5 Mentoring Mythbusters

Formal mentoring programs help connect employees to their workplace, but some common myths about mentoring persist.

By Robyn W. Porterfield and Bob Rose, Co-Founders, Rose + Porterfield

Today’s employees are looking for connection to their workplace, learning opportunities, and career guidance. Formal mentoring programs fill that need, but common myths about mentoring persist:

Myth #1: You have to have a plan. Mentorship doesn’t have to be a formal process. Consider having coffee and conversation with your mentee every week. Sharing your experience is the most important thing you can do for your mentee.

Myth #2: You have to know everything. Don’t be afraid to share the biggest mistake you ever made (and how you learned from it). When you demonstrate transparency, your mentee will feel more comfortable opening up and sharing their own experiences.

Myth #3: Age matters. Modern mentors don’t have to be older than you, just able to offer up a fresh perspective and great advice while acting as a sounding board. Reverse mentoring, for example, pairs older executives with younger employees for coaching on topics such as technology and social media. We all can learn from each other.

Myth #4: It takes so much time. In reality, you probably won’t even notice the time you spend in a mentoring relationship, especially if you are flexible on timing. A quick phone call from a mentee seeking advice for an immediate business challenge is as invaluable (perhaps more) as a long in-person chat.

Myth #5: You have to fix all the problems. It’s tempting to keep your mentee from making mistakes, but it’s often more valuable to give advice and let them act, even if it’s not exactly what you would do. Remember, you are there to advise and allow them space to learn by doing.

Edited by Lorri Freifeld
Lorri Freifeld is the editor/publisher of Training magazine, owned by Lakewood Media Group. She writes on a number of topics, including talent management, training technology, and leadership development. She spearheads two awards programs: the Training APEX Awards and Emerging Training Leaders. A writer/editor for the last 30 years, she has held editing positions at a variety of publications and holds a Master’s degree in journalism from New York University.