Mentoring, Coaching and Feedback

5/19/2015

Cultural mentoring is one of the four key cultural skills and is essential to helping people new to a specific culture learn about what is expected, reinforced and rewarded in that particular environment. Mentors not only ease the transition of a person or group to a new culture, but they increase their mentees’ effectiveness, which benefits the employee, their team and the company as a whole.

But what is mentoring anyway, and how does it differ from coaching someone, or from giving feedback to an employee or colleague? Mentoring can be understood as a long-term, one-to-one relationship between a “mentor” and “mentee” that helps the latter acclimatize to a new cultural environment or situation, which then leads to more successful outcomes. Mentoring provides the mentee with valuable insights that they would not otherwise learn from company policy manuals, and it allows the mentor to use the knowledge they have gained from experience to help others grow.

Mentoring is significantly different from coaching or giving feedback, but requires both to be effective. The distinctive aspects of mentoring are that it is long-term and multi-dimensional, and that the mentor and mentee develop a strong bond based on trust, mutual support, and investment of resources such as time and social capital. Coaching, on the other hand, is more short-term and performance-focused than mentoring and usually emphases improving specific skills. Feedback is even shorter-term, and is essentially a conversation about relevant information that people need in order to complete a certain project or task.

It is best to think of mentoring as an ongoing relationship between two people or between a mentor and a group. Mentoring relationships help keep employees informed about the best ways to handle their specific cultural situation and provide a feeling of safety and support, which leads to higher morale.

Mentors are an integral part of employee development, and companies that support formal and informal, and individual and group mentoring reap the rewards of a more engaged and savvy employee base.

Bettina Neidhardt