Mentoring & Coaching a crc initiative

Matching Process

An overview of selecting and matching partnerships

The success or failure of formal workplace mentoring is heavily reliant on how well the mentor and mentee are matched. Inappropriate matching can be a major pitfall in formal mentoring schemes, so how mentoring partners are selected and placed together is critical (Blake-Beard, O'Neill et al. 2007, p.618)

Most sources agree that successful workplace mentors are not already connected as direct supervisors, or even located in same department. If the personality types and/or work styles are significantly different, there may be problems initiating and maintaining a productive mentoring relationship; largely because there should be a sense of win-win for both the mentor and mentee.

Both partners should want to participate in mentoring and share a common belief in the process as the relationship could stretch over months or even years. Research conducted for the Australian Human Resources Institute (AHRD) found that only 23 percent of mentoring arrangement lasted for less than one year1. Therefore, special care should be taken at the beginning of a formal mentoring program to match the mentor and mentee, simultaneously using the of a Code of Practice and written Mentoring Agreement, signed by both parties, to clarify expectations at specific times. 

1. Begley 2012


Finding the right Mentor-Mentee partnership

Mentoring is not a static process with the mentoring relationship moving through four distinct stages: initiation, cultivation, separation and redefinition (Kram 1983, p. 614)

The initiation phase is where the mentor and mentee first become orientated to the prospect of a working together.

In a formal workplace mentoring scheme, pairs may ‘enter the relationship as virtual strangers’ and be faced with the most basic relationship task, which is to establish if ‘they share the same basic orientation towards their development journey’ (Blake-Beard, O'Neill et al. 2007, p.620)

The initiation phase can include a range of emotions such as:

  • being attracted to and feeling some sense of similarity with the other person
  • excitement at the sense of possibility from the new relationship
  • mentees are pleased at the prospect of working with a more senior/experience person
  • mentees are eager to please their mentor
  • mentors are flattered by the implicit respect from the mentee
  • partners need to work-out a shared approach to development that suits the styles of both individuals

At the same time, mentees will be evaluating the mentors motives and abilities such as:

  • Does the mentor show sufficient empathy and is there a potential synergy?
  • Does the mentor have the right knowledge, skill and experience to offer?  
  • Do both parties' goals and expectations align?  
  • Can the practicalities work out OK, such as dates, times and meeting places?

In one study1, it was found that when mentors and mentees had input into the matching process (e.g. choice of partners), they reported higher mentorship quality and role modelling function. False expectations by either the mentor or mentee could be sparked if the mentor and mentee are not given any choice in the matching process.

Consider the following definition of mentoring and then think about the implications contained within this statement on the characteristics detailed below.

Mentoring: A process for the informal transmission of knowledge, social capital, and psycho-social support perceived by the recipient as relevant to work, career, or professional development; mentoring entails informal communication, usually face to face and over a sustained period of time, between a person who is perceived to have greater relevant knowledge, wisdom, or experience (the mentor), to a person who is perceived to have less (the mentee) (Bozeman and Feeney 2007, p.731)

 

Theme

Reason for mentoring

1 Awakening  Becoming aware of something hitherto unknown or understood
2  Searching  The need to explore and find new ideas to old issues
 Mitigating  The need to fix an old issue or problem
4  Aspiring  The need to progress and personally advance in some way
 Validating  Using a 'value other' as a credible frame of reference
 Self-realisation  Appreciating oneself through the help of another
 Setting  A buddy or significant other who can ease adaptation
 Accelerating  Using the mentor to progress quicker than might otherwise be possible
 Absorbing  Taking in new knowledge or insight from a value other
10   Restoration  Getting something back that has been lost (trust, belief or confidence)

1. Allen et al. 2006


Finding the most suitable Mentors

Individuals find themselves drawn into mentoring for a variety of reasons. In an informal setting the mentor/mentee arrangement will be voluntary and conducted in an environment of mutual trust and respect. Informal mentors are either approached by the mentee or find themselves exchanging information in a way that is appreciated and valued.

In short, the mentor and mentee come together motivated by perceptions of the benefits of social exchange1,2. However, in formal workplace mentoring arrangements, the relationship is likely to be much less established at the outset, and the mentee will be concerned that their new mentor has knowledge, skills and experiences that align with their perceived needs.

These matching criteria fall into three areas: mentor endowments, preferred ways of communicating, and the value of networking opportunities provided by the mentor.  

