The Characteristics of a successful Management Mentor

The Characteristics of a successful Management Mentor – podcast

Management mentor

Mentors have long played a significant role in the development of individuals within organisations. One of the more successful approaches to management mentoring has been inter-organisational schemes where mentors from other organisations help new and developing leaders and managers to get to grips with their role and to see things from different perspectives.



Mentoring refers to one-to-one interactions usually between a more senior and experienced practitioner (the mentor) and a more junior or less skilled and experienced fledgling.


Management mentor

Whilst inter-organisational mentoring schemes have been shown to be particularly useful for developing managers and leaders, most of the research has hitherto looked at intra-organisational mentoring, where both the mentor and the mentee come from the same organisation. A number of previous studies have shown that intra-organisational mentoring can have a number of issues around the fact that:

  1. Both of the individuals in the relationship are part of the same culture and may not be able to see the cultural issues objectively enough.
  2. Both the mentor and the mentee may be part of the same internal political landscape and, as a result, this may negatively impact both the relationship and the advice given.
  3. There are very likely to be power dynamics in that the mentor is usually in a more senior position. This is been shown to inhibit mentee progress.

Whereas, with inter-organisational mentoring, the management mentor can help the mentee to understand and unpick the organisational culture and political landscape significantly more objectively. Additionally, a number of studies have shown that having a mentor outside of the hierarchical landscape can have a positive impact on the mentoring relationship and learning.


Knowledge management

Mentoring is, in effect, a knowledge management process. Knowledge is a strategic resource and the sharing of knowledge is an essential component of any organisation’s success. One of the challenges in terms of knowledge management is gaining access to outside expertise and integrating it with internal knowledge. Inter-organisational mentoring schemes have been found to be an effective way of not only doing this, but engaging in open innovation, whereby ideas from outside the organisation are brought in and used to transform either the products, services or processes of the incumbent organisation.


A new study

A new (2019) study by a team of researchers has conducted an extensive literature review, hybrid Delphi analysis and an exploratory factor analysis to identify the characteristics of an effective inter-organisational management mentor…


In this Episode David and Sarah explore the research based characteristics of a successful management mentor…




David:                           00:36                Right. Okay, I’m back here with Sarah, and we’re going to be talking about an interesting research briefing around the characteristics of an effective inter-organizational management mentor. Thoughts on just mentorship generally?

Sarah:                           00:55                Yes, I think it’s interesting the dynamic I guess in the area. Both you and I have done work in those sort of situations where maybe we’ve been doing a bit of mentoring but also coaching, and the conversations I have in organizations about what is the difference between coaching versus mentoring, what purpose do they both individual serve, is it good to have both, is there an overlap between them, and I think all sorts of conversations around not only where they work in harmony and how you can introduce mentoring and coaching into your organization, but also as actually the particular research briefing that we’re perhaps exploring a bit today, talks about inter-organizational management mentoring I think is particularly this one. But this idea of inter-organizational management mentoring, and are there benefits that can be had from having a mentor that sits outside of an organization, as opposed to whether or not you should have a mentoring scheme within the organization. And of course, these are options that often people are looking at and exploring.

David:                           02:00                Yes, yeah. And certainly in organizations that I’ve seen and worked in, they tend to look for management mentors within the organization, rather than outside the organization. One of the advantages of having people from outside the organization, is that they’re not involved in the politics, so that they’ve got no stake in the hierarchy, or they’ve got no stake in how this individual does from a political point of view within the organization.

Sarah:                           02:26                Yes. It brings a much more objective kind of viewpoint, doesn’t it, I think.

David:                           02:31                Feels kind of cleaner.

Sarah:                           02:33                Yes, and from the mentee’s perspective, which I always think is a weird word, isn’t it? A mentee. It sounds like a [crosstalk 00:02:38]-

David:                           02:38                Yes, a mentee. A manatee.

Sarah:                           02:38                … chewy, soft mint or something. But from the mentee’s perspective if you like, I think it feels very different as well. And then the opportunity to be mentored by somebody that has alignment with perhaps your professional hopes and aspirations, and your professional development, but has experience in different organizations, is often I think of particular value.

