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How do you choose a mentor?


Alan Gorringe, Regional Coaching Head at RightCoutts puts forward some handy do's and don'ts for selecting and developing mentors within organisations.

Before choosing a mentor, there are several issues you and your organisation should consider to ensure that mentoring is the appropriate solution to your needs:

  • Mentoring cannot be implemented in isolation - your organisation’s culture must support it. For example, if there is an inherent blame culture, introducing a mentor may be viewed as an initiative to sabotage. The organisation must proactively address the blame culture first, if introducing mentoring;

  • Assure yourself that your objectives can best be met through mentoring. For example, if you find you are working slowly in comparison to your colleagues, double check that an improvement in IT skills isn’t at the root of the problem. If it is, obviously a computer training course is more appropriate than a mentor;

  • Make sure you are able to see what needs and demands your organisation will have of you in the future. If your company is going through a rapid period of change, there is little value in using a mentor to improve your performance in your current role, when a focus on the new role would be more beneficial;

  • Is there real ‘buy-in’ from the top down in the organisation? This is crucial to ensure that your line managers recognise the value of mentoring and afford you the time and budget.

  • If you decide mentoring is the appropriate solution, outlined below are the 'dos and don'ts' of choosing a mentor:


  • Decide whether you want to use an internal mentor (somebody within your organisation who you admire and aspire to, who can spend time with you to support your development) or want to employ an external mentor;

  • Do find out what choice of mentors is available to you (whether internal or external). You may want to find somebody who is a similar or different age or ethnic background to you, for example;

  • Do be clear about your objectives (e.g. to improve your leadership skills) and make sure your mentor understands what you want to achieve. Ensure that your mentor will work with you to establish a method of evaluation so that outcomes can be measured at the end of the intervention. This could include using a 360 degree assessment before and after the mentoring;

  • If you are proposing to use an external mentor, do check that s/he is prepared to spend time getting to know your organisation and its business aims and culture. Mentoring should help you to achieve your personal development needs and the organisation’s objectives – a clear understanding of your company will enable the mentor to ensure that the interventions will achieve both these objectives;

  • Do ask about the qualifications and experience of the mentor. The coaching and mentoring industry is growing fast, however it is unregulated. There are recognised qualifications that are useful for mentors to have e.g. counselling accreditation awarded by the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy ( Ensure that your mentor also has relevant business experience, as well as academic and counselling skills and qualifications, e.g. international experience, experience of working in a particular industry sector;

  • Do ensure that the confidentiality of your mentoring sessions will be respected. If using an external mentor, try to keep the person responsible for managing the relationship between the provider and your company separate from the person doing the mentoring with you;

  • Do ascertain how your mentor will be supervised. If your mentor is external, check there is somebody responsible for his or her ongoing development and quality control. The mentoring consultancy should have a project manager in place, that your mentor and you can both use to help identify and resolve any problems as they occur.

  • Don't

  • Don't agree to work with a mentor without meeting them first - you need to have a clear idea of their approach, and check that you feel comfortable working with them. Don't take the first mentor you meet if it doesn't feel right;

  • Don't go for the cheapest mentor, or the person you located most easily. There are a lot of mentors around – do your research to find the one that will suit you best. The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development is a good starting point;

  • Don't believe they will fix the problem for you – your mentor is a facilitator and a support for you – they should not tell you what to do;

  • Don't go for somebody with a rigid approach. Ensure they will tailor the mentoring sessions to your needs, and have a strong portfolio of models, techniques and learning styles that is right for you (e.g. psychometrics, 360 degree instruments, measures of organisational cultures).

  • Alan Gorringe leads the provision of coaching and mentoring for RightCoutts in the North of England and has worked with a range of public sector organisations, including the NHS and higher education sector, as well as private sector companies.


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