Who Mentors the Mentor?

Here is an excerpt from my upcoming book ‘Designing your mentoring programme: Getting it right the first time’ to be published in early 2019, about the support your mentors need……….

A classic question which seems to remain unanswered in much of the literature is “Who mentors the mentor?” There is such a focus on supporting the mentee, when does the mentor have a chance to be a mentee as well? You will have realised from reading this book that the mentor role is extensive, sometimes complex, and can involve a wide range of tasks, activities, responsibilities and commitment. So, it is important that you organise support for your mentors as much as you ensure support is provided for your mentees.

Often what can happen is the organisation supports and sponsors the mentoring programme initiative and accordingly provides the resourcing to enable mentoring to occur, such as time release for the mentors and mentees, establishing and funding a programme coordinator position, and providing adequate spaces for the mentoring partnerships to meet. Which is all good but sometimes what is not factored into the resourcing of the mentoring programme is a support mechanism for the mentors.

Who Mentors the Mentor?
There are several ways in which you can support your mentors; here are some suggested strategies. Decide which is the most viable option for your programme – there could be more than one:

1) Establish a mentors’ community of practice that meets regularly and provides a place for people to share good practice, share experiences, discuss issues or concerns, exchange resources and learn from each other (this is an equally useful strategy for supporting your mentees too, i.e., establishing a mentees’ community of learning).

2) Regular meetings are scheduled throughout the year for the mentor to meet with the mentoring programme coordinator.

3) Peer mentoring partnerships between mentors are established within your mentoring programme.

4) External mentoring support is organised for your mentors. This will usually require additional funding.

5) External mentoring support is provided by a colleague within the mentor’s own professional network. This relationship may also be set this up as a peer mentoring partnership for mutual support and benefit.

Whichever support mechanism you decide will work, it is important for your mentors to ask themselves “What would I use a mentor for to support me?

When I think of what mentoring support means for me as a mentor, I come up with the following ideas:

  • Someone to listen to me without interrupting
  • Acknowledgement that I am an effective mentor plus identifying any areas for development
  • Plenty of encouraging language and comments
  • Getting advice when I want it. Sometimes I actually want my mentor to share their ideas and experiences so that I have some more options to consider regarding how I could manage a mentoring situation – What would they do in this situation? What do they think of the situation I am describing?
  • Being given some suggestions and options for managing a challenging situation in my mentoring practice if it should arise
  • My mentor sharing their mentoring experiences, challenges and successes and talking through what they have done as a mentor to manage the mentoring relationship
  • Someone who doesn’t immediately try and solve my problem for me but first of all just listens and prompts me to consider options

What support would your mentors appreciate and benefit from? Have you asked them?