NZIM : More Ado About Mentors – Mentoring works but getting the message out there isn’t easy

Having mentor can be one of the most powerful personal development relationships an individual ever experiences, says David Brown, the New Zealand Institute of Management’s manager of mentoring services.
“Most of the successful business leaders or other role models in society that we admire today have probably, at one time or another, had genuine mentor to thank for their success,” he adds. “Mentoring also fulfils desire most people have to share and pass on their learning and to help others develop their personal potential.”
But, according to research conducted and released late last year by the joint private and public sector initiated Business Capability Partnership (BCP), more needs to be done to promote the advantages of mentoring, particularly to small to medium size enterprises (SMEs).
The research found demand for mentoring services from organisations of all sizes is “set to grow” but is held back by lack of knowledge and understanding of the benefits mentoring can bring. The research also suggested mentoring probably helped SMEs more than larger organisations because, among other things, it was less expensive to enlist and more adaptable to changing business needs than other, more formal development programmes.
According to Brown, working with mentor provides “safe situation” for managers to explore personal, work and career aspirations and needs. “It allows the mentored manager to discuss sensitive issues in confidence.” The mentor can act as sounding board for the manager when they are making difficult decisions, challenging fixed ideas or when the manager needs encouragement or the benefit of different perspective.
The BCP research suggested, however, that “more creative channels and mechanisms” needed to be established to more widely and effectively communicate information on mentoring. And so, as part of its Management Focus programme of activities to promote and develop management capability in New Zealand, BCP will soon develop marketing material that outlines the case for, and availability of, mentoring programmes in New Zealand.
Mentoring services need to demonstrate clear outcomes and tangible benefits. “SMEs require quantifiable outcomes and often seek solutions for pressing issues,” according to the report. focus on tangible outcomes and the ‘bottom line’ has implications for the measurement and benchmarking of mentoring services. And there is currently no formal benchmarking of the impact mentoring has.
The research has suggested establishing benchmarking exercise with quantifiable results. But while benchmarking exercise might provide greater transparency and client confidence in mentoring, successfully conducting it will present problems. How, for example, will it measure the impact of the mentor and judge to what extent any change was attributable to the mentoring?
On the other hand, if service and outcome benchmarking process were possible, it would help address the perceived “woolliness” of mentoring as business capability tool. “The hardening of mentoring as discipline” would unquestionably help attract funding to, and interest in, the process, according to the study.
Only four organisations currently offer direct mentoring services in New Zealand. They are the New Zealand Institute of Management (NZIM), Business Mentors New Zealand (BMNZ), the Human Resources Institute of New Zealand (HRINZ) and the New Zealand Institute of Chartered Accountants (NZICA). The Institute of Accredited Business Consultants (IABC) does not directly offer mentoring services but the consultants/mentors on its register do.
The Wellington Chamber of Commerce operates as local agency administrator for BMNZ’s mentoring programme. Two other BCP member organisations, the Economic Development Association of New Zealand (EDANZ) and the Employers and Manufacturers Association Northern (EMA), don’t offer mentoring services but do carry out related and enabling work.
The BCP research also suggested developing guide to business mentoring services to enhance understanding of the potential it offers. The guide would focus on:
• how mentoring helps build business capability
• how mentoring differs from other options, such as consultancy or advisory services
• how high quality mentoring process should operate
• the services offered by the three main general business mentoring providers identified from the report – NZIM, BMNZ and IABC.
The research also identified what factors underpin high quality mentoring service.
For start there needs to be code of ethics and ground rules according to the researchers. This is essential to the formal underpinning of mutually agreed set of expectations. These constitute the framework within which mentoring service seeks to set up mentoring relationships. Since mentoring service organisation has relatively little influence over the delivery of mentoring once mentoring relationship is underway, the focus of the services researched was on getting mentor and client to point where they have the best conditions for achieving successful outcomes.
Then there needs to be perception of “formality” in establishing mentoring relationship in order to establish and demonstrate the integrity of the mentoring organisation.
Third, clearly articulating the roles and responsibilities of the mentor and the client is vital. This should also apply to the mentoring manager, coordinator and organisation who or which have important, if secondary, roles to play in the process.
The most active, and possibly the most important part of setting up mentoring relationships is the matching up. As the study said: “Because mentoring relationships depend on number of unpredictable factors, such as the interpersonal chemistry between mentor and client, mentoring services will always be faced with an element of risk in matching.”
Then there is the quality of the mentor. In the opinions of those mentoring organisations interviewed for the research, the attributes of the mentors are closely related to the outcome of high quality mentoring. Client perceptions of mentor integrity and trust are essential if the mentor is going to build an effective and resilient mentoring relationship.
And then the mentor must be able to elicit commitment or ‘buy-in’ from the client.
Finally, once the mentor and the client are matched, the effectiveness of the mentoring process is determined by the quality and relevance of the “action list” that they draw up together – the mentoring plan. The purpose of the action list is to reach an agreed statement of the issues that should be addressed.
The BCP research will shortly lead to promotion of the rewards that can be garnered from mentoring.
And as NZIM’s David Brown puts it: “Effective mentoring benefits the manager, the mentor and the manager’s organisation.” In his opinion, mentors get satisfaction from the process and each time they undertake it, they become more skilled in developing people.

Reg Birchfield FNZIM is member of NZIM’s National Board.

Visited 7 times, 1 visit(s) today

Business benefits of privacy

Privacy Week (13-17 May) is a great time to consider the importance of privacy and to help ensure you and your company have good privacy practices in place, writes Privacy

Read More »
Close Search Window