career growth. 
  3. The Anchor: The Anchor is the empathetic mentor, who is there to listen to their mentee and is oozing emotional intelligence. They’ll help their mentee thrive, not just survive, when faced with tough situations. 
  4. The Master of Craft: The Master of Craft is full of knowledge and skill and is ready to impart their learned experiences with their mentees. These people are usually short-term mentors, and help their mentees hit professional goals in a short span of time. 

The difference between mentoring and coaching

Kai Kirkkopelto

The phrases mentoring and coaching are often used interchangeably. But regardless of this common misconception, the two are in fact very different concepts. Both are independent in their own rights, and have a really valuable place when it comes to employee development. In this article we’re going to explore the differences between the two, and the benefits they both bring to the table. 

So, let’s start with some simple definitions: 

What is mentoring?

Mentoring is a reciprocal and collaborative experience. Often between a junior and more senior employee, mentoring is designed to support the younger employee’s growth, learning and development. However, in recent years there has been a shift. Instead of assuming younger employees are the only people to benefit from mentoring programmes, more often older employees in the workplace are benefiting from reverse mentoring. Whichever way the mentorship works, the ultimate end goal is to help the mentee with their career development, which is usually completed through meetings, calls and on-going support from the mentor. 

Donna Peters, Leadership and Career Coach summed up mentorship really nicely, saying “Mentorship comes from a position of love, and has your best interests in mind. It’s the intersection of someone who is standing on a mountain, and is leaning back to pull you to the top of the mountain with them. But once you’re on the top of the mountain, they’re showing you all the possibilities that are in your best interests.” 

What is coaching?

Conversely, coaching is about raising awareness of an individual to unlock potential and maximise performance. It’s about encouraging the person to learn, rather than teaching them. Helping them to change in the way they wish and helping them go the way they want to. Coaching should be delivered by people who are trained to do so, such as line managers or others trained in coaching skills. This is because coaches do not offer step-by-step processes or advice, instead they ask the right questions to ensure the coachee leverages the knowledge and skills they already possess in order to achieve their goals. 

So, what’s the difference between mentoring and coaching?

It’s clear to see why people use these phrases interchangeably. So, what are the differences between the two?

  1. Timeframe. Mentoring is a long-term relationship that often spans years. Coaching is a short-term process, lasting until set goals are achieved.
  2. Structure. Coaching is usually more structured with regular scheduled meetings. Mentoring is more of a natural, fluid relationship – guided by what works for the mentee and mentor. 
  3. Agenda. Similarly to structure, the agenda varies greatly between coaching relationships and mentorships. A coach will be helping an individual reach one specific goal, and as such will bring with them a clear agenda. Whereas in a mentorship, the agenda is usually set by the mentee (with the support of the mentor, of course!)
  4. Focus. Coaching usually focuses on one measurable goal. And as such, success of the coaching relationship is easily defined. However mentoring relationships are development driven – and focus on developing the mentee, driving them to their next stage in their career growth. 
  5. Advice. Mentors give advice, they leverage their personal experiences and use these to guide their mentee through any challenge they may face. Conversely, coaches do not give advice – they help people realise their own potential with clever questioning and guidance. 

The expert’s opinion

In the first and fourteenth episodes of our podcast series “The Mentors Who Made Me” we spoke to two coaches, Lucy Mullins – Co-founder of StepLadder and Executive Coach, and Donna Peters – Leadership and Career Coach. We asked both what the difference is between coaching and mentoring.

Lucy Mullins – Co-founder & COO of StepLadder & Executive Coach

What’s the difference between mentoring and coaching? Well, it’s a continuum. Coaching is at one end and mentoring is at the other. On the one side, you have really strict mentoring, where one party (the mentor) has more knowledge and experience in a particular industry. They will then give the mentee a detailed plan about how to progress in that particular field, in a very structured, clear way. At the other end you have coaching. In its purest form, coaches give absolutely no input at all. They understand the person they are coaching has all the knowledge and information they need – and it’s their job to help draw it out, organise it and help make decisions. Simply put – the difference comes down to putting information in, and drawing information out. But clearly, there’s a huge gap in between, where you can do a bit of both.”

Donna Peters – Leadership and Career Coach

Donna echoed Lucy’s sentiments: “Coaches are trained in the neuroscience of leadership. They understand what’s needed for behavioural change to stick. They ask the right questions and uncover the beliefs the coachee has that might be limiting their progress. In comparison, Mentors are there to give the mentee advice. They will often give this advice in the ilk of “if I were in your shoes, this is what I would do. One person can be both a coach and mentor. However they should clearly signpost when they are ‘changing roles’ by asking the coachee or mentee “Would you like to know what I would do if I were you?” or similar.

You can check out Lucy’s and Donna’s episodes of “The Mentors Who Made Me” by clicking here.

So, do you need a coach or a mentor?