Sarah:                           03:03                I know when I go in and work in organizations, one of the things that I get asked a lot is, “So what about the other clients you work with? How similar or different are we to other clients?” And people often find it harder I think to benchmark where they are as a leader or manager against what leadership or management might be in a very different organization, even if it’s a similar sector to … Whereas they’re perhaps better placed to be able to make that kind of assessment within their own organization.

David:                           03:29                Yes, I think  inter-organizational management mentor brings a wider perspective.

Sarah:                           03:34                Yes.

David:                           03:36                Because they’ve got a different experience around that professional area, and I think that’s hugely valuable. I think intra-organizational members come into their own with people who are trying to get to grips with the organization, and understand how to operate within the organization, and I think that’s … In terms of things like … as they call it, onboarding, the idea of having some kind of induction mentoring, I think the intra-organizational mentoring’s very useful for that, but largely from what I’ve seen in mentors, and we’ve got a good friend, Michael Heath, who wrote a book around the difference between mentoring and coaching.

Sarah:                           04:24                Yeah.

David:                           04:24                The Fit Mentor. It’s a really good book, and that came out of some research that we were doing looking at the difference between these things when we were at Cranfield, to try and work out that kind of difference. But there is a huge overlap as well, and this is one of the things that comes out in this piece of research, that one of the effective characteristics of a good mentor is coaching ability, the ability to be able to ask good questions, and facilitate the mentee as it were.

Sarah:                           04:55                Yes. There’s almost different dimensions, isn’t it, that are worth thinking about I think, with regards to mentoring within an organization, is for what purpose is the mentoring taking place? And if you’re looking at introducing a mentoring approach across the organization, and exactly as you’re highlighting, there’s a bit of it is it about helping people gain experience and familiarity and a comfort, and an understanding of the way in which we do things here, so a kind of organizational … helping them fit within the organization and understand it, how it works here, versus is it about their management and leadership development and almost opening it up, and breadth.

Sarah:                           05:34                So there’s always the what’s the purpose if you like, or the frame around the mentoring. And then there’s the piece around … and what are the characteristics of effective mentors? If you’ve got the bigger picture perspective, what’s your strategic objective for doing the mentoring, then you need to think about which individual mentor, what characteristics or qualities do they need to have that mean the mentoring relationship is more likely to be effective? And I think that’s often where there’s a real overlap with coaching, because in my view, good mentors coach.

David:                           06:06                Yes.

Sarah:                           06:06                They have some coaching skills, if you like, so I think that’s sometimes where the blurring happens a little bit.

David:                           06:13                Yes. And there is, and I know some coaches are going to throw their hands up in horror at this, but some of the effective coaches end up doing some mentoring, because they’ve got expertise in a particular area.

Sarah:                           06:26                Yes. I completely agree, yes. And it’s … Maybe I think one of the things I’ve found in discussing this more with coaches and in a coaching environment, is that actually why would you hold back on sharing and bringing in skills, expertise and experience that you have, that is of enormous value to your clients, to your coachee? And that perhaps what happens I think a bit, certainly from my perspective … I have a bit of a view on perhaps how much people get stuck in the need as a coach to only work with whatever the client brings, and from a very hands-off perspective if you like, that is only about asking open questions and allowing the coachee to kind of discover their own answers and insights.

Sarah:                           07:19                It’s not that’s not enormously important and an enormously helpful thing to be doing, but actually, it only gets so far, and I can see why in coaching development, a lot of the initial emphasis is get yourself out of it if you like, put a mouth over it, put a hand over your mouth. Hold back. Say less, ask more, those sorts of things, because we so don’t do that normally.

Sarah:                           07:42                You kind of … The starting point is usually that people tell more than ask more, but as you evolve and gain experiences and skills as a coach, it seems limiting, so you’d be stuck only within that paradigm [crosstalk 00:07:55].

