Internal versus external mentoring: go for the best of both

Internal versus external mentoring: go for the best of both

04 November 2020
Gerrit Sarens
Gerrit Sarens
  • In today’s fast-changing world, it is critical to learn from the wisdom and mistakes of others as we grow. Mentoring is ranked among the top 5 most-valued approaches to career development, but finding the right mentor isn’t easy.

    We recommend developing a portfolio of internal and external mentors that will allow you to take advantage of all the benefits both types have to offer as you grow.

    It is important to consider your situation and needs and compare those with the benefits and drawbacks of each type of mentorship.

    Internal Mentoring

    Advantages

    Drawbacks

    • Effective when you are new to a company (part of the onboarding)
    • Ideal to explore a move to a new in-house function
    • An internal mentor can evolve into a sponsor who can open doors for your career
    • A powerful part of a company’s growth strategy
    • Internal mentors can bring a strong cultural connection
    • Limited time commitment by the internal mentor (on top of the normal job)
    • Impediment to be fully open and honest due to concerns about how you might be perceived and how the internal mentor will handle the info you share
    • Challenging for internal mentors to separate their fidelity to your company and you as a mentee
    • If your internal mentor leaves, you could be left empty-handed
    • The reputation of your internal mentor may negatively impact yours (and the other way around)
    • Not sustainable if the mentor role is imposed or forced

    External Mentoring

    Advantages

    Drawbacks

    • Objective sounding board not influenced by the corporate culture and political fray
    • Refreshing different perspective
    • The mentee is more transparent and open to reveal vulnerabilities and skills gaps
    • Freedom for the mentee to speak without being judged (safe environment)
    • Reduces feelings of isolation
    • Clear time commitment by the mentor
    • Door to a new network outside your organization.
    • Unbudgeted cost if not a structural part of the learning & development program
    • An external mentor is unfamiliar with organizational culture and processes


    Take away

    Combining the benefits of both an internal and external mentor pays off for the mentor, the mentee, and the business.

    • 87% of mentors and mentees feel empowered by their mentoring relationships and have developed greater confidence (Moving Ahead, 2017)
    • 67% of businesses reported an increase in productivity due to mentoring (Mentorsme, 2020)
    • 55% of businesses felt that mentoring had a positive impact on their profits (Mentorsme, 2020)

Struggles of a manager

Managers are

  • new in this role

    and

    • 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

    and

    • 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

    and

    • 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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