Are Managers Mentors?
“Are managers mentors?” is probably one of the most common questions in the corporate workplace today. While a good manager should have mentorship qualities, and the ability to get the most potential productivity from subordinates, are both roles possible for a supervisor? Some executives think it’s not only possible, but necessary. Others believe the two roles must remain completely separate, in order to be truly effective.
Why the Debate
Why the debate over managing and mentoring? According to the American Heritage Dictionary the job of a mentor is “to serve as a trusted counselor or teacher, especially in occupational settings”. Doesn’t a good manager possess these same talents and job skills?
Unfortunately, the answer isn’t so clear cut. Some professionals believe a manager must be separate and apart from the mentoring role. While a mentor is nurturing and encouraging, a manager must maintain the leadership role and make sure the company’s business goals are met, which mean that a new employee is likely to be very uncomfortable learning under the tutelage of the individual ultimately in charge of worker retention. Thus, a mentoring program works best when the mentor and mentee are peers.
Defining the Role of Manager vs. Mentor
For the companies choosing to define the specific roles of manager and mentor, it is a good idea to have a check list of duties and responsibilities. Since both are ultimately interested in the success of the new hire, it’s not difficult to image stepping on each other’s toes and performing certain tasks twice. Conversely, it’s is also possible that certain aspects of the mentoring program will be neglected, assuming the other person is taking care of that particular detail.
As an example, the manager checklist may include such tasks as:
- Assessment of job performance for certification or continued employment
- Maintaining a position of authority and legal obligations to the company and the mentee
- The manager is generally focused on the day-to-day performance and productivity of the new hire
In essence, a manager is more concerned about the outcome of the new employee’s performance, rather than the processes taken to achieve the company goals.
On the other hand, a peer mentor remembers what it’s like to start in a new position and learn the daily operations. While mentoring means helping a new coworker achieve his/her duties as expected by the management, the approach is more personal and caring.
As an example, the mentor checklist may include such tasks as:
- The mentor implements a plan to achieve professional goals, but helps the new hire to self assess and evaluate how to improve his/her performance.
- A good mentor compassionately encourages, coaches, challenges, and teaches, based upon his/her own personal experience and expertise.
- A mentor is generally more concerned with the long-term goal of developing an employee worth retaining, rather than the day-to-day productivity.
In short, the manager and mentorship roles do intersect on occasion, when it comes to training and retaining talented employees. But, each role also maintains very distinct differences in approach and the main goal. Unfortunately, the question still remains: Are managers mentors? Every company must choose the answer for themselves.
Copyright, Cecile Peterkin. All rights reserved.