  • Endowments - What depth of knowledge, skill or experience does the mentor have to offer that the mentee would consider being valuable. Does the mentor have the communication skills and abilities to pass this information to the mentee in a supportive way?
  • Preferences - Is there agreement about the most valued way of communicating the knowledge and skill by both parties and the preferred mode of teaching?
  • Content - What is the substance of the social exchange and potential for new contacts with significant others who may be able to assist the mentee?

Building strong social networks is one of a number of mentee outcomes associated with formal mentoring relationships3. Therefore, a mentee should ask to what extent is their mentor is able to:

  • Provide psychological support
  • Assist in their career development
  • Provide extended networking opportunities
  • Be a positive role model
  • Advise in overcoming organisational forces and unwanted politics

The significance of trust

Mutual trust and reciprocity within the mentoring relationship are critical elements, but informal arrangements have differing characteristics to formal programs. Recent studies4,5 examining formal mentoring program characteristics suggest that formal mentoring programs should be designed to utilise many of the merits of informal mentoring and this includes the mentors’ and mentees’ voluntary participation and involvement in the matching process. 

The following table considers a range of easing strategies to take advantage of informal arrangements:

Characteristics of Formal Mentoring Programs

Consideration

Formal Arrangements

Easing Strategy

Beginning phase Initiation and orientation Participants are able to meet beforehand, or opt-out later
Driving forces Organisational needs Benefits to the mentee are identified and communicated
Knowledge of partner prior to mentoring relationship Impersonal: good reputation Partners share information, meet and explore mutual benefits of working together
Emotions Awkward, anxious, tentative, and possibly sceptical Pre-briefing of partners to break the ice and build rapport
Commitment Variable, may be forced participation or uncertainty about the program Program is voluntary for both mentor and mentee
Visibility High at the program launch Set realistic expectations
Congruence Undetermined as partners enter without any sense sof development orientation Preparation enables partners to consider expectations and development benefits

(Source: (Blake-Beard, O'Niell et al. 2007, p621)

1. Homans 1958
2. Huston & Burgess 1979
3. Sosik, Lee & Bouquillon 2005
4. Allen, Eby, & Lentz, 2006
5. Ragins et al., 2000


Matching using Emotional Intelligence

An important part of the mentorship process is the many functions that mentors provide to mentees:

  • psychosocial support in which they provide acceptance and friendship and confirm the mentee's behaviours
  • career support in which they act as a coach to the mentee, protect the mentee from adverse organisational forces, provide challenging assignments, sponsor advancement, and foster positive exposure and visibility
  • and role modelling in which their attitudes, values and behaviours guide the mentee1

For these reasons, mentoring has been described as:

The most intense and powerful one-on-one developmental relationship, entailing the most influence, identification, and emotional involvement (Wanberg et al., 2006, p. 41)

Therefore, one issue for mentors and mentees in these relationships is the need to be socially aware when interacting with each other.

Reviews of the emotional intelligence literature2 note that emotionally intelligent individuals are generally successful in building interpersonal relationships. Emotionally intelligent mentors are thought to:

  • Be successful in building positive interpersonal relationships
  • Make people feel appreciated
  • Respect the autonomy of others
  • Stimulate positive emotions in themselves and others

In formal mentoring relationships, emotional intelligence appears particularly important, as these relationships involve issues of intimacy and trust, care and concern, yet continuous tension between autonomy and connection and differences in status and political power can exist (Kram & Cherniss 2001, p.422)

Mentors and mentees in formal mentoring programs are typically matched by a third party for the purpose of meeting organisational needs4, often based on the mentor's competency and job related characteristics rather than interpersonal compatibility5. This procedure may evoke a perceived mismatch potentially causing negative experiences for mentors and mentees6.