David:                           07:55                Particularly if you’ve got expertise in that area. I think the problem for coaches becomes how to manage those two different relationships, and I think that’s the issue largely, because once you start to move into a mentoring frame, is how do you move back out of it, how do you negotiate moving back out of it back into a more objective coaching frame again? And that needs to be I suspect, more explicit with the client. It’s interesting that the research briefing, just going back to the research briefing, this piece here about what the … We’re talking about a study that was done. It was actually a kind of a meta-analysis of all the research, and this idea about mentoring tends to fall into two types of basic categories. The first category is this kind of career function mentoring, and then the second one is psychological functioning mentoring. Do you want to say something about the difference between those two?

Sarah:                           09:04                Yes. And this is perhaps interesting, because sometimes I think perhaps people have associated historically mentoring with the career side of it, and people would have perhaps first recognized that as [inaudible 00:09:16], “Oh yes, if I was to a make a distinction …” We were talking about coaching versus mentoring; they might go, “Oh, the psychological bit’s coaching, and the career bit is mentoring.” Perhaps what this flags is no, there is definitely [inaudible 00:09:28] in both.

Sarah:                           09:28                So the career functioning being I think this idea that your mentor is somebody that has experience in the area within which you want to develop, so they would have for example more experience … be a more experienced manager or leader, so they can help you become more effective within your role. So it’s much more role-oriented. Whereas the psychological or [inaudible 00:09:51] … In the paper they talk about psychosocial functioning, but it’s this idea of how do your skills and capabilities and understanding of yourself in relation to others and how the psychological dynamics that are playing out … It’s much more around the relationship: who you are and how you interact with other people around you.

David:                           10:12                Yes. And things like how you manage to cope. You can help people from a mentoring point of view, if these are the kinds of techniques, these are strategies that I use for coping with overload or coping with a bad incident or something like that, which is more what this is saying, and that mentors can actually help on both sides.

Sarah:                           10:31                Yes. And so I think in the paper they talk about this idea of almost counseling skills, that anyone that’s been in any kind of management or leadership roles knows. Actually, there are enormous elements or aspects of that. And it’s interesting, because I know I often … [inaudible 00:10:47]. Both of us travel quite a lot for our work and things, and it’s not unusual for me to be sat on my own somewhere and in a restaurant somewhere, with my laptop up on the table enjoying something to eat, and then every so often, there’s a … As somebody who quite enjoys a bit of people-watching and people-listening, you kind of tune in on some of the conversations around you, and people who’ve met up with their friends after work or with their partners and stuff, sat on the tables around you.

Sarah:                           11:14                I’m always struck by how much of the air time if you like, that people … So this is after work downtime, relaxing … It’s actually talking through the psychological problems that they’ve experienced in their day at work, that there’s very little chat about what they did, the content if you like, a lot about, “Oh, and I had this difficult conversation with so-and-so again today and they’ve been really irritating me,” and you realize actually how fundamentally important that is. So it’s interesting that they’ve pulled that out here, that it was a really important part of what could be reflected on as part of an effective mentoring relationship.

David:                           11:52                Yes. And quite a lot of that discussion around sharing of stories around that, and a lot of mentoring actually is story-based, where the mentor and the mentee share stories about what’s going on. And it’s that kind of interplay of the two different stories where actually both parties start to learn.

Sarah:                           12:14                Yeah. And you do, in telling your story about the situation, you start to process it in a certain way, and you gain your own insight into … your own sense-making of it, and then how it’s heard, and the bits that they pick up on, or that they choose to reflect back in the sharing of their own story, all kind of enriches that understanding, doesn’t it?

David:                           12:36                Yes, and I think that’s quite important, because that idea of being a storyteller and using that as a learning process, because actually what you’re doing is you’re having to reframe it in a way, and rethink it in part as part of the telling, and you start to gain … and I certainly do as I’m telling stories about things, I start to get more insight into something that’s happened as I’m telling the story to somebody else, and it’s kind of a way of almost ordering it. And as you order the thoughts in order to tell the story, you start to gain an insight from that, and that’s a key part I think of mentoring.

