Over-simplifying in mentoring programmes is a risky business, especially in evaluation, warns guest columnist, Bob Garvey. The ‘realist evaluation’ approach accesses mentoring’s many layers   Within organisations, there are many competing demands on managers – organisations are complex places. But, in complexity, managers, for understandable reasons, tend to try and simplify. It’s probably best summed up by the ‘keep it simple, stupid’ slogan we hear so often in organisations. When an organisation is developing a mentoring programme, it’s tempting to simplify, control, ignore or smooth over social factors. The risks of this approach to a mentoring scheme (an inherently complex […]


How can we maximise the value of peer mentoring? Lis Merrick reports   Mentoring comes in all shapes and sizes these days, but one under-used approach in organisations is peer mentoring, whereas in the education sector, peer mentoring is used widely. In my view, many of the advantages of peer mentoring showcased in education could be transferred elsewhere, particularly with the move to flatter, more agile and less structured organisations. However, peer mentoring is kept mainly as an induction tool and used infrequently within formal mentoring programmes. The main challenge to its popularity within organisations is the lack of kudos […]


To mark the publication of her 50th column for this magazine on mentoring, Lis Merrick explores how mentoring consultancy has developed and how, given its evolution, you can still add value to your ‘expert’ clients   I had a major lightbulb moment when teaching consultancy skills recently. I realised that the theoretical models we were discussing are actually not as relevant in mentoring consultancy as they used to be.   The new client profile Nowadays, clients are generally very well educated about mentoring, working in HR or L&D they may already have a coaching qualification themselves and have experienced mentoring […]


How can we support mentoring relationships involving different national cultures? Lis Merrick reports   With the rise in global mentoring programmes comes issues associated with the norms, beliefs and behaviours of different national cultures and how these can impact mentors and mentees working cross-culturally. In same national culture relationships, there tends to be an expectation of similarity in values and world view. In mentor and mentee matches where cultures are different, there can be fears, biases and stereotypes about other races and ethnicities. The mentor needs to find a way to empathise with and understand their mentee’s personal life situation. […]


Lis Merrick explores how to design a mentoring programme for the front line in the humanitarian sector This is the fastest mentoring intervention I have ever turned around, but one that has given me some of the greatest satisfaction in my mentoring career. So what was the context? International humanitarian advisers (the ‘surge’ team) were sent to Indonesia in response to the earthquakes and tsunamis of 2018. The plan was for them to upskill national team advisers. For the first time, they wanted to pilot mentoring as a swift, focused learning intervention, before leaving a few months later. Some of […]


Lis Merrick explores the mentor’s confidence and how to develop it   Mentors should feel self-assurance and confidence in their role. However, there is also a balance between healthy confidence as a mentor and those mentors who spend most of the mentoring session talking about themselves.   How does low confidence arise? Some mentors feels ill-prepared when they begin formal mentoring. Generally this is because they thought their training was too brief and are new to it or they have had insufficient practice in a safe environment before commencing. Sometimes individuals are chosen for their value set or leadership ability […]


When training internal coaches and mentors, clients regularly ask me: What would you expect to cover in each curriculum? And can you use the same content for both roles? There are overlaps, so you can use the same content for parts of the coach and mentor preparation. However, there are also differences. Similarities In my experience, internal coaches and mentors require similar skills and knowledge: Active listening, questioning and giving feedback skills Processing models to create reflective space Understanding the life cycle of a relationship How to contract safely and ethically How to set focus, direction and, if appropriate, goals. […]


In this column we explore how to design effective mentoring to support intern programmes. Lis Merrick reports The internship market is changing. Entry-level jobs have been turned by some employers into internships with no paid holiday or benefits and are sometimes totally unpaid as well. In some fields, unpaid internships can turn into paid internships. Ambitious, young undergraduates or graduates will vie for those few internships. As a mother of three ‘20-somethings’, I’ve seen how internships work and have helped employers develop relevant mentoring support for their intern programmes. However, internships bring a number of challenges. I’ve witnessed the following […]


There are several reasons why formal mentoring programmes don’t succeed. Lis Merrick explains how you can avoid the common pitfalls Why do mentoring programmes fail? Here are my top nine problems to watch out for when designing and running a programme.   Poor planning Ensure the programme is linked to the organisation’s strategic HR or L&D objectives. Don’t set up a programme just because it’s a ‘good thing to do’. Emergent, organic, informal programmes are always a mess, miss most of the potential benefits and do not create engagement. You must plan carefully to achieve robust formal mentoring. Poor selection […]


A further exploration into some of the darker aspects of mentoring as Lis Merrick considers how dependency and intimacy can evolve in mentoring relationships After covering power and transference in mentoring in the last issue, I felt it appropriate to consider some of the difficulties that can be created by close emotional engagement between mentor and mentee. An effective developmental relationship, with trust, rapport and respect as integral elements, will naturally create an emotional bond in the mentoring pair. It may then become difficult to ‘let go’ at the end of the relationship. If the winding-up phase is not handled […]