Often it’s hard to decide whether you need a coach or a mentor. And sometimes it takes some trial and error to find out the right answer for you. But one important fact to remember is that they are not mutually exclusive. You can have a mentor and a coach. Both of these individuals can help you with different aspects of your life. And will equip you with the tools you need to hit your goals. But asking someone to be your mentor, or coach, is often difficult. So we created this blog to help you out. Good luck with popping the question to your mentor (or coach!)

Diversity and Inclusion in a post-pandemic world

Kai Kirkkopelto

Dubbed ‘freedom day’ in England, last Monday (19th July 2021) saw most Covid-19 restrictions lifted. Although face masks are still encouraged and self-isolation when needed, remains! And even though lockdown rules vary worldwide, this marks a significant step towards ‘business as usual’. As we take this tentative step towards ‘normal’, we must use this opportunity to reflect, and consider how we want to shape our future.

For many organisations, Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) will be at the top of the agenda as we return to the office. Especially due to the varying impact the pandemic had on those from diverse backgrounds. On the one hand, the increase in adoption of flexible and remote work as a result of the pandemic has enabled many people to return to work. For example, parents with young children – who can now do the school run while working from home. On the other hand, the increased unemployment due to the pandemic disproportionately hit the minority groups in the workplace. For example, the unemployment rate disabled people was 8.4% in October – December 2020 (compared to 4.6% for those who are not disabled).

This results in a D&I landscape that is more unbalanced than ever before. So now’s the time to prioritise D&I initiatives, and ensure we move ahead into a post-pandemic world with diverse and inclusive workplaces. 

What is diversity and inclusion?

D&I isn’t a new topic. In fact, many organisations began looking at diversity and inclusion almost 16 years ago, following the ‘Shaping a Fairer Future’ paper from Baroness Prosser. But, if you’ve not explored D&I in the past, it’s important that we define exactly what diversity and inclusion means. Although grouped together, they are separate entities and should be defined as such. According to the Global Diversity Practice:

Diversity is about empowering people by respecting and appreciating what makes them different. For example, age, gender, ethnicity, religion, disability, sexual orientation, education, and national origin.

Whereas inclusion is a practice which accepts and welcomes individuals who have different backgrounds. Whilst ensuring all employees are treated equally.

In simple terms, diversity is the mix and inclusion is getting the mix to work well together.

Yet, not everybody agrees on what D&I means in practice. According to a report from Deloitte, people from different generations perceive D&I differently. Millennials view it as combining different backgrounds, experiences and perspectives. Which when combined lead to increased innovation at work. Whereas Gen Xers and Boomers focus on equal and fair representation at work, regardless of demographics.

So why does D&I matter?

Whichever way you interpret D&I, it’s importance in the workplace remains the same. In the modern world it’s unacceptable to have workforces that lack diversity and inclusion. It is unacceptable that employees from a lower socio-economic background take 25% longer to progress through a company (despite no difference in skillset). It is not right that there are only 6 female CEOs in the UK FTSE 100 (compared to 94 men). And it isn’t fair that unemployment impacts minority groups more than any other. In today’s age we should have organisations that represent the world around us, and to ensure that – we must proactively create diverse workforces.

Plus, D&I initiatives will also help your business bottom line. Organisation’s that prioritise diversity and inclusion are more likely to attract and keep new talent. This is especially notable in younger generations, as 83% of millennials want to work for a company that aligns with their personal values. Plus, a focus on D&I can also bring with it innovation, stronger employee engagement and productivity – positively boosting the bottom line.

How did Covid-19 impact diversity and inclusion in the workplace?

The onset of the pandemic meant organisations had to stop, pivot or completely change their ways of working. And this caused a shift in business priorities – and many had to focus on staying afloat rather than anything else.

This change distracted organisations from D&I initiatives. And shed a light on wider inequalities in our workforces – that go beyond the traditional demographic realms. Notably, the pandemic showed the disparity in home working environments. Graduates or younger professionals spent their time working from small desks in cramped bedrooms. Whereas their older counterparts worked from comfortable home offices. And although there is little we can do to overcome this, it is important to remember this when moving away from Covid restrictions.

What’s more, the pandemic exacerbated the gender divide in the workplace. As schools closed, parents and children embarked on a journey of home-schooling. And although there was a sense of unity amongst parents – this challenge disproportionately hit mothers. In fact, 23% of working mums contemplated quitting work due to child-care struggles during the pandemic (compared to just 13% of fathers).

But working from home isn’t everybody’s dream come true

Many reports will tell you that remote working is here to stay. And to some extent that is true. But according to a survey by YouGov, only 18% of workers want to work from home permanently after the pandemic is over. And a staggering 39% never want to work from home again. This is a huge portion of the workforce, and you must consider them in your ‘return to the office’ strategy. When looking to the future, it’s important to acknowledge flexibility goes two ways and your strategy should promote an inclusive workplace for all.

