Learning From Mentoring In Business

by Lynne Nolan

Douglas Aircraft Company is one of many companies that have active mentoring programs. The program at Douglas Aircraft is noteworthy due to the commitment by management to be involved in the mentoring process. According to the article, "Mentoring: A Practitioner's Guide", Douglas cites three advantages to the mentoring concept: first, it improves the pool of talent for jobs at all levels, second, it is an effective vehicle for sharing knowledge and third, it is seen as a valuable source of objective feedback. In order to best use mentoring to bring about these three qualities, the mentoring program has guidelines for the selection of candidates, mentors, and goal-setting.

Here are some of the unique aspects of their program. Only staff recognized as "high performance" individuals are assigned mentors. As many as two proteges can be assigned to a mentor. In order to keep the mentor-protege relationship non-evaluative, the mentor is from a different department. The company invites supervisors to the initial briefing, so that they understand the goals of the mentoring relationship.

The mentor, protege, and supervisor meet together again to discuss the employee's strengths and development interests. Together, these three individuals decide what specific skills are to be targeted. The supervisor's involvement "insures that the boss understands the goals of the process and the roles of the mentor and 'mentee'". After this meeting, it is up to the mentor and the protege to determine the goals for their relationship and the steps to accomplish development.

Though most MLRN members are in education, a look at the business world is worthwhile as this is a fresh perspective on mentoring. It is recognized that mentoring programs must fit the profession. Does business handle mentoring differently or better?

Overall, those involved in the Douglas Aircraft Company program gave it high ratings. Twenty percent of the participants cited time constraints as the greatest barrier to strong mentoring relationships. Some issues seems to exist in all settings.

Article Reference: "Mentoring: A Practitioner's Guide" Training & Development, March, 1995 pp: 51-54.

Lynne Nolan is a Mentor and Science Teacher at Naperville Central High School in Naperville, Illinois.