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The Importance of Mentoring


A reality imposed by the fast pace of change, both within the organisation and that imposed by the external environment, is that organisations cannot rely purely on formal structures for the continuous development of its people. In the daily interactions between manager and direct reports, between colleagues, and in interactions that happen cross-functionally, there are many opportunities for managing the impact of change on the job. These days, change demands that we learn and adapt quickly.

What is mentoring?

Mentoring is an ongoing relationship between the mentor (the manager is often directly involved in training and development) and mentee (the person who receives mentoring). The mentoring process can be more informal than performance coaching or meetings can take place as and when the mentored individual needs guidance or support. The focus is often on personal and career development and not always on improving current performance.

Transfer of skills

A key component of mentoring is the transfer of skills. No business can afford not to have some form of mentoring in place, either formally or informally. It plays an important part in the bottom line of any business. By being mentored you can learn valuable and important business skills, such as best business practice and life skills from your mentor. This can save time and money for the business as mistakes are not repeated.

Having a mentor can help to stretch your thinking as you are provided with another perspective other than your own, as well as the benefit of your mentor’s vision and understanding and knowledge, which comes from their personal experience and understanding. Mentors also make great ‘sounding boards’ as you can test your ideas and discuss your point of view with an interested listener in a safe and confidential environment.

Succession planning requires mentoring

Many organisations have good intentions for the continued existence of their business and talk about succession planning, but very few organisations have such plans in place.

This means that talented and top position holders need to:

Transfer their skills by teaching another person should they decide to leave or move on in the system or department, so the business can continue without any production or knowledge lost.

Write down or capture information on paper or on a computer. In our new digital world it is easy to share with many people at a time. This means that when people have left and moved position, we still have the information on the functions and flow of the job or work function in place, or in writing somewhere in the business.

Succession planning is necessary to sustain a successful business and cannot be done without mentoring.

Mentoring builds relationships

Mentoring can take place between staff members too, and not only between managers and direct reports. Mentoring can build healthy and authentic relationships, as well as good practice, especially for professional practice as CAs(SA) for continued professional development (CPD). Mentoring can contribute a great deal to the personal development of an individual and it can ultimately contribute to building great teams. How often have you said: ‘I will never forget what he or she taught me.’

Advance your career

To advance your career it is imperative to have a mentor. A mentor can help to keep your career on track and keep you accountable for your growth and progress. Personally, I believe it is a career-limiting move if you do not have an informal or formal mentor guiding you in your career. I have a mentor and coach that I see monthly to keep my coaching practice real. I have been coaching professionally for 15 years and that has only been possible through the ongoing support and guidance I receive. My favourite saying is: ‘A doctor also needs a doctor.’

How to become a mentor 

You can become a mentor if you are a master of your craft or your profession and you can provide guidance to others by sharing your knowledge in a professional manner. Mentors often enjoy what they do and would like to share with others.

There are primarily two kinds of mentors: a mentor with context and a mentor who is content specific. As a coach I mentor other coaches and leaders on how to manage themselves and others in the work place.

There are workshops that you can attend that will guide you and provide you with a framework to mentor in a step-by-step way.

The mentoring process

Choose a mentor in your organisation or in your field and set up formal and informal meetings with your mentor so that you can expand and master your profession.

The mentoring process comprises three essential steps:

Building and establishing a relationship with a mentor. It creates an environment for support, open and honest communication, trust and confidentiality.

Clarifying roles and expectations of mentor and mentee.

Setting up clear boundaries for the relationship between mentor and mentee is about establishing what each party has agreed to do and what each party will not do. This can be done in a formal or informal way.

Set clear goals. Work on priorities when setting goals.

Benefits of mentoring

Learning takes place in real time and is not dependent on fixed dates or time spent in training rooms. The learning is relevant. It increases self-confidence, self-reliance, self-development and self-motivation. Mentoring can develop the manager’s skill of delegating and motivating. Development for both mentor and mentee is ongoing and flexible. It builds capacity for talent and leadership.

AUTHOR l Nickolette Assy

MPhil (Coaching) (USB) is an executive coach and founder of Nickolette & Associates, Coaching and Mentoring