The role of HR in diversity and inclusion

Everybody in your organisation is responsible for diversity and inclusion. Your leadership team must prioritise it. Managers should overcome unconscious biases when hiring new staff. And your people must embrace the myriad of cultures in your organisation. But the sad truth is: shared responsibility usually ends in nobody taking responsibility. So somebody needs to take ownership of your organisation’s D&I initiatives. And more often than not this falls to HR. Josh Bersin, leading industry analyst and researcher, agrees, stating that D&I must be a business strategy, with the needle driven by HR. And 65% of senior business execs agree, saying it’s HR’s responsibility to implement D&I programmes.

So what can HR do to boost diversity and inclusion in the workplace?

Tackle common challenges head-on

There are many D&I issues which organisations can tackle head-on. Take the gender pay gap for example. In 2020 the UK saw a gender pay gap of 15.5% – and although this is falling year-on-year, it’s still much too high. HR can tackle this problem by comparing salaries and compensation packages of female and male employees. If they identify a problem, they should encourage senior leaders to do something about it. This enables your organisation to confidently say you pay fairly, regardless of gender – without disclosing anybody’s salary.

Utilising mentoring to bridge the gap

Mentoring brings together people from a range of backgrounds and drives interactions between them. Which in turn helps organisations bridge the gap between employees, and create a more inclusive environment for all. Many organisations use reverse mentoring to overcome issues associated with inclusion. For example, the tech industry overcomes age discrimination by implementing reverse mentoring. With younger employees pairing up with older colleagues to develop their digital skills.

Rethink your hiring & retention processes

Most D&I initiatives start with removing biases from the hiring process. And there are many ways you can do this, from acquiring technology to aid you, to scrubbing names and addresses from CVs. Plus, it may be worth investing in some unconscious bias training for hiring managers, ensuring all candidates are getting a fair chance.

But many companies only focus on diversity and inclusion in the hiring process. This is the wrong approach. You should also evaluate your D&I practices in the day-to-day operations of your company. To ensure a truly diverse and inclusive workplace, retention must be at the forefront of your D&I strategy. This might include educating leaders, forming an inclusion council or celebrating differences in your people.

2021 is an opportunity for a fresh start

The pandemic is far from over, and the side effects of the pandemic will be with society for some time. But 2021 will be a year of change, learning to live with Covid-19, and ultimately it’s a great opportunity for a fresh start. So, if your organisation hasn’t prioritised diversity and inclusion yet – now is the perfect time to do it.

Who can be a mentor?

Kai Kirkkopelto

TL;DR: Anybody can be a mentor. Yes, anybody.

When it comes to choosing a mentor, people typically look to those who have more workplace experience than themselves. However, to be a mentor, you simply must have skills and experience to impart to the mentee, that they do not currently possess. And this doesn’t necessarily mean workplace experience. 

So perhaps we should be questioning “what qualities does an effective mentor have?” instead. In this article we’re going to explore the key elements of being a mentor – in the hope of encouraging you to become a mentor or asking someone who you may not have initially thought of, to be your mentor. So, who can be a mentor?

An individual with appealing skills

The crux of a mentorship is skills sharing. So to be an effective mentor, you must have a skillset that someone else finds desirable. And in today’s age, everybody has skills that someone else requires. For example, a less digitally skilled employee may choose to embark on a mentorship with a younger, digitally-native employee. Or, perhaps there is an employee who’s ready to embark in a management role, who may start a mentorship with a successful leader in the company. The common denominator here is that the mentor has skills that the mentee wants to acquire. 

Someone who is willing to share

Of course, for a mentorship to be successful, the chosen mentor must be willing to share his or her skillset, with no reservations. They must be motivated, willing and enthusiastic to share their experience and knowledge with their mentee, and thoroughly respect the mentor-mentee partnership. If you’re looking for a mentor within your organisation – it’s good to choose someone who has a thorough understanding of your organisational culture, as the knowledge they will share will not only impact your skillset, but also enable you to better navigate the complexities of organisational politics. 

A great communicator 

Communication is one of the most important skills for any professional. However, when it comes to being a mentor – it’s more important than ever. A mentor must be able to articulate their skills and convey them in such a way that coaches the mentee into adopting and mastering the chosen skills. This is particularly important as mentors will have to give honest, constructive feedback to their mentee throughout the time of their mentorship.

Lifelong learners

“Lifelong learner” is a phrase that’s increased in popularity in recent years. And it alludes to people who continue to learn long after formal education finishes. It’s voluntary learning, rather than compulsory and requires a lot of self-motivation. These people are well-informed about their field of work and they’re up-to-date on the latest comings and goings industry, and are continually learning to make sure they stay ahead of the game. It’s this drive and motivation that make lifelong learners fantastic mentors. 

Someone with high emotional intelligence

Understanding your own emotions is critical in any role where others are depending on you. Particularly in a mentorship, strong emotional intelligence ensures that the mentor can keep themselves in check and be sensitive to the emotions of others. This often increases empathy between the mentor and mentee – and enables the mentor to see any particular situation from the mentees perspective. As such, the mentor is likely to give more practical, constructive advice to mentees when needed. 

So, can I be a mentor?

