Mainstream Mentoring: From Bain & Co. to National Geographic, Companies Create Connections

illustration for American City Business Journals by Andrea Levy

Bizwomen Mentoring Monday is February 25th. Support and learn from businesswomen in your community while creating meaningful career connections.

Caitlin Mullen, Bizwomen contributor’s article highlights the ins and outs of “From Bain & Company to National Geographic Society, companies make mentoring connections”. Read the full article here.

Our own Lisa Fain took part and was quoted as saying….

The reasons companies create mentoring programs vary — to improve diversity, to build a bench of potential leaders, and to retain staffers. Though most won’t divulge what they spend on their programs, all agree on their importance. The thousands of employees who participate engage with accomplished colleagues, and many accelerate their career progress through the connections they create. Being able to keep and motivate employees is crucial and “the structured mentoring relationship is really a vehicle to do that.”

Accountability and Successful Mentoring Go Hand in Hand

Accountability and Successful Mentoring Go Hand in Hand

The idea of inserting accountability into a mentoring relationship may seem unnecessary. And yet, unless you build in a process to ensure accountability, there is always a temptation to sidestep it.

When mutual accountability becomes an ongoing expectation in a mentoring relationship it creates a shared frame of reference. It strengthens the relationship by improving communication and avoiding mentoring pitfalls. It enables partners to make midcourse corrections.

When mentoring partners engage in regular conversations about their mentoring relationship, it maintains the momentum of the relationship and contributes value to the learning of each mentoring partner.

Accountability conversations need not be cumbersome, but they should be held regularly, whether it is once a month or every quarter. If your relationship seems to be going well, checking in on its health will help ensure that you and your mentoring partner’s need are being met. At the same time, accountability conversations can assist you in gauging your progress over time and help you decide what you steps you can take to grow and improve your relationship.


We’ve developed a Mentoring Partner Check-In Accountability Tool to guide regular accountability conversations.You and your mentoring partner can complete this tool independently and then compare your responses. Or, you and your mentoring partner can complete this tool together.

You and your mentor should plan to use this tool periodically to ensure that you are staying on track.  And, even if you haven’t agreed to do so initially, feel free to introduce this tool to your mentor partner at any time during your mentoring relationship.  This may prove especially helpful if you suspect that your meeting time could be better utilized and you aren’t comfortable raising the issue with your mentor.

Use the Mentoring Partnership Check-In Accountability Tool throughout your relationship to make sure you stay on track and the trust level remains high.




February Top Ten

February Top Ten

In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, here’s our mentoring ten top list for the month of February.


#10 Revisit, refine and recommit to your development goals.

#9 Check in with your mentoring partner to evaluate progress.February Calendar

#8 Pay attention to both what is said and what is not said.

#7 Balance care and compassion when giving hard feedback.

#6 Keep an open mind when receiving feedback.

#5 Challenge your mentee with a stretch project or assignment.

#4 Explore areas of diversity and difference.

#3 Listen twice as much as you speak.

#2 Ask probing questions rather than giving answers.

#1 Get out of your comfort zone and try something new.

Mentoring at Work

Mentoring at Work

Mentoring success depends on the degree to which mentoring partners roll up their sleeves and do the work. Yes, we said, “work.” Throughout your mentoring relationship, you and your mentoring partner need to be fully engaged in building and strengthening your relationship and focused on achieving your mentoring goals.

Mentoring Works Best When Mentees….

  • Assume responsibility for their learning, growth, and development
  • Set goals
  • Hold themselves accountable for agreements
  • Monitor their progress regularly
  • Maintain receptivity to new, creative, and alternative strategies and ideas
  • Are honest, open and willing to be vulnerable
  • Communicate regularly
  • Are prepared for and open to feedback


Mentoring Works Best When Mentors….

  • Commit the time
  • Build their relationship up front
  • Ask questions rather than to try and solve a mentee’s problems
  • Push and challenge their mentee
  • Share experiences and challenges
  • Offer options rather than answers
  • Provide honest, ongoing, and candid feedback with care and compassion
  • Maintain regular contact
3 Things You Can Do To Ensure Mentoring Sustainability

3 Things You Can Do To Ensure Mentoring Sustainability


What can you do to ensure sustainability of mentoring in your organization?


1. Reposition Mentoring

Engagement in mentoring doesn’t begin and end with participation in a corporate mentoring program or retirement. And yet, current mentoring practice seems to do just that. It is long past time to reposition it and create a mentoring culture that supports all mentoring rather than compartmentalizing mentoring participation to specific populations or targeted programs (such as high potentials, emerging leaders, new hires).

2. Create a Mentoring Culture

According to New York Times columnist Tom Friedman, “When you have a mentor you are twice as likely to be engaged with work and thriving in overall well-being.” Who wouldn’t want those outcomes? We know beyond dispute mentoring promotes learning, growth and development. We never outgrow our need for it. So why not be more inclusive and bring everyone into the fold?

A mentoring program requires a mentoring culture to ensure sustainability. When mentoring lives in a mentoring culture, implementation and integration becomes a cultural norm and expectation. In addition, a mentoring culture brings strategic advantages. It creates a more connected and aligned workplace. It is better able to manage and grow organizational knowledge and develop its talent. Talent retention, employee engagement, company loyalty and productivity all increase. A mentoring culture supports diversity and promotes inclusion. It facilitates career transitions, and improves leadership skills. It maximizes time, effort and resources by enhancing the learning throughout the organization.

3. Embed It

Effective mentoring can exist without the support of an established mentoring culture, but inevitably, it requires more work, a longer ramp up time and persistence to maintain and ensure long term continuity. Maintaining mentoring momentum is just plain hard unless it becomes a cultural priority and closely aligns with an organization’s strategic objectives.

Embedding mentoring in the fabric of the organization assures that mentoring is vested in the many rather than the few. People outside the immediate implementation circle feel a sense of ownership and responsibility and hold others accountable. Cultural integration helps maintain the integrity of the mentoring process.

Creating a mentoring culture is a work in progress. This means you need to be minding your Ps and Qs:  continuously monitoring, assessing and enhancing your efforts. If you keep these six Ps in mind – preparation, priority, position, pool, politics and progress  – they should enhance your efforts and further help you embed good mentoring practice in your organization.





The Learning and Mentoring Connection

Without the presence of learning, mentoring doesn’t exist. It is the purpose, the process, and the product of a mentoring relationship.
Because learning is so central to mentoring, it is essential that mentors understand their mentees as learners. Mentors need to know how to engage and guide the mentee appropriately and to create a climate that supports learning. In addition, mentors must to be open to learning themselves. When you begin your relationship mentor and mentee should agree to the purpose.

What is it that the mentee wants to obtain from your meetings? Once you have figured out what you both are going to receive from the relationship, it is now time to plan the process.  How frequently will we meet? What will our meetings consist of? What goals will the mentor set for the mentee? Finally, decided what you want to end product to be. Where do both mentor and mentee want to be after the relationship comes to a close?  How will you measure your accomplishments?