1. Scandura & Ragins, 1993
2. Mayer, Roberts, & Barsade 2008
4. Blake-Beard et al., 2007
5. Ragins, Cotton, & Miller, 2000
6. Eby, Butts, Lockwood, & Simon, 2004


Characteristics of people who are pre-disposed to mentoring

Effective mentors leave behind a living legacy in the form of people who have benefited from the mentor's knowledge, skills and/or life experiences. In addition to these attributes, mentors have an ability to communicate or connect with people in a positive way and provide a network of valuable contacts for the mentee. Workplace mentors become pre-disposed to, and are drawn to, mentoring programs by a range of personal traits or characteristics and these include but are not limited to:

  • Positive experience as a mentee
  • Valuing reciprocity (mutual exchange of ideas, support and feedback)
  • Trustworthiness
  • Agreeableness
  • Perspective taking
  • Empathic concern
  • Emotional stability
  • Extraversion
  • Conscientiousness
  • Openness to experience
  • Orientation to learning
  • Supportive interpersonal communication skills (active listening)

Positive experience as a mentee

Mentors who have had previous positive experiences as a mentee are more likely to engage in mentoring programs and want to give something back because the process was good for them. It appears that

when mentees learn well by receiving a wide breadth of mentoring functions from their mentors and have a high level of emotional intelligence, mentees willingness to mentor others increases (Chun, Litzky et al. 2010, p.443)

Valuing reciprocity

Individuals in social relationships feel bound by the values of fairness and give-and-take reciprocity, and this sense of obligation promotes cooperative behaviours toward each other (Cialdini. 1993) 

When a mentor earns his or her mentee's trust they feel obliged to provide higher levels of mentoring, instead of simply meeting the mentor requirements imposed by organisations.

Trustworthiness 

Mentors are more likely to give more effort in an environment of trust and mentees expect to find reliability and trustworthiness in their mentor. During informal mentoring relationships the implicit trust and overt reliance between members of the relationshop exists from the outset, but in formal workplace mentoring arrangements, each party could be new to the relationship so trust-building events are an important dimension of the matching process and initiation stage.

Agreeableness 

The personality trait of agreeableness1 relates to the degree to which an individual is trusting, cares about others, and is easy to get along with. Therefore, a mentor with a high amount of agreeableness may bring positivity and openness to a relationship. 

Perspective taking 

Perspective taking is a personality trait that relates to how the mentor might consider and issue from other's viewpoints. It requires the ability to inhibit one's own thoughts and feelings to consider the perspectives of others; flexibility to see a situation in different ways; and reflection, or the ability to consider someone else's thinking alongside one's own.

Mentors predisposed to perspective taking, move one step ahead of showing empathy and may be better able to establish and maintain a positive and enduring relationship.

Empathic concern 

Not to be confused with empathy, this altruistic characteristic of personality is particularly relevant to explaining a mentor's willingness to engage in a mentoring program and deals with the mentor's emotional concern for the wellbeing of others, but not in a transitory way. Mentors who have greater empathic concern may be more understanding of others' feelings and difficulties and be able to tolerate the relative long-term nature of mentoring. Empathic concern is a trait of greater value when the mentee is seeking psychosocial support from the mentor. 

Emotional stability 

The traits associated with higher levels of emotional stability, such as happiness and positivity are beneficial to mentoring relationship outcomes. 

Extraversion 

Extraverts enjoy human interaction and are enthusiastic about opportunities to talk, be gregarious and sometimes are seen as assertive. An extroverted person is likely to enjoy time spent with people. They tend to be energised when around other people. 

It follows that when an extraverted mentor is paired with an extraverted mentee, the level of energy and interaction will be high. However, an extraverted mentor might easily overpower an introverted mentee without seeing the need for self-reflection and discovery. Conversely an introverted mentor, who would ordinarily be happy to partake in a one-to-one conversation, might find an extraverted mentee over-challenging, highly energised by the interaction and perhaps too demanding of one's time.

Conscientiousness 

Conscientiousness involves:

being achievement orientated, detail orientated and organised, because it is related to and signals competence (Ragins and Kram 2007, p.42)

It follows that mentors who are seen as conscientious might attract mentees, because of the perceptions of completing tasks and getting results; or in other words, a mentee could trust the mentor to deliver a promise.

Openness to experience 

Openness to experience has been expressed as a global trait that encompasses human personality characteristics such active imagination, aesthetic sensitivity, attentiveness to inner feelings, preference for variety, and intellectual curiosity. In mentoring relationships, a mentor who is prone to openness takes advantage of opportunities and learns from others includes the mentee.

A mentor's openness can energise the initiation of a mentoring relationship as new ideas are explored and developed. Later, in the cultivation stage, an open mentor is more likely to recover something from the mentee in a kind of win-win scenario. Conversely, mentors who have lower levels of openness to experiences are perceived as difficult to work with2.