In short, yes, we’re sure you can. If you have skills, advice or experience that others will benefit from, then you can certainly become a mentor. If you’re looking to become a mentor, here’s some top tips

  1. Establish what you’re looking for out of becoming a mentor and set yourself clear goals
  2. Find a mentee through your organisation – or speak to HR if you do not have a mentorship programme
  3. Set expectations with the mentee – and continue open and honest communication throughout the mentorship 

By applying these tips – you’ll be on your way to being a great mentor. Do you have any more tips on being a mentor? Let us know – tweet us @Grasp_hr

Creating a mentoring culture

Kai Kirkkopelto

Organisations with the most successful mentoring programmes have one thing in common: a robust mentoring culture. It’s not enough to simply have mentoring in place. To be effective, your entire organisation needs to embrace mentoring, especially those in the middle to upper ranks. Instead of thinking of it as a nice-to-have, or a compulsory task; your people should consider mentoring as a driver for business growth and personal development.

What is a mentoring culture?

A mentoring culture is a shared mindset amongst your people. They should not consider mentoring as something that's nice to do. Instead, your people should see mentoring as an essential driver to business growth. And they should embrace the experience, whilst encouraging their peers and colleagues to do the same.

For many organisations, mentoring cultures are difficult to create. HR and L&D professionals spend time developing mentoring programmes and encouraging uptake. But despite the very best efforts, mentoring programmes are seen as a compulsory, time-consuming task. It’s time to change that narrative. We must develop mentoring cultures within our businesses.

How to create a mentoring culture

1. Create a mentoring programme that fits your businesses (and employees) needs

Mentoring programmes come in many shapes and sizes. You can have guided mentoring, reverse mentoring, and much more. But how do you know which approach is right for your organisation?
The truth is, there is no hard and fast rule about what is ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ when it comes to mentoring. In fact, what works for one of your employees may not work for the next, and vice versa. So to boost mentoring uptake in your organisation, it’s important to allow flexibility in how mentoring takes place.

2. Encourage open and honest communication – no matter the role

Mentoring is usually associated with a more senior employee providing help to a more junior employee. But in today’s age, this needn’t – and shouldn’t – be the case. Modern businesses know that the all employees hold tonnes of information that can fuel business growth – regardless of seniority. In fact, one example uncovered by a recent YouGov study shows that 1 in 3 employees over the age of 40 requested support for simple technology queries at least once a week from younger employees. Proving that the top-down “traditional” approach to mentoring isn’t always the best option. Instead, empower all employees to share their thoughts, tips and guidance to their colleagues. It is this open, sharing mindset that will fuel the growth of a mentoring culture in your organisation.

3. Showcase your successes

Often people struggle to imagine the impact garnered from a mentorship. Instead of assuming your people will know what they’ll gain from signing up to your mentoring programme – show them. Create a cohort of advocates that will champion your programme. Create campaigns around them, and their successes that they attribute to the mentorship. This will instil faith into the mentoring programme, and encourage a culture of acceptance and advocacy around mentoring within your organisation.

4. Develop your mentors

When considering mentorships, often the focus is on the mentee. It focuses on their development and how the mentor can help them reach their goals. But often, organisations overlook the skills development opportunity for mentors. Mentoring isn’t a skill that everybody is born with, and sometimes mentors themselves need some coaching on how to be a better mentor. By investing time into upskilling mentors, you’re ensuring that the entire programme is more successful. And the more successful the programme, the more mentoring advocates you’ll create within your organisation. Which in turn boosts mentoring culture. Win win!

But remember, creating a mentoring culture takes time…

The truth is, you will not be able to create a mentoring culture over night. Creating any kind of culture takes time and commitment. And mentoring is the same. But investing the time and energy into creating this mindset within your organisation is paramount for the long-term success of your mentoring programmes. As without a robust mentoring culture underpinning dedicated mentorships; your organisation is likely to overlook the real benefits of mentoring.

Maintaining mentoring momentum

Kai Kirkkopelto

New mentorships are exciting. Diaries are at the ready and meetings are being booked as soon and as frequently as possible. But sometimes, after a while, the novelty wears off. Life and work get in the way, mentoring momentum falls short and meetings become more infrequent. 

Mentoring programmes are more important now than ever before. They help:

But due to the current climate, implementing effective mentoring programmes is harder than ever. Many employees are still working remotely, and those that aren’t, are likely working a hybrid model – part of the time at home, part of the time at the office. This brings an added layer of complication for mentors and mentees when planning their mentoring meetings; and as such, momentum can dwindle quickly.

But this doesn’t need to be the case. Here at Grasp, we know that mentoring programmes can provide real support to employees in turbulent times. So here are our top tips for keeping the mentoring momentum going in your organisation:

1. Find a routine from the start

The easiest way to ensure consistency in mentoring is to devise a plan up front. How often are you going to meet? Where? How long will the meetings last? How will you choose what to discuss? For some pairings the best pattern might be every two weeks, or once a month. For others, it may be more infrequent, perhaps once a quarter, but with more regular, informal catch ups in between. Whatever routine is decided, it’s important that both parties stick to it. And if for any reason you need to cancel a meeting, reschedule it immediately.