Sarah:                           13:13                Mm-hmm (affirmative). I love that. I think that’s the way we should think about management mentoring, as a story. I think that’s a lovely … ‘Cause there’s … In what you’re describing as well, there’s a coherence that starts to come into play as you are telling the story, so you are doing that sense-making of it, and you have to bring a time perspective to it. You start to [inaudible 00:13:34], “Well, what happened first? And then what happened?” So there’s a whole ordering of all of that that helps us make some kind of sense of it.

David:                           13:41                Well, this was something that I did for my PhD, DPhil, so it was around acculturation, and how people learn to be like something as they join a society or they join a job. I was looking at police officers, and how people are civilians before they become police officers, and then very quickly, they start taking on the behaviors, the thinking and the mannerisms. And within months, you’ve taken somebody you wouldn’t identify out of uniform as being a police officer, into you could identify them at 30 yards across a bar. They look like, smell like, think like a police officer, and how that happens. And one of the things that I found was that a large portion of that … not all of it, but a large portion of that, is through stories. And the stories that they hear within the organization starts to change how they’re orienting themselves towards that organization, and themselves, and how they start to fit in through those stories, listening to them and telling stories. And it’s a … A lot of the acculturation process is a storytelling process.

David:                           14:51                There are other things like icons and just having a uniform or having a place to work together. Those kinds of things then start to create, which is outside of this paper to do with mentoring, but the storytelling is a hugely important part of, not just communication, but learning.

Sarah:                           15:12                Yes. And … It strikes me that actually, a lot of … I think there’s some really interesting stuff around narrative, and then narrative and how we use that to form our own sense of identity, the small stories we tell versus the big stories we tell, the stories that are told socially, the narratives that are passed down and through and across organizations and across cultures, and at the macro level right down through to the micro level. It kind of speaks to the way in which as humans we make sense of things, our meaning-making and our passing on of wisdom and insight and sometimes not such great wisdom or insight. Some of the stories.

Sarah:                           15:57                I guess in terms of thinking about the mentoring bit, it’s quite interesting, because one of the things that I think whenever people first start taking on the role of being a mentor, they have their own version if you like, their own story of what being a mentor is like, and that can be shaped by their own experiences of perhaps historically having a mentor, or just their expectations and thoughts around some of it.

David:                           16:24                Yeah, that’s interesting. Actually, there’s something that this paper kind of highlighted, and I’ve thought of this before, and until I read the paper, was seeing mentoring as knowledge management. And that was interesting. And that then links to another paper that I was looking at to do with storytelling, and kind of I suppose looking at how to share stories across organizations. And it was about evidence-based practice, actually, this other paper. And what they were saying was …

David:                           17:05                Evidence-based practice is based around four things if you want, so there’s the research evidence, and if it’s evidence-based practice, it’s seen as an amalgam of four factors. What you do is you go off and have a look at what the current research is saying about the thing that you’re looking at. The other part of that is you look at the clients’ or the customers’ or the patients’ feedback and their wishes and what they’re trying to do. You’re looking at stakeholders: what their stakeholders are trying to achieve. But a big part of evidence-based practice, and an area that’s not been looked at very much, is the experience of the practitioner. So you use the experience of the practitioner in a mix with the research evidence, the clients’ wishes and the stakeholders’ ideas of what’s meant to be going on, in order to inform best practice I suppose.

David:                           18:00                Now, when you look at a lot of evidence-based schemes, they tend to highlight the research side of things, and minimize the other side, or, if they do involve the experience of the practitioner, it tends to be at quite a high level, so you’re talking about a consultant or something, and they’ll just use their experience, so it’s individual experience.

David:                           18:24                Now, what this paper identified, which was interesting and kind of connects to this whole mentoring thing, is that that’s kind of biased because it’s only one person’s experience. And okay, it’s a consultant or an expert’s experience, but it’s still biased, and it’s still subjective. And what they were saying is, “Actually, what you need to do is …” And they … I can’t remember the term now, [MAGS 00:18:51]. They’re … Anyway, whatever the term was. Basically, what it was was having a focus group almost of people to pull out all of their experiences and layer them, so you can look at what the commonalities are and what the outliers are.