Orientation to learning 

A mentor with a strong orientation to learning will ensure that any accumulated knowledge or experience is directed towards a beneficial outcome: 

  • When mentoring is directed toward a possible change in behaviour, the mentor will arrange an environment conductive to the change
  • When the mentor is orientated towards learning new knowledge, the mentor will provide a structure for learning
  • When the mentor is predisposed to socially constructed learning, the mentor will arrange to bring people together as enabling networks for the benefit of the mentee
  • When the mentor is more concerned with the development of the 'whole person' the mentee will be encouraged to explore, become autonomous and take ownership of the mentoring outcome

In summary, when employees display these 11 characteristics, they also exhibit behaviours that make them suitable candidates for becoming a mentor, such as:

  • Being approachable, accessible and reliable such as keeping meetings and providing feedback in a timely manner
  • Acting on principles, good values and ethical practices both personally and in an organisational context
  • Demonstrating patience and assisting others to explore options, while providing honest feedback and is sensitive, in a positive way
  • Being savvy and understanding that while similarity-based choice of mentoring partners may foster perceived intimacy between mentors and mentee, it may also raise potential issues, such as unintentional favouritism 

1. Graziano and Esienberg 1997
2. Kram 1983


Identifying and selecting mentors

Organisations vary in the way mentors are selected and these practices range from: holding simple interviews to undertaking complex selection processes. Organisations accept willing volunteers and sometimes target key people with special skills; or simply allow the mentees to select from a pool of mentors. Much will depend upon whether the mentee is looking for a career mentor or personal mentor.

Career mentors will be able to provide:

  • A leadership or management perspective
  • Knowledge of the organisation
  • Capacity to open doors and empower people to act
  • Confidence, intelligence and creativity
  • Credibility in the organisation

Personal mentors will be able to provide:

  • Listening and supporting behaviour
  • Challenge and encouragement
  • Protection, empathy and wise counsel

Components of matching

According to Australian Government guidelines in the Department of Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace, the chances of success in a relationship increase if both parties:

  • appreciate and complement each other in that the mentor's experience fits well with the skills that the mentee wants to develop
  • are prepared to invest in the relationship and wish to create an effective relationship
  • have a good understanding of the reciprocal responsibilities and do not have unrealistic expectations

For this to work effectively:

  • the mentor must be a person with greater experience and knowledge (It is important to have a gap in status/experience which both parties are comfortable with)
  • the mentor is someone other than the mentee's immediate manager (this is important to avoid conflict in the two roles. Mentoring is more than supervision and it is also important to ensure that the mentee expands their networks)
  • the mentee must have the ability to trust the mentor and know that their confidence will be kept
  • there must be geographic accessibility
  • the language must be sensitive to culture are gender

Approaches to Matching

The Treasury Board of Canada reports various ways in which the mentors can be matched with mentees; each method involving a varying amount of participant choice, resource intensity and degree of success. In the following figure it can be seen that the most successful matching processes are often the most resource intensive – using questionnaires, facilitation and profile–based selection tools.

  • HR Selection (medium resource) - HR or program coordinator makes matching decision based on knowledge of the candidates and their preferences.
  • Questionnaires and Profiling Tools (high resource) - Program coordinators use a range of questionnaire or psychological profiling tools to evaluate the candidate, determine a range of suitable choices and then invite mentees to meet with mentors on a social basis. Mentees therefore make a choice on an informed basis.
  • Highly structured and formal selection (high resource) - Similar to an assessment centre process or job selection, both mentor and mentee are interviewed and mentor selection is facilitated from multiple candidates.
  • Mentee selection (low resource) - Mentee identified and selects their own mentor.

When a mentee has a high choice in the selection process, the more committed that mentee would be to the mentoring relationship. However, studies on informal mentoring indicate that mutual selection is the most effective matching process. In the case of formal workplace mentoring free choice may not always help as it limits the pool of potential mentors and the mentee may have to exert lots of time and energy into finding a suitable mentor, as mentors will want to have a say in their involvement and acceptance of the mentee.

Mentee selection matrix – facilitated by program coordinator

Using a template in much the same way as other selection processes, mentees in this example are able to pre-assess their preferred mentor choice before a facilitated session and later review meeting.

 

Mentor 1

Mentor 2 

Mentor 3

Mentor 4

Mentor 5

      Photo Photo Photo Photo Photo
Work Role Work Role Work Role Work Role Work Role
Expertise Expertise Expertise Expertise Expertise
Values Values Values Values Values
Profile Profile Profile Profile Profile
Mentee 1 1 3 2 4 5
Mentee 2  1 5 2

3

4
Mentee 3 2 1 3 5 4
Mentee 4 5 1 2 3 4

The same process can be used in reverse where mentors are given an opportunity to pre-select mentees based on given needs and expectations.

