Understanding Mentoring – A Relationship for Personal Development


“Mentoring” is oft a very confused terminology used in this fast changing Business World. This causes some heartburn on both sides – the Mentor and the Mentee – in terms of expectations in the development life cycle of a Mentee.

Mentoring as a form of exchange of knowledge is not something new. On the contrary, the term “mentor” originates from classical Greek mythology. Mentoring as a practice dates back to even earlier times and was prevalent in the “gurukul” system of education. In recent years there has been once again a significant and noteworthy rise of interest in mentoring. Mentoring relationships is valued as a significantly powerful means by which we obtain longer-term personal development in ever so competitive business realities that confront today’s practitioners. Typically there’s confusion over what mentoring is, and what it’s not.

Generally, a mentoring relationship has the two individuals. They are referred to as the “Mentor” and the “Mentee” (one who is to be mentored). Mentoring essentially provides opportunities for development to both partners through self-discovery. For mentoring, there is normally no reporting relationship between the mentor and the mentee (i.e., a manager would normally not mentor a direct subordinate). Mentoring is not intended to substitute the relationship between staff and their bosses or superiors. Mentors as a rule do not conduct or provide input to performance appraisals.

Mentoring is often confused with coaching. These two forms of development have a very different purposes and aims. We can see these as follows:

Coaching Difference Mentoring
Maybe your direct boss, a senior collegue or an external expert Relationship Is a non-reporting relationship, normally with a leader from another division, site or company.
Has expertise in the required area (e.g., oral presentations). Expertise The individual typically has a broad range of knowledge and experience and may also have a strong network of contacts
Is concerned with task and normally focuses on explicit topics and behaviors that meet a short-term need. Focus Is concerned with long term development and focuses on implicit, intuitive subjects and behaviors.
Coaches set the direction for the interaction with the learner. Direction Mentees (the learners) set the direction and the agenda for interactions with their mentors.
Coaches provide feedback to the employee Feedback Both mentors and mentees participate in mutual sharing and reflection.

Characteristics of a Good Mentoring Relationship:

Having understood Mentoring and its role, we look to what could be the characteristics of a good Mentoring relationship:

1. Conversations: Generally, the fundamental mode of mentoring is substantive conversations that may zero in on areas of business or life in general that are significant to the Mentee in a “language” that moves the pointer to “effecting an action.” Ordinarily, it would be something that leverages the Mentee’s latent strengths, resolving current constraints/obstacles and creates a set of potentialities that may show him the way to make substantive progress during a appreciable length of time.

2. Commitment: A good mentor goes out of the way to alter his or her agenda and attempt to inculcate in the Mentee habits to make him/her an improved ONE. Such a mentor is committed to growth journey of the Mentee through the ups and downs he/she faces, and getting into and navigating him/her out of his/her “shell” to create something extraordinary. A Mentee can measure the commitment of a Mentor by the robust queries he/she raises, with the intent to prodding the Mentee to visualize things that he/she just doesn’t seem to be otherwise seeing, and finding himself/herself ‘unstuck.’ If a Mentor is often saying nice things and giving the Mentee a great feeling all the time, maybe he/she is just being a ‘cheering friend,’ but definitely not a ‘caring Mentor.’

3. Curiosity: “If you continue to do what you have been doing, you will continue to get what you have been getting” goes an old adage. There is a reason why you still do what you’re doing and not be arriving at the results a Mentee is expecting in his/her life or business. These lesser effective activities might have become ‘dragging’ habits, regardless of the reasons could also be, it’s not too late to alter course. As Charles Duhigg says in his landmark book, “The Power of Habit,” there are three components of making a habit. These are cue, routine and reward. A cue triggers a virtually automatic routine that’s obtaining a reward as a consequence of you participating within the activity. So, to begin, a brand new and better habit, a Mentee would like to start out with a distinct cue – one thing that he simply might not be aware of. A pre-cursor thereto is for the Mentee to come up with the curiosity to look at similar things that you just are exposed to these days with a unique set of eyes. Good mentors unveil the doors to curiosity in order that the Mentee revisits it with childlike enthusiasm to find out and grow.

4. Clarity: Clarity is the side-effect of an honest mentoring relationship. A Mentee being in close proximity his life/business makes it onerous for him/her to get a “helicopter view” of the possibilities. In a sensible mentoring relationship, this comes normally as the Mentor is somebody who cares about the Mentee, and by default, includes a “helicopter view” in the Mentee’s life and/or his business. The conversations naturally assist in the discovery of the “forest for the trees” – therefore transferring clarity to achieve the goals through clearly defined actions.

5. Capacity: Philosophically speaking, Power is the “ability to undertake action to generate substantive results.” A Mentee increases his abilities and so, he/she will be able to obtain better and larger leads in a similar amount of his effort/time. Generally it’s a little shift within the approach one is thinking which will place his/her capability into a higher gear. The Mentor could unlock that untapped capability that will be able to place to Mentee’s effort to accelerated rate of success. A simple way to know this would be if at the end of a conversation in a Mentoring Session, the Mentee begins to feel some things that seemed “difficulty” now appear totally “plausible”.

6. Confidence: Besides empowering a Mentee, Confidence also serves as a great motivation to do the right things. What prevents a Mentee from making the right decision are born out of his own limiting beliefs, which are usually a result of his/her day-to-day struggle with life/business, that shake the confidence. A good Mentor, may not be able to give strength directly but he will certain help rediscover the inner strengths that Mentee could use to gain confidence. A good Mentor has greater belief in the abilities of the Mentee than he/she himself/herself and hence he champions the Mentee, believes Dr. Ravi Gundlapalli, a global guru in the business of mentoring and CEO of MentorCloud.

7. Connections: The right connections for a Mentee at the correct time will instantly open new doors, expanding his/her capability and obtains for him/her relevant network through such associations. Normally a mentor thoughtfully connects his Mentee to the appropriate individuals via his or her network. It’s vital that the Mentee simply grows and earns that right to such introductions.

8. Choreography: Venturing out of one’s “comfort zone” is neither fun nor easy. Usually there is so much resistance that comes one’s way causing enough discomfort to tempt one to revert to older ways that are “tried and tested”. A Mentor can not only help the Mentee choose from available alternatives but can also help choreograph the sequencing of the actions to obtain maximum bang for the buck.

9. Celebration: In a sensible mentoring relationship, a Mentor and a Mentee celebrate their relationship – the small and big victories that they co-create along as they build a relationship that steers a Mentee’s life journey in compelling ways.


A good mentoring relationship, therefore, is a two-way street and both of you are co-creating your future. Mentor benefits too by being there and watching you grow in your journey. “Teach someone if you want to know how much you have learned. Mentor someone if you want to know how valuable you are to those around you.” Good Mentors are those that enjoy being of immense value to others and seeing good things happen to those they care about.