2. Communication methods and boundaries

Often mentorships go wrong due to miscommunication; which often includes one party overstepping boundaries. Therefore it’s of paramount importance that you openly discuss communication methods and boundaries up front. For example, some may only wish to reply to emails Monday – Friday, 9am – 5pm. And that’s fine – if it’s communicated. Others prefer emails over phone calls, or vice versa. Whatever your preferred communication methods are, and whatever your boundaries are – make them clear from the very start.

3. Set goals and priorities

You may have heard the saying “What gets measured, gets improved” and that is as true for mentoring as it is for anything else in life. It’s important to set goals and priorities at the start of a mentoring partnership, and then review them frequently. 

But it’s not good enough for a mentee to say “I want to improve my leadership skills”. Instead, get the mentee to consider the topic more deeply, and set a SMART goal, which means: 

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable 
  • Realistic 
  • Time-bound 

For example, if the mentee believes they need to improve their project management abilities to improve their leadership skills – perhaps they will set a goal of “Implementing a new project management process for the team, by the end of December 2021”. 

Setting this goal will allow both the mentee and mentor to check back in and evaluate the progress of their partnership. If the mentee has more than one goal they want to achieve – prioritise the goals, and work on one at a time. 

4. Ask for feedback 

Often when a mentoring relationship is lacking momentum, it’s due to non-commitment from one party. If you feel your mentor, or mentee, isn’t giving their all to the mentoring programme – ask them why. More often than not, it’s due to external factors. Perhaps they do not feel they have the time to commit right now, or they do not feel like they’re getting enough from the programme to prioritise it. If you have an open conversation with the other person, you’ll likely be able to get to the root of the problem, and resolve it. Remember, this may mean reviewing and revising the goals, priorities and schedules you’ve already set. And that’s fine. There is no rule book when it comes to mentoring; as long as it works for both parties, you’ll see success. 

What to do when you can’t get the mentoring momentum going 

We’ve spoken a lot in this article about keeping momentum going, but sometimes mentoring partnerships struggle to get off the ground at all. And this may be because the mentee and mentor are not a right fit for one another

The important thing to remember here is that it’s fine if a mentoring relationship doesn’t quite work out. If you’re struggling to get mentoring momentum going from the start, the best thing you can do is to speak up. Communicate with your mentor/mentee and your HR team (or whoever’s in charge of your mentoring programme). They will work with you to resolve the issue or rematch you with a new mentor – which is much better than pretending everything is a-ok and missing out on the heaps of benefits mentoring brings to all parties. 

The importance of storytelling in mentoring

Kai Kirkkopelto

Success or failure? Hero or villain? The beginning or the end? Every employee in every organisation has a narrative that defines their relationship with their workplace. The stories your employees tell govern their individual working experience and create your organisation’s history.

So how do you tell the perfect story? And in a company with multiple storytellers, how can mentoring help create the most compelling arcs for all of your employees?…

Know your audience

Great storytelling is simply a form of great communication. If it’s a cathartic way of helping the writer to connect with themselves, its real power lies in extending that connection to a wider audience. Authenticity is everything, with your reader’s emotional investment acting as a barometer for your story’s credibility. Can you relate to your audience? Can you empathise with them enough to truly engage them? In the workplace, the most effective
mentors are the ones who understand their mentees enough to motivate them. Whether words are on a page or spoken in person, their impact is entirely contingent on this ability to relate to your audience.

Use visual imagery

The most memorable stories are the ones that paint vivid pictures in the reader’s head. It’s the meeting of two imaginations, as the writer plants an idea for the audience to develop in their own minds. Great mentoring can engage a mentee in a very similar way. A mentee may already have certain pre-conceived ideas about mentoring, the definition of success or their own role in the workplace. By discussing these thoughts in an open setting, mentoring helps the mentee to visualise them and to create a narrative around defeating negativity and promoting positive ideas. Furthermore, in the same way that people in stories are visual archetypes, mentors can act as characters that have lived their mentee’s experience and assumed successful leadership positions.

Know your message

From Biblical parables to Star Wars, every memorable story has a clear central message that the characters and plotlines gravitate around. The message unifies the story and provides a continuous reference point for both the reader and writer. This sense of clarity improves the reader’s experience and challenges them to question how they feel about the message being presented. Clarity at the start of a mentoring relationship helps to sharpen the focus and sets the standard for the sessions. What’s the purpose of the mentoring? What are you both seeking from the sessions? Use a clear central message to guide the story of your mentoring relationship.

Never explain

A compelling story has enough mystery to keep the reader guessing and maintains a careful balance between excitement and ambiguity. A quick way to drain both excitement and ambiguity is to explain the story to the reader, rather than allowing it to unfold. Instead of providing clarity, this exposes a lack of trust in the audience and an unwillingness to let their
imaginations interpret the story. Challenging the audience and embracing any potential conflict is essential to their engagement. This principle can be applied to mentoring where a senior figure is tasked with imparting their wisdom.