 

Mentee A

Mentee B

Mentee C

Mentee D

Mentee E

       Photo Photo Photo Photo Photo
Work Role Work Role Work Role Work Role Work Role
Needs Needs Needs Needs Needs
Values Values Values Values Values
Expectation Expectation Expectation Expectation Expectation
Profile Profile Profile Profile Profile
Mentor 1 1 3 2 4 5
Mentor 2 1 5 2 3 4
Mentor 3 2 1 3 5 4
Mentor 4 5 1 2 3 4

 


Key to successful matching

Matching is one of the most critical aspects of a formal mentoring program. The key ingredient to a successful mentor-mentee partnership is a collective and specific agreement on the program objectives. Members of the partnership will ask why the organisation is supporting mentoring and what the enterprise hopes to gain from the time and effort expended. In formal workplace mentoring there will be multiple stakeholders including managers, work colleagues or customers. Unlike informal mentoring the organisation will promote the program widely and this may also create hidden expectations among wider work colleagues. For these reasons, mentoring program coordinators will seek to ensure a clear understanding of goals and outcomes among participants. Being up-front about the organisational intent behind supporting a formal mentoring program will enable mentors to evaluate their motivation and value to the program.


Matching criteria

In formal workplace mentoring programs, matching criteria is usually developed by in-house coordinators, sometimes with external assistance. Each work context will be unique and vary, but the following table shows a range of considerations which can be evaluated by both members of the mentoring partnership.

Situational

1 Gender Individual preference to work with the same gender, or ease with cross-gender matching
2 Age Traditionally an older person mentoring someone younager , but increasing trends towards reverse age mentoring
3 Location Ease of meeting regularly across dispersed locations. Potential for e-mentoring and willingness to use technology
4 Meeting times Convenience and preferred frequency - at work or willingness to meet out of hours
5 Background Career development and relevance - knowledge, skills and experience on offer to the mentee

Qualities, traits and attributes

6 Life experiences Does the life experience of mentor and mentee share similarities or differences? Potential for gain or conflict
7 Shared work interests Does the mentor and mentee share common work problems and can they relate to the organisations need for mentoring?
8 Personality traits Characteristics that shape how people interact with others in the external world. See Myers-Briggs Type Indicator
9 Values and beliefs What we deem as important and assumptions we make about the world. How we see ourselves and others
10 Temperament The way we interact with others and deal with situations - drawing on personality traits, values and beliefs

Critical stages after matching 

Even the most organised and sophisticated of matching processes cannot a guarantee a long and successful mentoring relationship and for this reason, many organisations offer participants a no fault termination of a partnership if either party believes the relationship is unworkable. We are reminded in the literature that the mentoring relationship goes through distinct phases and these are determined by: whether the mentor and mentee are already known to each other, and they extent to which they hold different views on a range of issues.

These phases are:

  • Initiation encouraged by the prospect of mutual benefit
  • Developing rapport at the outset of a mentoring program
  • Working within a good relationship to achieve goals
  • Closing the relationship in a mutually agreed way

This four-quadrant diagram illustrates the speed at which a positive mentoring relationship can be established and is based on the similarities and differences between members of the mentoring partnership and the extent to which they are known to each other.

  • When the mentor and mentee are known to each other and share similar matching criteria, the relationship will seem cosy and develop quickly. Motivation will be shared by the partnership, but this energy may prolong the mentoring meetings, become distracted from achieving the goals or unproductive and be difficult to terminate at the separation stage. 
  • When the mentor and mentee are known to each other, but share different perceptions or desires within the matching criteria, the relationship will start easily, but soon become strained unless members of the partnership can agree to value or put aside differences.
  • When the mentor and mentee are unknown to each other but share similar preferences in the matching criteria, the new relationship will be grounded on early mutuality, but members will hold back until the relationship is more established and seemingly beneficial.
  • When the mentor and mentee are unknown to each other and share different views from the outset, the initiation of a mutual relationship will take time to develop, or even incur a false start. The exception would be a development partnership where the mentee was deliberately looking for challenge in the relationship, but this may not be acceptable to the mentor.

