Dr Julie Nyanjom on How to Develop Effective Mentoring Programs

Dr Julie Nyanjom

Dr Julie Nyanjom, senior lecturer in the School of Business and Law at Edith Cowan University, advises organisations on how to develop effective mentoring programs.

Leadership and mentoring are different skills requiring different mindsets. In leadership, there’s a formal hierarchical difference and a focus on strategic outcomes. In contrast, mentorship is more casual and personal, focusing on the mentee’s growth and development. Everyone who wants a mentor should get one. A person shouldn’t feel they don’t need a mentor because they’re 60.

Mentoring is bidirectional. It’s not a tap that opens and all this knowledge flows into the mentee. I am a better leader because of interactions with my mentees – better at listening and giving constructive feedback. I’ve gained new perspectives from our discussions.

You have to be ready to be vulnerable, whether you’re the mentor or the mentee. My colleagues and I did a project where the objective was to expose an organisation’s C-suite to issues of inclusion. The executive members were paired with minoritised identities: black, single parents, from the LGBTQ community, people living with disabilities. They could ask the right – or wrong – questions before crafting inclusion policies. It’s confronting for some; there are power differentials. But we found that each one of the pair was trying to make the other comfortable to enable a learning environment.

There needs to be a lot of thought go into the matching. Our research indicates that informal mentoring programs are usually of much higher quality than formal because of the rapport. When there’s no chemistry, there’s little learning. But most organisations just pair a senior with someone young.

There’s usually work to be done before an organisation’s ready for a mentoring program. Senior members tend to gravitate to people like them so people are left out. And the organisation needs to be careful its focus doesn’t shift away too much from the two people to policies, procedures and milestones. There are pairs who take longer to bond. It’s a relationship; you can’t force it.

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Image credir: Stef King

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