Mentors cannot impose their advice on their mentee’s lives and can only guide them towards self-improvement. Trust is essential. A mentee will always invest in a mentor who has faith in their capacity to invest. As a platform for knowledge-sharing, mentoring is also an opportunity for both parties to learn something from each other, with a trust that they’ll transmit this learning experience into their daily lives. However, this journey isn’t always smooth, and a clash of ideas will always make the experience more

Use your voice

A fictional world can be a safe space for the reader to escape to, whilst also envisaging how their lives might fit within it. But you cannot compel an audience to invest in a story that you weren’t compelled to write. Storytelling is an opportunity to inspire an audience with your

In a busy, competitive workplace, mentoring provides a platform for openness and honesty. The effectiveness of the sessions will hinge on the authenticity of the process. The mentor cannot be someone they aren’t, while the mentee must be prepared to confront their own difficulties. The sessions can be used as a safe environment to be truthful with each other.
Both parties can take advantage of this more informal, personal setting to explore why aspects of their lives aren’t working and to imagine how they might. Furthermore, the mentor has the chance to inspire with a story of success that began with many of the same struggles their mentee may be experiencing. Using your voice to tell your story should never be a burden. Mentoring can feel like an additional task in a working week, or it can be used to make that working week more manageable.

Stories can reinforce the reader’s worldview or challenge them to revaluate it. Mentoring provides the ideal setting for two people to share and introduce new ideas using the mechanics of storytelling. Embrace conflict. Celebrate surprise. Use visual imagery to navigate difficulty. Be flexible enough to treat each mentoring relationship differently. Your employees’ lives are the story of your organisation, waiting to be shared and interpreted.

The positive impact of mentoring on mental health


Mentoring supports mental health

1 in 4 people in the UK will experience mental health issues at some stage in their life. And in recent years, combatting the mental health crisis in the workplace has become increasingly important for business leaders. According to the World Health Organisation, negative work environments can lead to mental health issues for employees. So how can business owners and HR professionals seek to create more positive work environments and support their employees through mental health challenges?

Mind, the mental health charity, recommends a range of workplace adjustments when supporting those with mental health problems. These adjustments include flexible working hours, reallocation of some tasks or duties, and unsurprisingly, implementing a mentor or ‘buddy’ system. Many organisations have seen huge impact on employee health and wellbeing by implementing mentoring programmes, a benefit we wholeheartedly support here at Grasp. Aside from the obvious benefits of mentoring, such as career progression and on-the-job support, mentors provide mentees with a reliable and supportive trustee. 

So, how else does mentoring support mental health?

  1. A shift in perspectives 

A well known benefit of mentoring is career progression. Mentors can support mentees develop the skills they need to advance in their career, whilst also helping them make a clear plan of action for how to get there. But how does this impact mental health? 

Structure and routine bring with them a whole host of mental health benefits. In fact, researchers have found that routine can have far-reaching psychological benefits, including alleviating bipolar disorder, ADHD, and insomnia. By helping mentees focus on the long-term goal, it can implement routine and structure to their current day, and in turn relieve some of the side effects of mental health challenges. 

  1. Reduces isolation 

Loneliness is often connected to mental health problems. And although it isn’t a mental health condition in itself, loneliness and the feeling of being isolated is often felt by those suffering with mental health problems. As such, helping to overcome loneliness and isolation is a sure-fire way to improve the mental health of employees. 

Setting up peer support and mentoring programmes for staff with lived experience of mental health problems, is a great way to overcome this isolation. Mentoring provides mentees with a significant companion (or multiple companions, if you implement group mentoring) in the workplace, who can give trusted, reliable advice to mentees – and support them through any work challenges they may face. 

  1. Reduces workplace stress

Workplace stress affects 79% of the UK workforce, which amounted to 12.8 million sick days in 2018-19. This stress, or anxiety, related to work is a huge problem for many employees, but it can often be overcome with mentoring programmes.

In fact, mentoring is said to reduce stress for both the mentors and mentees. Mentoring provides an opportunity for mentors to impart their knowledge and guidance to the mentee – impacting the greater good of the business and as such reducing their workplace stress. Whereas mentoring provides mentees with a reliable sounding board for workplace woes, and thus similarly relieves their workplace stress.

So, how can you offer mental health support to colleagues, peers and mentees?

Although we know that mentoring can alleviate mental health issues; it is sometimes a taboo subject to tackle. With many not knowing how to best provide support and guidance to those suffering with mental health issues. But simply checking in with your colleagues, peers or mentees can sometimes go a long way. So here’s our 6 step checklist on how you can check in with others. 

☑ Give them your undivided attention. Oftentimes mental health issues come with a feeling of being a burden. And it takes a lot for people to open up about their struggles. So the worst thing you can do when somebody does open up to you, is become distracted and turn your attention elsewhere. 

