Internal mentoring programs: too often a missed opportunity

Internal mentoring programs: too often a missed opportunity

10 February 2021
Gerrit Sarens
Gerrit Sarens
  • I know many corporates where they have implemented, or at least tried to implement an internal mentoring program. In essence, it refers to a system where typically higher management is matched to lower management to support them.

    If you dig deeper into these kind of programs' actual effectiveness, it is often quite disappointing.

  • Five reasons why the impact of internal mentoring programs is often low

    1. No clear vision on what they want to achieve with this mentoring program. Typically, they set up a program to have a program without really knowing why.
    2. No clear process and methodology. How does an internal mentoring journey look like? How is mentoring done? Typically, managers start as a mentor without knowing how they should do this.
    3. Miscasting of mentors. Not every manager with a decent track record is, by definition, a good mentor. Having the mentoring mindset is crucial to make it work.
    4. No total commitment of the mentors. It’s imposed on people. Managers take a mentor role because they have to do it, not because they are fully motivated. This makes it another task on the long to-do list. After a couple of obligatory sessions, it dies a silent death.
    5. Confidentiality: An internal mentor remains a colleague, so it is often perceived as not 100% safe to share everything with him/her.
  • I was part of the so-called high potentials program, so I got an internal mentor. I was excited to start the mentoring, but after one session, I was so disappointed. First, the mentor they had given me did not have a lot of time for me, and secondly, during our first session, he only talked about himself and how successful he has been.

    Manager in eerste lijn bij een Belgisch verzekeringsbedrijf
  • Suddenly HR gave me the title of mentor because all C-suite members had to take up this role... but honestly, I had no clue how I could be a good mentor, and that was frustrating.

    Manager op directieniveau in een groot, internationaal bedrijf
  • Five important conditions to make internal mentoring work

    1. Define clearly what you want to achieve with internal mentoring.
    2. Set-up a solid process and methodology (how to do it).
    3. Select the right mentors (who).
    4. Support these mentors in their mentor role (mentor the mentor)
    5. Define the rules of the game to guarantee as much as possible the confidentiality.
  • Ambits has built a lot of experience and knowledge on the success factors of mentoring. We are in a privileged position to help you run an effective internal mentoring program. Do not hesitate to reach out to us.

Struggles of a manager

Managers are

  • new in this role


    • lack self-confidence
    • don’t know how to go from being a colleague to being a boss
    • need to loosen up on the command & control leadership style
    • must let go of the (technical) expert status
    • cannot give or accept constructive feedback
    • feel pressure to perform as manager
    • have difficulty building relationships
    • want to be liked by everyone or want to be the ‘bad boss’
    • play the hero
  • are struggling


    • stay too involved in operations
    • have trouble prioritizing
    • cannot delegate
    • fear conflict situations
    • disconnect from the team
    • deal with flawed strategic thinking
    • do not relate to higher management
    • lack clear communication skills
    • remain not self-aware
    • avoid difficult conversations
    • miss political antennas
    • ...
  • capable of more


    • need mental preparation as successor
    • need to be able to lead big changes ahead
    • need to learn to be emotionally resilient and in control
    • need to learn to make big decisions fast without all the information
    • must become persuasive presenters
    • need to learn how to cultivate their own personal brand
    • need to learn how to lead by example
    • manage by trust, not by fear
    • need to overly develop empathy
    • ...
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