MOST SUCCESSFUL PEOPLE HAVE benefitted
from ‘mentoring’, and the benefits (to an
individual or a business) of mentoring are
The word ‘mentoring’ comes from a Greek
word meaning ‘enduring’, and has its
origins in Homer’s poem, the Odyssey.
Odysseus (Ulysses) entrusted Mentor
(Athena, goddess of war and wisdom) with
the care and education of his son,
Telemachus. Thus, traditional mentoring
emerged as a relationship with an older,
wiser, and/or more experienced person.
This person functions as a wise teacher
and confidante, coaching, inspiring,
protecting, and helping the mentee.
Last century, mentoring was usually
carried out in business within a
management chain, when someone in the
chain acted as a mentor. Today, this
‘chain’ often does not exist, and true
mentoring has slowly disappeared in many
Mentoring in the 21st century means giving
‘wise counsel’, and involves knowledge
guidance and advice, based on experience.
It can be used to develop, nurture and
grow staff. It is as essential today as it
was in the past, particularly in helping
staff develop competencies, but many
companies do not actively promote it, and
many ‘older, wiser’ staff do not have the
time to mentor. This is unfortunate…
mentoring may be the best staff
development tool we have.
This paper is a guide to mentoring. It
explains the meaning of ‘mentoring,
‘mentor’ and ‘mentee’, and shows that
mentoring involves transferring knowledge.
Mentoring relies on a mentor using his/her
‘wisdom’ to direct a mentee, and is
focussed on the individual, not the task.
The paper ends by outlining a mentoring
process for use in organisations.