Ways to get to know mentors and mentees:

  • Prospective mentors and mentees can observe each other in as many different situations as possible. This observation can be made during one-to-one interactions, in group situations or in the course of telephone or video conference discussions
  • Prospective mentors can be observed during peer-to-peer interactions at meetings, during training, group interviews or at seminars
  • Mentees may have previous interaction with a prospective mentor in a work-related project team or have obtained a favourable report from a work colleague when the mentor was placed in a difficult position or task

When an organisation holds informal matching events, mentees can interact to:

  • Determine the prospective mentor’s motivation for volunteering, as well as getting to know their background and understand what challenges taking part in mentoring will present for this person
  • Determine what special areas of strength do they have
  • Identify any additional influences that might impact on the mentor’s success
  • Identify if the mentor is working in a stable environment and meeting the demands of other obligations

A match isn’t working when the mentor or mentee:

  • Does not show up for scheduled meetings or fails to respond to phone calls
  • Continually expresses frustration and unhappiness
  • Engages in inappropriate behaviour
  • Confirm independently of each other that the match isn’t working
  • Do not bother to keep notes or records

Additionally:

  • Program coordinator can detect that the relationship is not working

Cognitive matching

One way to ensure compatibility between mentor and mentee, particularly how they prefer to receive and process information, is the use of cognitive matching. The presence of a common language or common ground can contribute not only to the longer-term success of a mentoring relationship, but also reduce interpersonal tension and stress.

People have a cognitive style and this can be seen as an individual characteristic in the way they organise and process information (enant 1988) 

Cognitive style also affects how an individual interacts socially or in interpersonal situations. We suggest three ways in which an individual’s cognitive style can be considered:

  • theories on left and right brain functionality
  • learning styles theory
  • personality or temperament

Left/Right brain theory

In psychology, the left-brain or right-brain theory is known as the ‘lateralisation’ of brain function and suggests each side of the brain controls different types of thinking. According to left/right brain dominance theory, people are thought to prefer one type of thinking over the other. For example, a person who is "left-brained" is often said to be more logical, analytical and objective, while a person who is "right-brained" is said to be more intuitive, thoughtful and subjective.

Individuals can determine their left/right brain dominance by completing a self-scoring questionnaire, althought the scientific validity of these questionnaires is not always evident. 

The Left Brain

The Right Brain

Language Recognising faces
Logic Expressing emotions
Critical thinking Music
Numbers Reading emotions
Reasoning Colour
Mathematics Images
Sequencing Intuition
Diagrams Creativity
Analytical Holistic
Building Painting/Art

In formal workplace mentoring, left-brain dominant individuals will be more compliant, prefer structure in decision making and apply systematic methods of investigation or step-by-step problem solving. Right-brain dominant individuals will rely on random methods and holistic approaches to decision making. Cognitive style compatibility in mentoring is important because it may help to decrease stress and frustration if both members of the dyad are on the same page.

Mentors and mentees who have similar cognitive styles are found to have enhanced psychosocial and career mentoring functions (Armstrong, Allison, and Hayes 2002) 

This meant they felt the person was a confidant and someone to talk to about problems and anxieties in the workplace. In addition, the mentee

was able to discuss career plans and performance feedback with the mentor in a more authentic and meaningful way (Kahle-Pissecki 2011) 

If a mentor perceives the mentee to be similar to them, the mentor is more likely to like the mentee.

Learning styles theory

Some people prefer to learn in groups where learning is socially or externally constructed by the participants; yet others prefer solitude to acquire knowledge within self. In both of these preferences, the brain receives and processes information through the senses and it is recognised that people adapt to one sense more than the other.  The well-used VARK model suggests that we have individual preferences for taking-in new information such as using our eyes (Visual and Reading), ears (Auditory) and/or physically doing (Kinaesthetic). It follows that when the mentoring program is directed towards knowledge acquisition and learning a preference for the same style would enhance the mentoring relationship – though scientific evidence to support this hypothesis is scarce. Nevertheless, an awareness of learning styles might help the organisation of mentoring and influence choices in relation to face-to-face meetings, e-mentoring, planning and frequency of meetings.    

Personality and temperament

Finally, the personality, qualities and behaviours that distinguish one individual from another are important aspects to consider in workplace mentoring when matching one person with another for a long-term relationship.   Having an understanding of personality and temperament is important in the workplace and in a mentoring experience, because it can give insight into how an individual will interact with others, make decisions and perceive a given situation.