Ask open ended questions and do not probe too much into their responses. It’s very important that the person suffering with mental health issues shares as much, or as little, as they’re comfortable with about their struggles. 

☑ Practice active listening to ensure you’ve truly understood what you’re being told. In these situations, it’s often a good idea to repeat what they have said back to them, to ensure you’ve thoroughly understood. 

Leave your personal emotions at the door. Sometimes you will not agree with what your colleague, peer or mentee is saying. But if they’ve chosen to open up to you – it’s best not to challenge them on what they’re saying. Instead, provide a supportive ear and give the best advice and guidance you can. 

Know your limits. It’s very unlikely that you are a mental health practitioner, and as such, you must know your own limits. If the mental health problem at hand is too large or serious for you to deal with – provide help to the person by helping them seek the relevant professional help.   

It’s very important to protect your own mental health in these circumstances. If you feel that listening to someone else’s struggles is impacting your mental health, please do reach out to someone who can help you and your mentee.

Ask “how are you?” twice. This is a campaign from Time to Change, that we wholeheartedly support here at Grasp. If you believe a friend, colleague, peer or mentee is ‘bottling something up’ and needs to talk, you can open the door to the conversation by asking “how are you” – twice. All too often, we automatically respond to “how are you?” with “I’m fine” or “I’m good, how are you?” without honestly answering the question. By asking a second time, you give the person you’re talking to the opportunity to alter their answer; and answer honestly. 

Aside from mental health support, mentoring is a great way to increase employee morale and boost company culture. But your programme must be future-fit. Learn more about how you can ensure your mentoring programme is ready for the future, here.

Three ways to support employees returning to work


back to office

After 14 months of furlough, remote working and lockdowns, the time has finally come to start considering the return to the office. And those who are in charge of planning this return have a lot to consider. How will you reconfigure your office to aid social distancing? Will you stagger start and finish times? Will you bring your organisation back one team at a time? But whilst making these considerations, many overlook an important factor in returning to work: the emotional impact it will have on our people. 

Research shows that up to 63% of the workforce now believe the physical office is unnecessary, and perhaps more worryingly, 25% of UK employees said they would resign from their current role if they were forced to return to the office in a post-Covid world. So with employees content working from home, it’s imperative that we consider the impact returning to the office will have on our people. 

In this article we will share the top three considerations you should make to ensure you’re supporting your people sufficiently when reopening your office doors. 

1. Consider a hybrid approach

There are many benefits to having your employees all under the same roof, such as collaboration and socialisation with colleagues. But how many of your employees really need to be in the office to work productively? Research from McKinsey shows that in advanced economies, up to 25% of the workforce could work from home between three and five days a week, without any loss of productivity. 

It’s said that workers in the UK spend an average of 57 minutes per day commuting to and from their office. Since the onset of the pandemic and mandatory working from home, our people have been able to reclaim that time to use as they wish, increasing their work life balance. It’s therefore unsurprising that they do not want to return to old ways and sacrifice their new, more flexible lives. 

To achieve the ‘best of both worlds’, why not consider a hybrid approach to working? Allowing your people to work from home for a portion of the working week. This will maintain a more flexible working style, whilst still achieving the benefits of office working. And you won’t be alone in this approach, huge tech giants such as Salesforce, Facebook, Google and Amazon are set to adopt a hybrid approach to working. 

2. Open communication channels 

The easing of lockdown measures is likely to have a diverse range of effects on your employees. Some may be excited and ready to jump head-first into life ‘as normal’. Others may feel stressed, concerned and anxious about the easing of lockdown, and are hesitant to return to normal too soon. It’s important that you support all of these emotions as you prepare for your people to return to the office. 

To adequately support your people, you must open the lines of communication and create a supportive, empathetic working environment. One of the most effective ways of doing this is providing open, anonymous channels where employees can air their concerns. Anonymous channels allow your people to be truthful and frank about their opinions – without the fear of being judged or hurting anybody’s feelings. This ensures that you are receiving a true, accurate reflection of how your people are feeling about returning to the office (and how they feel once they are back). This allows you to iterate and adjust your office environment and policies, to ensure the return to work is as smooth as possible,

3. Implement mentoring or buddy schemes 

The pandemic has caused a significant increase in the number of people reporting to feel lonely. In fact, in a survey conducted in November 2020, 24% of people said they’d experienced loneliness in the past two weeks. Whilst you may opt to phase your return to work, or implement a hybrid approach, this might exacerbate the feeling of loneliness for some of your people. For this reason, implementing mentoring or buddy schemes is a great way to ensure your people feel supported on their return to work and reduce associated stress. 

Mentoring programmes reduce stress for both mentor and mentee, by providing a supportive environment for both parties to air their concerns and discuss any worries they may have on their return to work. What’s more, opting for a structured or guided approach to mentoring means that regular check ins will be booked in advance, ensuring that no employee falls under the radar and suffers from isolation. 

