Mentoring programs can provide rich learning and networking opportunities for both parties, as well as the sponsoring organisation; however, they don’t always have the desired impact.

Firstly, there is often a lack of clarity about what mentoring actually is and is frequently confused with coaching or career sponsorship. Coaching is task and performance oriented with the employee providing the majority of the solutions and is often employed when employees aren’t meeting expectations. However, mentoring provides advisory support and has a longer-term developmental focus for high potential employees. Equally, mentoring is not the same as sponsorship, which is when a more senior member of your own organisation is an advocate and directly supports your internal career advancement.

I have previously shared my experiences with being a part of and developing mentoring programs so I won’t revisit the benefits and pitfalls, but you can read about them here.

Typically, internal mentoring programs will be cross-functional / departmental / gender and the mentee is paired with a leader who has been with the organisation for a long time and does not have direct influence over the mentee’s performance and remuneration assessments. Note that this separation (and therefore trust) can be harder to achieve in reality as the mentor may be privy to such matters and can run the risk of morphing into a sponsorship relationship. Typically, the direct costs are minimal ie a few breakfasts/coffees; however, especially for the HR team, the time/admin cost can be high. It can be helpful especially for new joiners or those early in their career to be part of such programs to work with someone to understand how to navigate the internal politics, culture and be successful within that organisation and given the common context can move the conversation forward quickly.

However, one of the challenges with taking a purely internal viewpoint at more senior and executive levels is how to enable your business to be successful in the face of change or disruption and bring in new thinking to solve complex problems (without paying expensive consulting firms!)? At The Acquire Group, we are fortunate to have a high calibre, supportive and extremely varied community of leaders across various backgrounds and experiences. We have recently launched our thought partnering program to enable Executives and senior leaders to develop a relationship with a peer from a different background to overcome developmental gaps and solve big organisational problems in new ways to achieve unique results. Effectively, both participants operate as mentor and mentee for each other. This enables you to spark an entirely different solution than you would have achieved separately or at your typical internal management team meeting.

Working across different sectors/backgrounds naturally allows both parties the opportunity to learn how they have successfully (or unsuccessfully!) tackled different challenges and offers new ways of thinking rather than using the existing knowledge within one’s own organisation without running the risk of competition. Naturally, this enhances the learning and networking opportunities for the participants also.

Our highly personalised thought partnering program for our community is individually tailored for the participant’s personal and organisational development needs to ensure both parties gain real value from their time together. If you or your team are looking for support, please get in touch to discuss how this investment could be of benefit. You can contact me at kelly@acquireknowledge.com.au or 0449 897 771.