The science behind great mentoring

By Jan Murray
Great mentoring tools and training

Last updated

Great mentoring tools and training

Parents help make us who we are, don’t they?

You can probably recall some parental words of encouragement in your life that helped make you who you are.

Rather like parenting, a successful mentorship connection can profoundly transform the lives of both the mentor and the mentee. In order for mentors to provide the proper support to their mentees they need to have the mentoring tools and training to do this. Our mentoring platform is crafted specifically for this purpose.

Below are three lessons rooted in scientific research which help to foster robust and impactful mentor-mentee bonds using techniques that are also common to good parenting skills. Briefly, this blog will cover:

Lesson 1: Supporting mentees

The first lesson draws from the dynamics of parent-child relationships, emphasising the impact of a supportive mentorship on reducing workplace stress. Highlighting the significance of authoritative guidance and providing a secure base, it underscores the mentor's role in fostering a nurturing environment that encourages growth and resilience in the face of challenges.

Lesson 2: Encouraging success through self-confidence

In the second lesson, the focus is on the importance of mentors expressing confidence in their mentees' abilities and potential. Mentors must open communication set clear, achievable goals, and actively convey their belief in the mentees' success. This in turn, enhances the mentees' self-confidence and motivation.

Lesson 3: Seeing failures as opportunities

The final lesson addresses the necessity of embracing failure as a part of growth. Mentees need to cultivate a growth mind-set among, where setbacks are seen as opportunities for learning and development. By normalising failure and encouraging risk-taking, mentors can help mentees navigate their careers with resilience and adaptability.

Lesson Number 1: Insights from Parent-Child Dynamics

The work environment frequently carries stress, but a supportive mentorship can alleviate this burden. A study in 2018 highlighted "exceptionally high levels of anxiety and depression" among postgraduate students. However, the researchers discovered a clear link: robust, encouraging, and positive connections between postgraduates and their mentors were significantly associated with lower levels of anxiety and depression. This principle is not limited to the academic sphere but is equally relevant in professional settings.

Geoff MacDonald, a professor at the University of Toronto in Canada, suggests that studies on attachment and parent-child dynamics provide valuable insights into how mentors can develop relationships that mitigate rather than exacerbate stress. His findings highlight three interconnected yet unique strategies:

Authoritative Guidance

This method is characterised by a blend of firmness and support, mirroring successful dynamics in parent-child interactions. Mentors adopting this style remain actively involved and uphold high expectations, simultaneously offering steady support and motivation. By establishing goals that are ambitious yet attainable, mentors communicate their belief in the mentees' capabilities. Exceptional mentors enhance this by offering the essential advice and backing to ensure their mentees achieve success.

Creating a Refuge during Stressful Periods

Mentees frequently require a reliable figure to approach during difficult times. As such, mentors need to reflect on their role as a secure base for their mentees. Is there a comfort level for mentees to reach out to you when faced with difficulties or hurdles? Are you an attentive listener offering the necessary support?

Encouraging a Stable Foundation for Growth

Research underlines the importance of establishing a stable foundation that encourages mentees to explore, take risks, and engage in discovery — key aspects of a productive mentorship and career progression. Mentors should show genuine interest in the aspirations of their mentees, motivating them to embrace challenges and venture into new territories, while also offering insights on navigating through difficulties. Similar to the principles of effective parenting, it's crucial for mentors to support and nurture the mentees' independence at the appropriate moments, avoiding over control or reluctance to allow them autonomy.

How this works in practice, a case study

The case study from Innovate Communities' Inspire Mentoring programme highlights a unique approach to mentorship, focusing on connecting marginalised young people from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds with professional mentors. This initiative was born out of the recognition of a lack of support and access to professional networks for young people in areas like Ballymun and Finglas. By launching a pilot programme with 35 mentors and mentees, Innovate Communities aimed to address the issues of social mobility and social capital, striving to equalise opportunities for talented young individuals.

Why did you choose to work with PLD?
After a lot of research we felt they offered the best value for money and after meeting with them we were impressed with the approach to working with us.
Innovate Communities - Inspire Mentoring

The programme's objectives align closely with the mentorship principles discussed in the lessons within this article. It embodies the nurturing and supportive role of mentors, akin to the positive parent-child relationship dynamics, by providing a digital platform and structure for effective mentoring. Mentors express belief in their mentees' potential through personalised support and goal setting, fostering an environment where mentees feel valued and motivated. Furthermore, by encouraging mentees to select mentors based on their specific needs and ensuring both parties receive adequate training and support, the programme promotes a growth mind-set, viewing challenges as opportunities for development.

The success of the Inspire Mentoring programme is evident in the thriving relationships formed between mentors and mentees, the achievement of set goals, and the use of digital tools to facilitate these connections. This case study exemplifies how the principles of effective mentorship can be applied in real-world settings to foster enriching mentor-mentee relationships, ultimately contributing to the personal and professional growth of young individuals facing socio-economic challenges.

Lesson Number 2: Express Confidence in the Mentees' Skills and Possibilities

Mentees observe their mentors closely - not just in search of role models but also to gauge their mentors' perceptions of them and their peers.

Mentors should think hard about the types of values and beliefs they communicate to mentees, both verbally and non-verbally. To make their beliefs explicit, mentors should share them openly - particularly if it is the belief that everyone has the potential for success. It could also mean planning out mentee goals, explaining what they need to do to get there, and providing these guidelines and support early on in the relationship. Throughout this process, it will help if the mentor expresses confidence that their mentee has the potential to achieve these high standards.

Lesson Number 3: Guide Mentees to View Failure as an Opportunity for Development

Failure is an inevitable aspect of the journey for experienced professionals. Yet, mentors can sometimes overlook how daunting this experience can be for newcomers in the field, many of whom have consistently excelled throughout their educational careers. Compounding this issue is the modern ease of accessing success narratives through social media, where individuals frequently share their achievements, awards, and career advancements. This visibility can obscure the reality of the challenges and setbacks that are often part of professional growth. Therefore, it's essential for mentors to emphasise to their mentees that receiving constructive criticism and experiencing setbacks are not only typical but crucial elements of personal and professional development.

One approach to achieve this is by fostering a growth mind-set in your mentees. Commend dedication, perseverance, and progress, and appreciate aspects that mentees can influence, rather than results that are largely dependent on external factors and luck. By emphasising development and the inherent occurrence of setbacks, we can demystify the path of career advancement, making it appear much less intimidating. Discussing failure is also crucial for learning from our errors and evolving.

Navigating the complexities of mentorship offers no straightforward solutions or set recipes. Every approach demands ongoing adaptation and customised feedback to meet the unique requirements and experiences of each mentee. However, the effort is highly rewarding. Assisting mentees in their growth not only propels them forward but also brings significant satisfaction to the mentor.

Find out if mentoring software is right for your company.

Take Our 3 Minute Quiz

It might be the best 3 minute investment you'll make all year!

And, if you already know mentoring software is right for you, then   Book a Demo

cartoon person pointing left at the text