The Myths of Mentorship

The Myths of Mentorship

The word Mentor, as we have come to understand it, is adopted from Greek mythology and originates from the myth ‘Odyssey’, one of Homers finest works. The story follows the tale of Mentes, a loyal and honorable King, who is bestowed the responsibility of advising and guiding Telemachus, the son of Odysseus. From its roots to its current perception, the term is a symbol of guidance and coaching, the mentors purpose to embody leadership and impart wisdom on a lesser experienced peer. In keeping with its origin, this week’s piece investigates and dispels the most common myths surrounding mentorship, executive coaching programmes and those to whom they pertain.   


  1. That Mentees Choose Their Mentor: Although common for mentees to choose a mentor with whom they are trying to align their career trajectory or goals, the most effective mentorship is symbiotic and should yield just as many benefits to the mentor as it does the mentee. Successful mentorship requires the instant gravitas and strategic alignment of both parties as doing so can transform effective partnerships into effective learning. What historically would have been a given rule of thumb, yet is still applicable to-date is the sentiment that effective mentors adopt and commit to the belief that one is never finished growing and learning, a principle that they strongly apply to themselves. Therefore, it is not uncommon for them to actively seek out individuals to whom they believe their knowledge aligns and ideals best befit. It should be noted that mentors themselves seek to secure the most effective outcomes from mentorship and for this reason both parties must meet at eye-level and work towards common goals and trajectories. Accurate alignment in character, objectives and ideologies are imperative in the accurate alignment of mentor to mentee and vice versa.


  1. That You Only Need One Mentor in Your Career: People, industries, companies and power structures are constantly evolving and changing. If your career is to keep up with external advancement, it is absolutely necessary to stay current, and by doing so, recognise that multiple individuals can guide you at different stages for different purposes. This doesn’t solely pertain to multiple people. Depending on what changes and developments have occurred in both their professional and personal lives, people tend to evolve into different versions of themselves to best fit their current situation and surroundings. This can hugely benefit the quality of a mentors mentorship because of the exposure it lends them to overcoming adversities and celebrating successes. Different mentors have experienced an array of roles, cities, people, insights and difficulties. Many have had to take it upon themselves to reinvent their image, perceptions and standpoints within their industry or organisation when necessary in an effort to staying current. When problems or uncertainties arise, it is sometimes easier to make an informed decision through having a seasoned individual (or a group of advisors in some cases) who have experienced the need to evolve personally and professionally over the course of their career.


  1. That Mentoring Is Only an Opportunity for Mentees to Learn: Mentorship is a meeting of the minds between individuals seeking an opportunity to learn and progress across a myriad of manners in a non-threatening and inclusive style. Both have different experiences but similar objectives and, therefore, the opportunity to create an invaluable partnership. Undertaking mentorship with a view to learning and upskilling, it is necessary for both parties to fully commit to similar objectives and learning outcomes. It is just as important for the mentor to take into consideration the insights and interpretations of the mentee to ensure that there is a collaborative clarity of focus consistent with both parties. The more open and eager both the mentor and mentee, the more beneficial and symbiotic the experience.


  1. That It is the Responsibility of the Mentor to Always Be the Driving Force: Regardless of age, seniority, experience-to-date or legacy, it is the responsibility of the mentee to take it upon themselves to seek out what it is they want to learn and improve on. To fully avail of the impact that having a mentor can have on your career trajectory, open communication and honesty are key. Competent mentees actively engage with their mentors in the pursuing their objectives, expanding their network and embracing whatever change necessary to best fit successful mentorship.


  1. That Mentoring Should Only Be Onboarded During Times of Difficulty: As crucial and valuable as it is to have an experienced professional guide you in times of trouble, mentorship is just as beneficial when business is on the up and up. Success and longevity are contingent with the need to safeguard businesses and their people, irrespective or whether their current performance is wonderful or woeful. Mentors assisting with strategic development, succession planning and business operations can future proof the success of companies seeking to continue growth and professional advancement. Mentorship is a tool best utilized when asking “how can we safeguard our current growth going forward?” as supposed to “how can I save my business?”. Recognising the difference between both questions is a crucial component necessary in dispelling this common myth.


  1. That Mentoring Ends After an Agreed Time: One of the most important principles surrounding successful mentorship is the concept of continued learning. Adopting an ideology without limitations and end dates serves to encourage continued participation and helps to inspire the changemakers of tomorrow. Business landscapes, objectives and industry power structures have the capacity to change at a rapid rate, as do their people. The product of competent and successful mentorship centres on the ideology of ‘paying forward’. The predominant understanding of this surrounds recognising potential opportunities to go forth and mentor others using the tools equipped to you by your mentor. Through investing part of themselves as a means of paying forward, the mentor-mentee relationship seeks to reciprocate the guidance received in the hope of it positively impacting on someone else’s outcome. They say that learning is a never-ending process, therefore effective mentorship has the power to translate into an immeasurable developmental experience.


  1. That the Effects of Mentoring Can’t Be Measured: Upskilling, boosting productivity and tapping into company-wide potential are all quantifiable aspects of mentorship that have the capacity to deliver immense value. It is not uncommon for mentorship to at times be confused with personal or professional coaching, the effects of which being difficult to measure when, in fact, it is the opposite. Financial growth as a direct result of sustainable performance, confident presenting and improved networking tactics are but a few examples of the proven quantifiable deliverables of mentorship programmes.


  1. That Successful Mentorship Can Result in Employees Leaving the Organisation: As Richard Branson famously said, “Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don’t want to”. The same concept most definitely pertains to the culture and experience of mentorship. The process is not about teaching, but about drilling into and extracting underlying talent to assist in people realising the extent of their potential. Undoubtedly, the boost and initial excitement of inclusion, contribution and recognition might provoke an urge for change, however this also serves as an even stronger reason for continued dedication to an employer. After all, it is an undisputable fact that there lies a direct correlation between loyalty, high employee retention and the value of recognition in the workplace.


In conclusion, taking the little time needed to potentially dispel the variety of myths at times associated with mentorship could ultimately lend an invaluable opportunity for growth and learning to both your company and its people. To maximise the future potential of your organisation through immersive and multi-disciplinary coaching, contact Ronan Harbison at [email protected]. Alternatively, call +353 1 4871180/+353 86 805 8624 and find out more about our pool of dedicated industry leaders.


Ronan Harbison is Commercial Director with Mentors and can be contacted at [email protected]

Ronan Harbison

Ronan Harbison

Commercial Director