David:                           19:07                And then what you’ve got is, you’ve got a much more objective view of the range of experiences and the layers of those experiences in order to inform your practice. And they were saying that you should really have these groups, these advisory groups, in order to work out what people’s experiences are, and not just the expert’s experience. And therefore making experience more objective because it’s more identifiable. You’re looking for the patterns in other words.

David:                           19:44                And this kind of comes back to this thing about mentoring. If you’ve got one mentor or one storyteller, it seems to … And this is the issue I’ve got with intra-organizational mentors, just having one mentor. Having an inter-organizational mentor just adds another perspective to this in this collection of data for what am I going to do, how am I going to behave, how am I going to develop my role or cope psychologically with these issues.

Sarah:                           20:11                Actually, that’s a really interesting point. It’s funny, because almost as you’re saying that, I often encourage clients that I’m working with in organizations as part of their development to think about having multiple mentors, and for different things … who might be somebody that you think might be really helpful in this particular area, rather than thinking about one person. But I hadn’t thought about it in … Because there’s something in what you’re saying that actually, you might want multiple mentors almost with the same kind of purpose, ’cause they each bring a different perspective, and thinking about that … the diversity of insight that you get actually adding to the richness of your own development, and giving you something broader.

Sarah:                           20:58                And it maybe highlights the importance as a mentee. Because I think that’s an interesting bit. They don’t touch on this in the briefing, but what makes a good mentee? How do you make sure you get the most out of the mentoring, and therefore being a critical consumer almost of-

David:                           21:17                Yes. An investigator.

Sarah:                           21:19                Yes, as opposed to … ‘Cause I think a challenge sometimes that can come with particularly intra-organizational management mentors, is that there is a power dynamic, even if it’s … And organizations are often … They recognize the importance of making sure it’s not perhaps within the direct … wouldn’t be your direct manager, or maybe it being in a different part of the business, so you’re kind of outside of the performance management framework that might exist, but there’s still a very clear and obvious kind of power differential and a recognition of the influence that individual might have within the organization and those sorts of things, and that there can perhaps be a tendency therefore for the mentee to be less critical, and I mean that in a sense of questioning and thinking about relevance of what it is they’re gaining from the relationship.

David:                           22:09                Yes, rather than from the passive consumer.

Sarah:                           22:12                Exactly, or just assimilating what is shared with them as if it’s the book about how you do things here, and then just following that.

David:                           22:22                Yeah, and that’s why I think what’s interesting about this research is this inclusion of knowledge management, because knowledge management is actually meant to be an active process of not just storing and retrieving information,-

Sarah:                           22:36                Just passing on-

David:                           22:37                … but investigating it, and trying to make sense of it in this particular context, and I think there’s some work to be done on mentees. How do you develop a proactivity in mentees as an investigator of this, whatever the issues that they’re facing? And we are kind of … If you’re trying to solve a problem, whatever it happens to be, even if it’s at micro level, you’ve got a problem with the computer or something, you do some investigation just to try to solve it. But more complex issues, like managing people, are dealing with other people’s emotions and our own emotions, really do benefit from having a multi-layered investigation of what are different people saying, and what is the research and having a more evidence-based approach. And I think sometimes organizations reach for quite simple solutions like a coach, a management mentor, assuming that’s going to solve the problem. And actually developing people in organizations so they are much more active investigators, so they can get a range of views, will be more useful.

Sarah:                           23:57                Yes. I think that’s a really good phrase: active investigators. It’s like you kind of want them to get curious about these things, and that probably means talking to lots of different people and asking different questions.

David:                           24:08                That’s right. And from a coaching and mentoring point of view, pushing that, and helping that individual to become more active in the investigation and look for other views, is probably-

Sarah:                           24:21                Yes, as a mentor, you kind of almost … Yes, [inaudible 00:24:24] what have other people thought or said about that, to go away and ask some of these questions and things. I’m just looking at some of the-

David:                           24:31                Shall we have a look at the …?

Sarah:                           24:32                Yes, [crosstalk 00:24:32] found out.

