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The University of Southampton
Professional Development

Mentoring handbook

The University’s generic mentoring scheme is under review. This is being led by Dr Helen Carmichael, as Director of Programmes of the Centre for Higher Education Practice (CHEP), and Sarah Marshall, as Head of Leadership and Management Development in HR.

If you would like to be involved in this review, contact h.carmichael@soton.ac.uk or s.l.marshall@soton.ac.uk. In the meantime, we are unable to accept any new registrations. Faculty based schemes continue to operate in Medicine and Health Sciences.

What is mentoring?

Mentoring is a protected relationship which supports learning and experimentation and helps individuals develop their potential.

A mentoring relationship is one where both mentor and mentee recognise the need for personal development. Successful mentoring is based upon trust and confidentiality.

Definitions of mentoring

“Mentoring is for the mentee. Most of all, for the mind of the mentee. I think that Mentoring needs to focus on and develop the mentee’s finest independent thinking about their work, their career, their life, their dreams.The Mentor’s perspective is an important ingredient in this special relationship. But it feeds. It is not the feast” – (Kline 2009)

 “to help and support people to manage their own learning in order to maximise their potential, develop their skills, improve their performance, and become the person they want to be” – (Parsloe 1992)

"off-line help by one person to another in making significant transitions in knowledge, work or thinking” – (Megginson and Clutterbuck 1995)

 “A learning relationship which helps people to take charge of their own development, to release their potential and to achieve results which they value” – (Connor and Pokora 2007)

The different types of mentoring

Mentors may enter a long term mentoring relationship or may be called upon to act as a one-step mentoring advice point for a specific topic. In all roles, the mentor will act as an independent source of career advice and support. Training is available for both mentors and mentees and is strongly advised prior to entering into any form of mentoring relationship.

Long-term formal mentoring
Long term formal mentoring involves a number of meetings with the same mentor over a period of time. As either mentor and mentee you will be participating in a formal University of Southampton mentoring programme and you will both have agreed to a level of commitment to the programme. This gives you both the chance to get to know each other, and therefore the mentor can tailor how they share their experience and give encouragement.

One-stop mentoring advice
If you have a specific need you can select a mentor with experience in that specialist area to meet with once (or more if you wish!)

Informal mentoring
There are currently many informal mentoring relationships within the University. An important advantage of having undertaken mentoring training, even for informal mentoring relationships, is that there will be a shared understanding of the mentoring process for both mentor and mentee.

Benefits of mentoring

The specific benefits of being mentored include:

  • being encouraged and empowered in personal development
  • being helped to identify and achieve career goals
  • being helped to identify and correct gaps in generic skills and knowledge
  • increasing your confidence
  • developing and maintaining a broader perspective on career options and opportunities
  • having access to a senior role model
  • gaining insight into University culture
  • developing mentoring/coaching skills

The Equality Challenge Unit (ECU) commissioned a literature review (Hawkes 2012) and study into Mentoring: progressing women’s careers in higher education (Quinn 2012) and found that mentoring has a number of benefits for mentees, mentors and HEIs alike.

From the study, Quinn identified the following as being generic benefits for mentees:

  • career advancement, including a higher rate of promotion
  • increased opportunities and a likelihood of staying at the institution
  • higher salaries
  • increased productivity and better time management
  • greater success in achieving external research grants
  • personal and professional development, including increased job-related wellbeing, self-esteem and confidence, and better work-life balance
  • preparation for the future and heightened career aspirations
  • developed networking skills

What are the benefits for mentors?
The specific benefits of being a mentor include:

  • recognised involvement in a programme of strategic importance to your Faculty
  • new perspectives and insight into your Faculty
  • potential for networking
  • additional experience in staff management and development
  • opportunity for self reflection, and personal satisfaction
  • funding bodies increasingly value an active mentoring programme and often encourage senior staff to be mentors
  • developing mentoring/coaching skills

Additionally Quinn identified the following as being generic benefits to mentors:

  • career rejuvenation
  • increased confidence
  • personal fulfillment, particularly satisfaction form seeing junior staff progress

What are the benefits for your Faculty and the University?
Increasingly, funding bodies require research staff to have access to an active mentoring programme. We can only offer this if we have enthusiastic mentors on our database. An active and successful mentoring scheme brings benefits to your Faculty and the University by:

  • improving academic performance through staff development
  • improving communication between individuals/groups/units
  • reinforcing your Faculty’s commitment to learning and development
  • creating a breeding ground for fresh ideas and innovations
  • enhancing your Faculty’s reputation through improved career destinations of its research staff
  • demonstrating to funding bodies that we already have an active and successful mentoring programme in place

For more information from RCUK about benefits of mentoring for HEIs please click here

Additionally Quinn identified the following as being generic benefits to HEIs:

  • increased employee productivity, motivation, retention and commitment
  • increased knowledge of, and support for, equality initiatives

What is the role of the mentor?