Psychological profiling instruments to identify traits

A wide range of personality assessment instruments are available to assist when selecting suitable mentors or mentees and one such instrument is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, otherwise better known as MBTI®.  The MBTI® instrument is based on the research of Carl Jung and helps in the identification of traits based on four dimensions of personality. In reality we use of these following traits but have innate preferences, in much the same way as left or right handedness:

     
Extraversion ............. Introversion
Sensing ............. Intuitive
Thinking ............. Feeling
Judging  ............. Perceiving

 The theory of psychological type was introduced in the 1920s and the MBTI tool was developed in the 1940s by Isabel Briggs Myers This early research is ongoing, providing users with updated and new information about psychological type and its applications.

Consider the following traits of a mentor or mentee:

  • Favourite world: Does the mentor or mentee prefer to focus on the external world or their own inner world? This is called Extraversion or Introversion
  • Information: Does the mentee or mentor prefer to focus and act on the basic information they take-in or do they prefer to interpret and add meaning to the information? This is called Sensing or Intuition
  • Decisions: When making decisions, does the mentor or mentee prefer to first look for logic and consistency or look at the people and special circumstances? This is called Thinking or Feeling
  • Structure: In dealing with the outside world, does the mentor or mentee prefer to get things decided and done or do they prefer to stay open to new information and options? This is called Judging or Perceiving

The MBTI assessment classifies a personality type in 16 different ways based on four preferences of thinking and acting. Using each of these four dimensions, a four-letter ‘personality type’ is identified; normally, upon completion of a comprehensive and highly validated questionnaire. For example, someone could be defined as an INFJ or alternatively an ENTP. In total MBTI® incorporates sixteen types.

The attachment below indicates the approaches a mentor or mentee may prefer in each of the 16 personality types.  

Description of personality traits | PDF

Choosing a mentor and mentee

In the matching process, a mentee could choose to work with a mentor of the same personality type or select an opposite type from their own preference. For example, if the mentee was ENTJ they may value the openness, organisation and challenge of working with an ENTJ mentor; or alternatively, they may consider an ISFP mentor to be less intimidating and less bothered about meeting deadlines and actions.

Choosing an opposite personality type can help mentees to gain a fresh perspective. Conversely, mentors may be less concerned about the reciprocal nature of their mentoring relationship and prefer to work with mentees of the same personality type. Choosing a mentee in this way will assist at the 'initiation' phase of a relationship because the dyad will share common ground.

However, it is not clear if the personality type of a given relationship has any bearing on duration of a mentoring relationship – for example, how long the mentoring activity lasts before the relationship moves into the 'separation' phase. Consider how the previous list can be adapted to the MBTI® personality types:

Career mentors will be able to provide 

E/I   

S/N   

T/F   

J/P   

A leadership and management perspective E/I S/N T J
Knowledge of the organisation E/I S/N T J/P
Capacity to open doors and empower people to act  S/N J/P 
Confidence, intelligence, and creativity I
Credibility in the organisation  E/I  S/N  T/F 

 

Personal mentors will be able to provide 

E/I   

S/N   

T/F   

J/P   

Listening and supporting behaviour                           I S/N F J/P
Challenge and encouragement E    N T/F J
Protection, empathy, and wise council  E S/N F J


Stages of matching

In many formal workplace mentoring schemes, the matching process is undertaken by a project coordinator, who works in the human resources department. The coordinator acts as an honest broker, administers the mentoring program and facilitates the day-to-day operations. Every effort is made to match mentees with the volunteer mentors who can best support their development needs. Matching processes follow seven stages:

  1. Promoting the mentoring program within the organisation and enlisting the support of executives
  2. Seeking expressions of interest from mentors and mentees
  3. Raising awareness of the program at informal briefing workshops
  4. Matching people using an agreed format
  5. Holding training events for participants
  6. Arranging the 'first meeting'
  7. Facilitating a written mentoring agreement

Getting started

As the title implies, getting started is an important stage of the implementation sequence. It involves finding suitable mentors who meet the matching criteria and then holding further briefing sessions to explain roles and expectations. Simultaneously, a cohort of potential mentees can be sought and selected from the organisation – first briefing them on the program goals and reviewing their training requirements. During this step, commencement dates can be negotiated and a system of progress reviews can be agreed with the program coordinator, if available.

 

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