Mentor: the word is thrown around a lot in the working world. We'll often refer to higher-ups in the organization as mentors, even if we've only had a couple conversations with them. Or, a company will half-heartedly implement a mentorship program, matching mentors and protégé based on superficial characteristics.

While studies have shown the importance of having a mentor, it seems like we just can't crack the code to having a successful, thriving mentor relationship.

So, I decided to sit down with Mike Bergelson of Everwise, a company that is revolutionizing mentor relationships. Everwise offers a robust matching system, so you're guaranteed to be matched with a mentor who not only has the experience and ability to help you, but is also truly committed to helping you succeed. Everwise helps take the guesswork and chance out of finding a great mentor-protégé fit.

So, what are some mentor-mentee best practices? What makes a good or bad mentor? How is a mentor really going to boost your career success? Mike Bergelson tells all, so read on.

What in your mind is the difference between a mentor and a coach?

The distinction will blur over time. One big difference is that a coach is paid and a mentor is not, but they both work towards similar goals. Mentors often always have a specific domain of experience that will be specific to the learner, while coaches typically rely on a coaching process. At Everwise, our ambition is to blur the line--all managers should be great coaches in their day-to-day work. We want to turn mentors into great coaches and teach them to use those coaching frameworks to better help their protégé.

Why do you think mentoring is a great tool for success?

People learn best from people, especially when it comes to soft skills like people management, personal branding, and managing up. While some skills can be transferred in on-line training, it is very difficult for someone to be talked at by a computer and have them walk away with soft skills.

A much more powerful framework for learning appears when you are able to turn to someone in the moment, coach them through the problem and help them come to an answer. This is much more consistent with the Model for Learning and Development that says of the time we dedicate to learning, 10 percent should be self-directed; 20 percent should be guided learning with a coach, mentor, or peer group; and 70 percent should be learning by doing. Mentoring focuses on that 20 percent and 70 percent. It's all about helping people by pushing them out of their comfort zone.

What are the indicators of a great mentor relationship?

The first indicator is engagement from the protégé. One thing I really want to mention is that the learner should drive the relationship. If the protégé is engaged and driven towards his or her mentor, then it is going to be a successful relationship.

Another indicator is goal setting and measuring. The mentor and protégé should discuss what goals they want to get accomplished and make them measurable, like setting interim markers. Think about the percentage of goals your mentor helps you achieve. Is it high? That's a successful mentor.

What are signs that someone is not a good mentor?

One sign is if the relationship seems more about them and not about their protégé. In a good relationship, two thirds of the talking should be weighted towards the protégé, so look out for signs of narcissistic behavior.

Another sign of a bad mentor is if they are telling the protégé what to do. Instead, the mentor should be guiding the protégé towards a decision. You're not going to learn by blindly following directions.

Third, you don't want a mentor who is hard to reach and doesn't make himself available.

How has mentoring made a difference to different organizations success?

Mentoring has made a huge difference. We have seen a reduction of employee attrition to about 10 to 15 percent after they have gone through the Everwise process. It could be a selection bias, but our evidence points towards having the mentors.

We've also certainly seen an improvement in engagement. There's been a huge increase in how long employees are staying engaged, even past periods of direct development like training programs, where the level of engagement is typically high. Think about it in physical fitness terms. When you're training for a marathon, you're really engaged with your training, but when the marathon is over, the engagement decreases significantly. This is often how we approach our learning in the workplace. We may go to a training class for 3 days and then do nothing after that. With mentor programs, we're seeing people approach work as a continual learning experience. As a result, more people get promoted, they get raises, and when they are recognized for great work they are quick to thank their mentors. In all, we've seen very positive results.

Published on: Jul 28, 2015