David:                           24:32                Shall we go through the factors? ‘Cause it was a factorial analysis based on a number of different types of analysis, and they came up with-

Sarah:                           24:40                Seven.

David:                           24:41                Seven different factors; inside of each of the factors were a series of characteristics, so we’ll just do these one at a time. Do you want to take the first factor?

Sarah:                           24:51                So the first factor, which accounted for the highest level of variance, so just over 18% of the variance with this one … This was about their effectiveness as a manager, and there were eight characteristics that were grouped underneath this. This was the mentor’s listening skills, so unsurprising that would come right up there. Commitment to the program, so again, it’s a really important part, isn’t it? They’re committed to … their energy, their time, all those sorts of things.

David:                           25:21                That’s quite important, actually. I had a mentor once who had a wealth of experience, but really didn’t want to be doing what he was doing, and the whole thing folded very quickly, because I got the sense that this person, (a) wasn’t invested in me, wasn’t invested in the program, and didn’t really care. What they wanted to do was get on with their own work. And I think that’s quite a large issue, which comes under this factor of the mentor’s effectiveness as a manager. Just wanting to be part of the program.

Sarah:                           25:54                Yes, and in fact one of their other ones is motivation to be a management mentor, and I think that … It makes a big difference, almost feeling like you are personally sponsored by this person, that they’re really committed to you, the program, the approach. It matters enormously. I think it’s not surprising that came up as one of the most significant factors in terms of accounting for effectiveness.

Sarah:                           26:20                Leadership capability. Strategic outlook.

David:                           26:24                Now, I think that’s quite important, that kind of strategic outlook, ’cause you can get management mentors who are very tactical, but don’t have much strategic awareness of how it fits in the bigger picture, how it … not just from an organizational point of view, but from a more global, being a good manager point of view, because we’re talking about manager mentoring here.

Sarah:                           26:44                Yeah. Commitment to the organization. Self-efficacy.

David:                           26:52                And that’s this confidence in your own abilities to be able to solve problems and deal with stuff that’s uncertain. That kind of level.

Sarah:                           27:02                Yes, and learning orientation, which is a nice one to have in there as well at the end. So it’s interesting to see that [crosstalk 00:27:09] came out.

David:                           27:09                Yes. The management mentor themselves has a learning orientation.

Sarah:                           27:11                Not just … This isn’t about the mentee, this is … They were looking at mentor, yeah.

David:                           27:16                The amount of papers that I look at where learning orientation is a key factor in all sorts of effectiveness and performance-related things, and it’s … In fact, I was looking at some stuff to do with Industry 4.0 and Industry 5.0, so we’re moving into … 5.0, we’re moving into humans working alongside and collaborating with robots, rather … ‘Cause at the moment, in order to work with a robot, the robot’s got to be licensed to work with a human being. I don’t know … Did you not know that?

Sarah:                           27:53                No.

David:                           27:53                No, I didn’t realize that.

Sarah:                           27:54                How do they award the license, [crosstalk 00:27:56]?

David:                           27:56                Yeah. So it’s based on safety, but … Most robots in most companies, like large companies, car manufacturing things, what you’ll find is, the robots are in cages, so that the humans can’t get in the way and end up being welded or something by the robot. So in order to work in close proximity with a human, they’ve got to be specially licensed to show that the human can’t do something daft and end up having their head cut off or something like that. What they’ve discovered is that operating in Industry 4.0 and 5.0, and 6.0’s coming along, which is a slightly different thing … that one of the key indicators of people who will be able to work in these new work spaces to do with AI, robotics and things, is a learning orientation. And that’s coming out of a lot of the research.

Sarah:                           28:57                Yes. Which makes sense, doesn’t it? It comes out the research around what students want from their teachers, from their … It’s, yeah, so much about I guess learning from others, this idea that it’s not … that you reach a point where you’re fixed, that it’s openness. I guess openness to experience would be a …

David:                           29:20                Yes, that’s part of that.

Sarah:                           29:23                Yeah, would be a … That’s a massive part of it, I think.

