We think that mentoring is an honored and somewhat unique role. We also offer several other definitions for related terms, meanings which we have found help to both clarify and to challenge users to think deeper and to achieve greater effectiveness. We gladly share all these with you. We hope these are a help to you.
We also think that sharing these may give you an idea of what the International Mentoring Association is all about. Because it’s all about mentoring, the IMA is something unique, very special, and it is an association to which we feel honored to belong. We think you will feel that way too.
By Barry Sweeny
- Beginning/Novice Employee
- Recent Experience
- New Employee
- Guide or Buddy
- The Mentoring Process
- The Mentoring Relationship
- Mentoring Partners
- Youth / Student Mentoring
- School-Based Mentoring
While it is not so important what words you use to describe things, it is vital that all persons in a mentoring program use the SAME terms to describe it. Therefore, it is important that each program defines it’s use of terms and seeks to build a common vocabulary. The following are terms I have found help us to make the more important distinctions
Any employee with less than two years of recent experience in the specific position for which they are hired, or for which they are being prepared.
At least half-time paid work which was in the same or a similar job responsibility to that for which the person is being hired or prepared, and which has taken place within the most recent two to five years.
Any employee with at least two years of recent experience somewhere else but who is new to the organization.
The partner role that a beginning or new mentoring participant assumes when working with a mentor. The role requires and assumes a willingness to actively work with, defer to, and to learn from the experience and wisdom of the mentor. it also requires that the protege comit to support the learning and growth of the mentor, so the relationship is a partnership. Sometimes a protege is called a “mentee”.
The critical role and responsibility assumed by an experienced, caring, and wise mentoring participant who agrees to help, build a relationship with, and facilitate the professional growth of one or more proteges. Mentors are role models of effective practice and of a very visible desire to continue to grow professionally, every day, and throughout their career. In this way, mentors are models of the vulnerability required to share problems with and learn from others for the sake of continual improvement.
Mentors are typically assigned to proteges which are more novice in the new roles they have assumed or will assume. (See Guide.)
However, mentors may also be a part of a support team for the protege as in “mosaic mentoring”, or may be peers who mentor other equally, but differently experienced colleagues, as ain “peer mentoring”.
Mentor may finally become the proteges when the person they are mentoring helps the mentor to learn something new, such as use use of social media or another technology. In this case we describe the relationship as “reverse” mentoring.
Guide or Buddy
The support provider who is assigned to a new employee/protege who has recent prior experience in the work assignment or new roles the protege has or will assume. Specifically, such a protege is deemed to have sufficient similar experience as to not need the more intensive support of a mentor, but who would benefit from short-term orientation and guidance.
Coaching is ONE of the several roles of the mentor, which is usually based on observation of the protege by the mentor and focused on building the technical, work-related skills of the protege. Since coaching involves some emotional risks of performing in front of the coach, it ideally is most effective when it happens within the safe context of a trusting mentoring relationship.
Coaching typically involves:
- A pre-observation conference to determine the focus for the protege’s learning and, therefore, for the coach, the specific data to be collected that would support the protege’s learning, and the time and date for a post-conference.
- The observation, usually by the mentor of the protege at work, and data collection on the specific predefined focus of learning.
- The post-observation conference during which proteges first describe what they experienced and learned during the observation, the non-evaluative, descriptive offering of the collected data by the mentor, and the mentor’s questions to prompt protege analysis of the data for meaningful patterns, then insights, and finally, a discussion of what needs improvement and how it will be improved.
The KEY to effective coaching is the mentor’s skill at coaching the protege to self-assess, reach conclusions, and plan improvements, rather than the mentor doing these things.
A developmental process in which a newer or less experienced person and a more experienced person commit to working and learning together in a mentoring relationship over at least two years for the purpose of mutual support and professional development. The mentoring process includes a series of phases in which the mentor’s leadership of the process is adapted to the developing strengths and changing needs of the protege. The result of an effective mentoring process is a self-confident and competent professional who also values what employees can do collectively on behalf of their organization and it’s strategic initiatives.
The developmental relationship of a mentor and protege which is characterized by confidentiality, trust, caring, and mutual support and challenge for growth. The mentoring relationship creates the necessary context of emotional safety and confidence for the mentor and protege to take the risks of trying new work strategies and of learning in front of each other. This context is necessary for accelerated professional growth.
While the mentor and protege might easily be described as “partners”, using the term for them is confusing because the same term applies to other entities as well. Therefore, I recommend that, while we may describe mentor and protege as “partners”, I recommend using this term for something else.
The organizational stake holders, agencies, and institutions which collaborate to implement an effective continuum of support for professional development for people spanning several developmental stages, such as from secondary school to higher education, or from pre-service education degree programs, through internships, across the induction years, and throughout the professional career.
An example would be the partners in a state or province-wide teacher mentoring Initiative which includes the universities with teacher education programs, the school districts, the Intermediate Education Service Center nearest the other partners, and the State/Provincial Board of Education.
Youth / Student Mentoring
Youth or students are defined as being of high school age or younger. This differentiates them from “adults”, which by this definition, places college age “students” in the adult category. This distinction rests at this age boundary since that is the age when persons typically become self-responsible, as when the start college life or a full-time job.
While youth mentoring involves very similar mentoring roles, relationships and processes, some critical differences must happen due to the developmental needs of youth and concerns for their safety. Key among these are the selection of mentors, which for youth, involves additional screening steps.
This form of mentoring usually refers to youth and specifically occurs in a school setting, regardless of whether the program is sponsored by the school or a community group.