The truth is, there’s no ‘one size fits all’ approach to returning to work

Whilst making all of the considerations above, it’s important to remember that what works for your organisation, may not work for another – and vice versa. In fact, what works for one of your employees may not work for the next. So, it’s extremely important in these turbulent times to remain agile and to listen to the needs of your people. They will be the single best source of information when it comes to what will work in making your ‘return to work’ as easy as possible. 

The ultimate TV guide to mentoring


TV guide to mentoring

Communication. Collaboration. Development. Mentoring helps to establish the key connections in a working life that can define a career. But whether it’s Mister Miyagi’s empathetic training, or Yoda helping Luke to fulfil his early promise, what makes the perfect mentor? And what key mentoring skills can we learn from popular culture’s most influential characters?…

Mary Poppins: creating a culture of communication

Mary Poppins: creating a culture of communication

Understanding your audience is the cornerstone of great communication, and this centres on listening to their needs. The all-singing, all-dancing nanny, Mary Poppins’ greatest asset was her capacity to listen. Realising that the rebellious children just need someone to hear their concerns, Mary Poppins provides the attention they crave. Similarly, their father’s failure to show love was simply a failure to find anyone to communicate with.

Mary Poppins’ communications through song don’t just provide levity, they’re a way of expressing her empathy for the children’s fears in a language they’ll understand.

Coach Carter: defining your goals

Coach Carter: defining your goals

A mentoring relationship cannot thrive if both parties aren’t on the same page. What are you trying to achieve from the sessions? Is there clarity on both sides? Despite being hired to train an unsuccessful basketball team, Coach Ken Carter made it clear from the outset that he prioritised his team’s academic success. Not only did he require them to commit to a 2.3 grade point average, but he literally locked the gym and forfeited games when the players’ side of the bargain was not being maintained. In highlighting the importance of his players’ grades, Coach Carter put their personal development before his own short-term success and redefined the school’s culture. How can you use mentoring to define your company culture? What values do you want your organisation to rally around?

Rupert Giles: the importance of chemistry

Rupert Giles: the importance of chemistry

A mentoring relationship often involves two people from very different walks of life. However, the beauty of great mentoring is the capacity to connect in spite of the superficial differences. In Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the American, book-shy, wannabe-cheerleader-teenage girl is tasked with saving the world under the watch of a stuffy, middle-aged English librarian. Yet whether it’s personal development or averting Armageddon, success will usually hinge upon an indefinable chemistry between the mentor and mentee.  This cannot necessarily be pre-determined, but also relies on a willingness from both parties to give the relationship a chance. Giles helped Buffy to understand her importance to the world and she duly fulfilled her destiny. A great mentor helps the mentee to understand their importance to the company and how everyone in an organisation benefits from their self-development. This requires the sort of empathy and communication skills that transcend social differences. 

‘The Queen’s Gambit’: the value of multiple mentors

‘The Queen’s Gambit’: the value of multiple mentors

A mentee will often define their mentor as the person who nurtured their development and recognised their potential before anyone else. But great mentoring relationships are symbiotic with both lives enriched through the lens of two unique perspectives. In The Queen’s Gambit, Mr Shaibel discovers Elizabeth Harmon’s talent for chess, while Elizabeth renews his love for the game and changes his outdated attitude on who can and can’t play. In addition, Mr Shaibel uses his experience to introduce Elizabeth to people better-placed to showcase her talent. In a climate of open communication, successful mentoring allows a mentor to see how their mentee is being used in an organisation and where their talents might best be served. 

The Queen’s Gambit also makes the case for multiple mentors and how these key figures correlate with the different stages of one’s life. As Elizabeth follows her talent and achieves success, she enlists the help of the friends, rivals and lovers she meets along the way. This is literally played out at the end when they group together to help her defeat the Russian champion. In any organisation, everyone knows something you don’t and great mentoring can be a form of teamwork as knowledge is shared across all levels. But mentoring shouldn’t be limited to the same two individuals and must be flexible enough to change in accordance with the mentor and mentee’s needs.

Deloris Van Cartier: cultivating individuality

Deloris Van Cartier: cultivating individuality

A mentor may have knowledge and experience to impart, but can they also help the mentee to understand themselves better? Can they create an environment that unlocks something the mentee hadn’t realised about themself? In Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit, Deloris Van Cartier helps a troubled community find their voice through singing. However, while the film is a testament to the power of collaboration, it also embodies the importance of individuality. Crucially, if a mentor can help a person in an organisation to recognise their own individual strengths, this will ultimately benefit the team as a whole. And when this is played out across an organisation, this can only lift the company to new heights.

Whether it’s saving the world, inspiring a community, or fulfilling a destiny, the catalyst for greatness are the unseen individuals who see it before everyone else. The ones with the vision to recognise potential, the empathy to connect and the communication skills to say the right words at the most opportune time. Who are the mentors in your organisation? And which key collaborations can unearth the talent that’s just waiting to be discovered?…

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