David:                           29:24                We might do a special thing on learning orientation. Okay, so the second factor, which was explained about just over 11% of the variance of effective management mentor … centers around the working experience of the mentor, and their capability to be able to communicate this experience with the mentee. Now, those characteristics are things like teaching skills and helping the mentee to acquire knowledge and skills, so this kind of teaching and facilitation skills I suppose. Communication skills, which …

Sarah:                           29:56                Yes, ’cause it’s one thing having all of those things we’ve just talked about a moment ago, but if you can’t communicate, share and facilitate a process by which those can be incorporated into the relationship, then it’s no use, is it?

David:                           30:08                Yes, absolutely.

Sarah:                           30:09                It’s an enabler, isn’t it? The teaching skills. Yeah.

David:                           30:13                Yeah. And part of the teaching skills is going to be communication skills, which is why they’re part of the same factor, I’m assuming. And then the other two are work experience and then proactivity of the mentor. We’ve been talking about proactivity of the mentee, but proactivity of the mentor, that they’re actually actively engaged in this process.

Sarah:                           30:33                Yes, yeah.

David:                           30:36                And the third?

Sarah:                           30:36                And the third one then, so this one was the mentor’s ability to influence and sponsor the mentee, so this was providing access to high level information. So using their professional networks to help the mentee as well. Political skills. Then powering the organization, and sponsorship capability.

David:                           31:01                Yes, so the powering the organization’s quite an interesting one. That characteristic was around identifying and using power in the organization as a manager, because they’re mentoring another manager, but being able to identify it. So whilst it says powering the organization, it’s I suppose more of power in the organization.

Sarah:                           31:26                Okay.

David:                           31:27                If that makes sense.

Sarah:                           31:27                Okay. Yes, it does. So sort of seeing it, knowing it, almost having a map of where power sits in the organization, and then being able to access that. Is that a-

David:                           31:36                Yeah, and influence it.

Sarah:                           31:37                Influence it, yeah.

David:                           31:38                And a lot of those are political skills.

Sarah:                           31:40                Yes, I was going to say, they kind of … Yes, you can see the relationship between all of those, aren’t there, yeah.

David:                           31:47                Just behind factor was factor four, which accounted for about eight percent of the variance of mentors’ effectiveness, and this is about the mentor’s orientation towards the mentee themselves, and their ability to be a role model as a manager.

Sarah:                           32:03                Okay. Yes.

David:                           32:04                The characteristics there are altruism, or the desire to help, accessibility, that they’re available and they make themselves accessible to the mentee. Clearly their ability to be a role model in the kinds of things that you would want from a good manager. And these characteristics are important in terms of recruiting good mentors. And then the last two in this factor are concern with the career of the mentee, and then their own organizational credibility, that they’re not just somebody who’s going to … Nobody listens to, or they’ve got no credibility and stuff.

Sarah:                           32:46                Yeah. Okay, lots of these you could see how they’re interconnected, aren’t they?

David:                           32:49                Yes.

Sarah:                           32:52                And then factor five is the management mentor’s empathy and emotional intelligence. This was found to be highly valued by the mentees. And the specific characteristics that they grouped under that kind of area were emotional intelligence, empathy and coaching skills.

David:                           33:10                Yeah, which we’ve been … we were highlighting earlier on.

Sarah:                           33:12                Yes, that … A good mentor does coach. It’s interesting, isn’t it? It always brings a little smile to my face when I see … Emotional intelligence, it’s just there as one bullet point, and sort of small, as if it’s like, “Oh yeah, just emotional intelligence.” It’s like, [inaudible 00:33:28] so much in that.

David:                           33:28                I know.

Sarah:                           33:28                That you just think …

David:                           33:30                As a characteristic, it’s huge, but when you have to go [inaudible 00:33:30].

Sarah:                           33:30                It’s often used like that in the literature, isn’t it? There’s just like a little throwaway bit of, “Oh yes of course, and they need emotional intelligence,” as if that’s one thing, and you can just pick it up off a shelf. But there we go.

David:                           33:44                I wish.

