Quality professionals face tough obstacles and unique challenges. They often need special leadership attention but don’t always receive it. That is where mentoring can make a difference.

Mentoring is a leadership tool that helps develop an organization’s managerial talent through interaction between a mentor and a mentee (or protégé). When mentoring, formally or informally, a manager with experience, expertise and wisdom teaches, counsels and helps a less experienced or less knowledgeable person to develop professionally and personally.

Mentors ensure younger or less experienced managers are competent and committed to organizational goals. Mentors also have a vocational and psychological impact on the mentee.

Vocational benefits include:

  • Sponsorship. A mentor, who can work best when the mentee is not in a subordinate relationship, supports the mentee with his personal reputation.

  • Exposure. Ensure the mentee’s talents are showcased and developed.

  • Protection. Shield the mentee from political pitfalls.

  • Challenges. Assign the mentee to projects or opportunities that will stretch and develop the mentee.

    Some of the psychological benefits include:

  • Role modeling. Set an example of how to behave within the organization.

  • Confirmation. A mentor can be a risk-free sounding board for the mentee.

  • Counseling. Advise the mentee on what to do and what not to do. This helps the current performance but prepares the mentee for future assignments of greater responsibility.

  • Friendship. Provide friendship, which makes the mentee feel more like a peer and assists the mentee to get socialized into the organization.

    However, mentoring affects more than just the mentee. It also impacts the organization. Studies suggest that effective mentoring can:

  • Improve individual and organizational performance.

  • Result in higher employee retention.

  • Achieve higher promotion rates.

  • Identify people with high potential more easily and earlier.

  • Maintain greater organizational loyalty.

    There are many mentoring techniques, but here are six that can positively influence the implementation of a mentoring program:

  • Legitimacy. Having a well-respected mentor in a relationship with an inexperienced quality professional lends credibility to the mentee.

  • Relevance. When a mentor sponsors a quality professional, he is showing that quality initiatives are valuable to the organization.

  • Protection. Quality initiatives typically require time before they can deliver significant results. Not all operational managers are patient and supportive with short-term results. Mentors can use their positional power to protect the mentee and quality initiatives from premature elimination.

  • Networking. Most initiatives come at a cost. Because a mentor tends to be well-connected within an organization, his network can become a resource for the mentee.

  • Soft skill development. Many quality professionals are well-trained in their technical field. However, successful quality professionals can simplify and communicate the numerical benefits of quality initiatives to others. Mentors can teach their mentees the importance of skills not well defined in textbooks, such as persuasion, reflective listening and consensus building.

  • Transference. Mentoring is a great way to leave a legacy. Mentors pass on knowledge and experience which is a win-win for the mentee and the organization.

    Continuous improvement is enhanced through the technical and the human side of quality. An excellent way to accomplish this improvement and ensure longer-term growth is through seasoned mentors who are willing to make a commitment in a caring way, which involves taking part in the learning process side-by-side with the mentee.