Mentoring is not just about career development. Mentoring is first and foremost a dialogue, a mutually beneficial relationship, a shared learning experience. And when you multiply that practice so that it reaches a critical mass in your organisation then you are creating a culture that lives and breathes feminine values and behaviors  such as collaboration, innovation internal and external networks, openness to diversity, stepping back, listening and reflecting, nurturing growth.

Through dialogues, people enrich their understanding of another culture, another gender, another profession, another industry, another experience, another [insert here any “other”]. This is why mentoring had been more popular in its innovative forms, rather than the traditional one, the past decade:

  • Reverse mentoring to connect generations and support digital transformation strategies;
  • Student mentoring to support the development of young people and women through math, scientific and technical careers;
  • Peer mentoring to create communities of learning on the job and to ensure no-one is pushed unsupported into a new assignment;
  • Women-only mentors for men and women to feminize the culture and evolve the mindsets about gender biases.
  • Cross-BU and cross-culture mentoring to encourage mutual understanding and accelerate cooperation after a merger or acquisition;

And I could go-on sharing examples on how mentoring design can support mindset and culture transformation. But saying that, a word of caution: it is not a magic wand and doesn’t work for everything. Or more to the point, just implementing a mentoring programme will not solve all your cultural issues. 

I like to say that mentoring works either when the culture is ready (the values are compatible with mentoring), or when it is well designed to serve the strategic transformation. 

I’ve been appalled by the lack of design in many mentoring programmes over the years: lack of or very narrow vision, untrained mentors, lack of resources or support (meaning no potential for growth), random results or unmeasured impact, lack of or bad reputation (“mentoring doesn’t work here”), or misunderstood value or purpose (“I don’t need it, I’m not in difficulty”). That is why I’ve been sharing a lot on the subject the past 12 years.

Designing and implementing a mentoring programme means:

  • Understanding the current company culture and where it needs to evolve;
  • Understanding the company populations (demographics, professional profiles, behaviors etc.);
  • On-boarding sponsors, ambassadors and coordinators;
  • Creating a programme identity, vision and values that fit the current strategy and keeps with mentoring ethical principles;
  • Having a clear and impactful communication strategy;
  • Strategically choosing operational elements from attraction and selection process to matching, timing and content of community and learning events, and evaluation of defined KPIs;
  • Training mentors and mentees;
  • Developing the tools to facilitate mass deployment; 
  • Supporting the pairs without being intrusive;
  • Facilitating the creation of learning and supportive networks and communities;
  • Documenting impact to influence at the top, and recruit wider to spread the practice further.

Now that’s my magic wand ;o)