I’ve found that there are there are three types of mentoring programs: 1) formal programs sponsored by companies, 2) partnering with local college or universities to develop programs, and 3) informal programs.
Formal Programs: Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) combined a formal program with their Financial Development Program (FDP). The FDP was a three-year rotational program in which the participants attended weekly training sessions and were required to be enrolled in an MBA program. The participants rotated jobs on an annual basis and were required to submit an independent study project as a requirement for graduating from the program. Throughout their time in the program, the FDP participants were reviewed by their managers, peers, and mentors.
This was a highly competitive program which allowed the participants to have exposure to many finance and accounting roles and processes within DEC. These people also had visibility into executive-level positions at DEC.
Partnering with Local Universities: A company may ask a university professor to develop executive management courses for their organization. And a company executive may work with a local university or college to teach a course. This specific process results in the sharing of both business and academic experiences that can establish the foundation for a rich mentoring program.
Informal Programs: These programs begin with coaching sessions. Coaching can be described as a short-term method of providing immediate feedback to improve performance. We may think of the role a coach plays within a sports team.
Europe's largest HR development professional body, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), provides a guide for coaching effectively. The guide defines the skills necessary for successful coaching and suggests that organizations have a strategy for leadership development in place.
Below is a description of the CIPD’s seven key leadership principles:
There are several subtle differences between managers, coaches, and mentors:
Merriam-Webster defines a coach as “a person who instructs,” and a mentor as "a trusted counselor or guide."
In his article, “Mentors and Mentoring: What is a Mentor”, F. John Reh summarizes, “…a coach is focused and measures performance through an established or formal relationship, such as a supervisor or manager.”
A mentor does not always have to have a current or direct leadership relationship with the protégé.
At Digital participants in the Financial Development Program (FDP) were assigned mentors from within the company, and “graduates” of the program become mentors to future participants.
A good mentor always understands personal boundaries and maintains respect for the protégé. These are also key considerations for all employee management. But a manager is responsible for the performance of an employee, takes part in the defining the job description, and clarifying the roles and responsibilities for the position. A good manager will assist a subordinate individual with career planning but here’s where the mentor will play a more critical role.
In closing, a good way to define the difference is a mentor helps with a strategic plan for a protégé’s career. A coach and manager establish the playbook and tactics for achieving peak performance.