Mentoring is “having a moment” in 2022, as online searches for that term immediately reveal. Whether it happens within a business, academic, or personal setting, people increasingly recognize mentorship as a key element of both individual and team success. Proponents of the process trace its history and efficacy all the way back to ancient Greece, when OG philosopher Socrates mentored Plato, who in turn mentored Aristotle. More recently, famous mentoring relationships include those of Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg, and Maya Angelo and Oprah Winfrey, to name a few. It seems Forbes magazine is running another op-ed on the value of mentorship every few days. But what does it take to make the most of a mentoring experience?
Pollinate CEO and co-founder Christy Pettit has spent years exploring the answer to that question, and determined that good mentoring requires three key components:
1. A Great Match
It’s widely accepted that both the mentee and the mentor stand to benefit from a mentoring relationship. While field or industry compatibility is ideal, it’s not the most important criteria in a successful “match.” Use of Pollinate’s Cross-Pollinate AI matching algorithm has revealed that “enough shared context to talk about an intention or objective, is necessary for a match to work” says Pettit. According to her, a relationship that primes both parties for optimal sharing is the goal – and that doesn’t mean that successful mentor matches always have to have similar personalities.
“It’s always interesting to meet someone who processes differently from you and has a completely different context.” But sometimes challenges arise, which is where Pollinate’s well-researched approach proves vital. Cross-Pollinate AI can identify complementary and compatible styles, and predict possible pairing outcomes. As Pettit simply says,
“Carefully calibrated matches work best.”
2. A Clear Purpose
As Pettit sees it, the purpose of the mentoring that will take place should be clear from the outset. Whether the goal is to make gains on a leadership capability, to inspire new thinking, or to scale a business, structure is essential to the process – and to making the desired progress.
“Even the most senior people engaged in mentoring appreciate some kind of framework, if the pair is trying to move forward on something.” That’s where Pollinate Mentoring Software provides opportunities for crucial input and idea exchange, says Pettit:
“Our system sets up the mentee to get the most out of their time with their mentor, through thoughtful, upfront information sharing.”
Industry experts echo this view. Highly accomplished, successful individuals in a field who help set specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound – aka SMART – achievable goals in partnership with their mentees deliver the best results, according to jobs giant Indeed. Mentors and mentees thrive best when the mentoring is purposeful, and goals are aligned.
3. A Readiness Mindset
“The mindset for mentoring is key,” Pettit explains, and what she describes as “collaboration readiness” lies at the heart of that. What it looks like is mentors that don’t act as “advice dispensing machines,” she says. While good advice is meaningful, she believes the most effective mentors ask questions, tell stories, and solicit new details in addition to offering the wisdom of their experience. Pettit suggests that mentees should approach their mentoring sessions with the knowledge that “this time is designed for their forward motion.” If mentees work at it, Pettit believes they can learn a tremendous amount at the pace – and in the manner – that fits best for them. But a willingness to show up, listen, ask, and answer questions is paramount for both parties.
That willingness can have far-reaching and positive effects for both individuals and organizations, according to a recent piece by Jotform CEO Aytekin Tank for Fast Company. According to Tank, by allowing team members – especially junior ones – to access growth opportunities via its formal mentoring program, the company has been able to boost employee retention, and minimize turnover. When people feel more challenged, engaged, and included through the mentorship process, business benefits.
As the so-called Great Resignation continues – and companies, institutions, non-profits and government agencies struggle to maintain and recruit talent – it’s clear that mentoring arrangements will be fundamental to employee satisfaction at work, and overall productivity. With clear evidence demonstrating the positive effects good mentoring can have on individuals, teams, and organizations as a whole, it’s safe to predict that mentoring opportunities will be an expected “perk” of a good job, right alongside benefits and paid vacation days.
Pollinate Networks is proud to be at the forefront of the mentorship “boom,” with its vanguard Cross-Pollinate AI matching algorithm creating mutually beneficial matches for its users every day. Find out more about the software here.
Anne Marshall, Freelance Writer & Editor
Anne is a freelance writer and editor who has been writing articles, listicles, advertorial, blog posts, interviews, profiles, case studies, assessment tools, cover letters, surveys, oral histories, “Best Of”s, newsletters, correspondence, and other prose for a variety of clients – private, commercial, corporate, non-profit, and journalistic for many years. If it needs to be written, Anne can probably write it.