Sarah:                           33:45                Yeah.

David:                           33:46                And the sixth factor was based around the mentor’s experience and history as a mentor, so what they’ve found was that people who’ve got more experience as a mentor, the quality of their own previous mentoring, themselves being mentored …

Sarah:                           33:59                [crosstalk 00:33:59] with that, yeah.

David:                           34:00                And then a concern with providing a quality mentoring experience. When they looked at those factors, actually that last one was more important than the other two, this concern with providing the quality. Because what they found was, mentors who are concerned with, “I want to do a good job here for this person,” tended to be able to override a lack of experience anyway.

Sarah:                           34:24                Yes, yes. It’s interesting, ’cause in some ways if you were to then thematically group some of these, you can really see how going across … I know they’ve done a factorial analysis in terms of impact on the effectiveness, so to what degree do those influence the variance around effectiveness. But if you were to thematically group some of these, there’s definitely an interesting strand here, isn’t there, around motivation, which sort of picks up on things like the concern with providing the experience, that they’re available, and you could almost cluster these in a different way, that would [crosstalk 00:34:56] on this-

David:                           34:58                This is why I think this is so useful, particularly to people who are having to manage … so development within organizations, learning and development things or HR, but also people who are trying to recruit mentors. But also the mentors themselves. This is a good aide memoire for their own development.

Sarah:                           35:14                Yeah, it’s really helpful, because this is basically saying, “These are the things that make a difference.”
David:                           35:17                Make a difference.
Sarah:                           35:19                “And now let’s look at what’s the most useful way we could thematically group these, that mean you can really usefully think about how do I need to focus my skills development, where am I strong, where am I not so strong, those sorts of things, what do I need to be focusing on as a mentor?”

Sarah:                           35:34                And then the last factor then that the researchers discovered, so it was a combination of two main different characteristics. This accounted for seven percent of the explained variance of effectiveness, but it was the least valued by the mentees, but it did show up as having a small impact. The first one was age, and it was about being older than the mentee … appeared to be effective. And the second one was other demographic characteristics, so things like gender, socioeconomic background, race, education, those sorts of things. However, it was a very weak finding. And the finding was that it was similarity that people seemed to prefer.

David:                           36:14                Yeah, people kind of like people that are similar, or at the place where they’re aspiring to, was another thing.

Sarah:                           36:22                Yes. Was that another factor as well?

David:                           36:22                Yeah. Together, all of these factors accounted for just short of 70% of the total variance of an effective inter-organizational management mentor, which is quite high actually, when you look at a factorial analysis. It’s quite high. So what that’s saying is that there’s another 30% that they don’t know, or they haven’t found yet, that explains what an effective inter-organizational management mentor … what those characteristics are going to be. And members can get hold of the research briefing. They just go into the membership area, and do a search for “characteristics of effective inter-organizational management mentor”, and you’ll get the full research briefing.

David:                           37:12                Brilliant.
Sarah:                           37:13                [crosstalk 00:37:13].


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David Wilkinson

David Wilkinson is the Editor-in-Chief of the Oxford Review. He is also acknowledged to be one of the world's leading experts in dealing with ambiguity and uncertainty and developing emotional resilience. David teaches and conducts research at a number of universities including the University of Oxford, Medical Sciences Division, Cardiff University, Oxford Brookes University School of Business and many more. He has worked with many organisations as a consultant and executive coach including Schroders, where he coaches and runs their leadership and management programmes, Royal Mail, Aimia, Hyundai, The RAF, The Pentagon, the governments of the UK, US, Saudi, Oman and the Yemen for example. In 2010 he developed the world's first and only model and programme for developing emotional resilience across entire populations and organisations which has since become known as the Fear to Flow model which is the subject of his next book. In 2012 he drove a 1973 VW across six countries in Southern Africa whilst collecting money for charity and conducting on the ground charity work including developing emotional literature in children and orphans in Africa and a number of other activities. He is the author of The Ambiguity Advanatage: What great leaders are great at, published by Palgrave Macmillian. See more: About: About David Wikipedia: David's Wikipedia Page