A mentor is someone who has a genuine interest in overseeing and supporting the career and development of another person outside the normal supervision process.The role of a mentor includes that of guide, support, critical friend, sounding board, devils’ advocate, confidante, information giver, role model. Mentors may help in the following ways by:

  • encouraging and empowering personal development
  • helping identify and correct gaps in generic skills and knowledge
  • increasing confidence
  • developing and maintaining a broader perspective on career options and opportunities
  • defining, and helping to achieve career goals
  • providing additional access to a senior role model
  • providing insight into University culture

Mentors may enter a long term mentoring relationship or may be called upon to act as a one-step mentoring advice point for a specific topic.

What is the role of the mentee?

As the mentee you are responsible for being proactive and you are expected to drive the mentoring relationship forward. This means selecting your mentor from the mentoring database and establishing and maintaining contact with your mentor and setting up meetings. The mentee is expected to set the agenda and for developing objectives for the programme.

Getting the most from a mentoring relationship

To get the most out of being either a mentor of a mentee, you should be prepared to:

  • be open to learning and developing
  • challenge your current views, behaviours, assumptions and ways of working
  • take responsibility for your own career development
  • be realistic about what can be achieved
  • enter into a clear contractual agreement about contact type and length
  • accept your right to hold different opinions to those of your mentoring partner
  • accept your mentoring partner also has this right
  • understand how to take responsibility for addressing any difficulties with the mentoring relationship and how to terminate the relationship gracefully
  • engage in ‘action planning’ and reflection
  • evaluate the usefulness of meetings and provide feedback to your mentoring partner

Ethical guidelines for Mentoring pairs

The mentoring relationship, acting either as a mentor or a mentee, may present you with a number of issues or dilemmas. Often, there are no easy or obvious solutions and there may be no clear-cut sense of ‘right’ or ‘wrong’.

The aim of these simple Ethical Guidelines for Mentoring Pairs (available as a single-page Microsoft Word document) is to highlight a set of behaviours which might impact upon the mentoring relationship or, indeed, when using mentoring/coaching techniques in other situations.

Responsibility

Responsibility lies with both mentor and mentee to be aware that their behaviour has the potential to negatively affect the mentoring relationship.

Confidentiality

The identity of the person being mentored
Confidentiality involves preserving the name of those being mentored unless they have given active assent to disclosing them.

Confidentiality of the mentoring conversation
Both the mentor and the mentee have great responsibility to maintain and respect the confidentiality of all the information imparted during the mentoring relationship as they may hear sensitive and personal information. This applies both within and outside the University of Southampton unless specifically authorised by either the mentor or the mentee. However, if such information is dangerous or illegal, an appropriate approach for the mentor is to encourage the mentee to take appropriate action themselves.

Boundary management & roles

Those working in a mentoring relationship may develop friendships over time. It is important to have a clear mentoring relationship and not allow personal bias to influence professional actions. Stay mindful of maintaining confidentiality, objectivity and equal partnership.

Competence

Mentors need to be conscious of their own levels of mentoring competence and experience and to never overstate them. An appropriate approach for mentors to foster this consciousness might be to engage in reflective practice using a journal or similar approach.

When the mentoring conversation appears to stray away from mentoring (forward-looking, solution focused) towards counselling (typically talk is firmly rooted in problems in the past), an appropriate approach might be to suggest that further conversation of that particular topic might be better with those competent to assist (eg University of Southampton Counselling Services).

Contracting

Examples of clear contracting should include clarity over length and frequency of sessions; agreement on whether it is permissible or not to make email/telephone/text contact concerning mentoring issues between mentoring sessions; responsibility for finding a suitable location for the mentoring session etc

Dealing with self-distractions

Mentors need to recognise that bias, preconceived ideas, initial impressions, opinions and stereotypes can all influence the ability to pay full attention and be present and focused on those being mentored. If it is not possible to achieve this level of self-management, an appropriate approach might be for the mentor to either absent themselves temporarily or suggest that the mentee work with someone else. If mentors feel they need to ‘advise’ to give value to the mentee, they may need to step back to examine the relationship with those being mentored and their own understanding of mentoring.

Disclaimer: These guidelines are made available for your reference only as to the type of dilemmas and/or issues you may come across whilst engaging in a mentoring relationship. It does not constitute legal advice.

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