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Part 3: The forgotten art of mentoring

Published by
World Pipelines,

Mentoring: formal or informal programmes?

How can we ensure mentoring is part of our company’s culture? How can we introduce mentoring programmes? First, we need to decide on a formal or informal programme.

A formal, structured programme specifies the seeker (mentoree), provider (mentor), and the knowledge (tasks) to be transferred. The seeker/provider relationship is not a personal one, as the transfer is bespoke and controlled. This relationship can be short term (one year) and ends when stated goals are met.

Informal mentoring is more objective-driven (career development), than task-driven (increase sales). The relationship is long-term, with outcomes that may be unknown, with only indirect organisational benefits. Mentors and mentorees self-select, and there is no need for the mentor to be a specialist.

The authors have looked at pipeline engineering companies, and discovered:

  • Companies often confuse coaching with mentoring – one company described their approach to mentoring, but it was actually coaching, where the staff was assisted in developing skills.
  • Companies can be offered professional mentoring services, but management do not use the services, as they are confused about its benefit or application.
  • Formal mentoring programmes, with detailed documentation, can be in place, but never used due to the formality, and lack of understanding of the benefits of mentoring.

But whatever the programme, the roles must be clear, and the benefits clearly identified. Also, it is best to focus on selecting staff for a mentoring programme who are likely to stay in the company for a reasonable time: this is for the benefit of both the mentoree and the company.

Goals of mentoring programmes

Companies will initiate a mentoring programme, but there needs to be clear, ‘SMART’ objectives.

The mentor’s goal is relatively simple: he/she is focused on developing an individual, and aiming to blend experience, knowledge, and values.

Whatever the objectives, companies will need to plan, budget, and execute the programme. Even informal mentoring programmes will need some guidelines, with clear objectives and values. It will also need a budget, as mentoring is not cheap.

Working with line management

How does a mentor work with a mentoree’s line management? A manager is focused on the day-to-day tasks of the company, and delivering the company’s goals. The manager will periodically assess the staffs’ competence, check development, and set targets. The mentor can be formally involved in this process, as the mentor is assisting in competency development, and can check the staff’s competency assessment, and the manager’s assessment.

Additionally, the mentor can be informally involved in staffs’ periodic performance review, as an adviser on training/experience needs. The mentor is impartial. The two big advantages of mentoring is that the company will have competent staff, and the staff will see their careers develop in a structured manner.

Concluding comments

This article has attempted to remind the reader of the lost art of mentoring. It has emphasised the crucial role that mentoring plays in developing staffs’ competencies, and how it is even more important than training. The article has also noted the increasing emphasis on demonstrating competency in the pipeline industry.

Historically, and today, successful people have been mentored. The mentoring is not easy, and it will take up time, but if a company ignores mentoring, it is not developing its staff. If you do not develop staff, competencies will suffer.

Find part 1 and 2 here.

Written by Michelle Unger and Phil Hopkins, and edited from a published article by Stephanie Roker

To read the full version of this article with references, please download a copy of the December 2015 issue of World Pipelines.

Read the article online at:

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