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How to Prevent Mentoring Failures and Poor Results Some of the reasons for poor results happens when there is no improvement in the mentee's performance in the areas of management and interpersonal skills

By Muthu Singaram

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This is an important topic in mentoring to both mentors and mentees even though this is possibly a topic neither would like to address. Just like anything else mentoring has its good and bad. The bad is failing and poor results from mentoring, it is good to stress on the fact that this can happen due to the mentor or mentee, therefore it essential to this address these situations.

Why does mentoring break down? Mentoring can break down for multiple reasons, because of the mentor, or mentee or both. For mentors when this happens it can be the end of mentoring assignments, loss of credibility and emotion stress. For mentee when this happens it can mean no other mentor would want to mentor, loss of interest and emotion stress which might lead to health issues. As most mentors and mentees are aware of this, there is no cookie cutter solution for these breakdowns.

Mentoring results can be both extremely successful or a failure, when it happens it is clear to both the mentor and the mentee. But often it is in-between, when both are just waiting to tip to one end and in this case, it is still highly likely poor results would be the outcome.

Some of the reasons for poor results happens when there is no improvement in the mentee's performance in the areas of management and interpersonal skills, not achieving defined goals, not able to handle difficult issues, emotional immaturity, inability to manage conflicts are a few reasons. The poor results can be loss of revenue, start-up derailment, negative reputation both personal and professional, mental and health issues, poor results would affect both mentors and mentees.

Mentee Elements for Mentoring Failure

The six mentee's elements which play a role in mentoring failure are – not being open to feedback, not sharing sufficient information, unwillingness to reach out, unrealistic needs, unmotivated and lack of follow up.

Unless the mentee is open to taking feedback, the mentoring will not be effective. Mentee needs to share information for the mentor to provide mentoring. Mentee needs to reach out to the mentor with issues to arrive at solutions. Mentee must have realistic needs from mentoring. Unless the mentee is motivated no mentoring will help. And finally,mentee must follow up with the mentor for best outcomes in mentoring.

Mentor Elements for Mentoring Failure

The six mentor's elements which play a role in mentoring failure are lack of mentoring skills, lack of knowledge, lack of experience, lack of empathy, not realising the seriousness of mentee's issues and constantly giving negative feedback. Major failure on the mentor's part is not knowing how to mentor. Mentor's lack of knowledge in issues can also result in poor outcome. Mentors lack of experience can also lead to poor outcome. Mentors must know how to put themselves in mentees shoe toprovide sound mentoring. Mentors should always be aware of the seriousness of mentees issues. Mentors who give constant negative feedback end up demotivating the mentee and hence leads to poor outcome.

Determining Mentoring Failure

How do you determine a mentoring failure? This is usually done by the experience of the mentor however in my experience this is not the best way to determine the outcome. Some ways to determine this is when the mentee says he is not progressing, the mentee's team feel they are not making progress, non-productive sessions experienced by both mentors and mentees. Mentee or mentors start to miss sessions without any reason. Mentees not applying any mentoring advice in their work. The mentee or mentor starts to get stressed out because of mentoring and leading to mental and health issues. Mentees get negative feedback from team members about the mentor. Finally, the mentor themselves feel something is not going right.

Mitigating Mentoring Failure

It would be incorrect to say we can prevent mentoring failure as this is a dynamic and ever-changing field. This is a field where not much research has been done and many of the mentors depend on their own methodology to mentor.

For mentoring failure mitigation -First, the mentor should be aware of what he is involved in and must have the ability to contribute to the mentee's progress. Secondly, the mentor should know their limitation as a mentor. Thirdly, mentor should clearly tell the mentee what are the expected outcomes from mentoring. Fourthly, a clear understanding of mentors and mentees role in the mentoring engagement. Fifthly, some amount of risk needs to be taken especially on the value of mentoring. Sixthly, both mentors and mentees must regularly take steps to measure the mentoring effectiveness and take appropriate actions to stir it to the right direction. Seventhly, mentoring should maintain some form of privacy from others, so no speculation happens from the relationship. Eighthly, mentors should have a strong set of networks to draw resources when required to help the mentees in the mentoring process. Ninthly, mentors should continue the learning process by reading, researching, attending seminars to keep up to the latest so this can be used to help the mentees. Tenthly, both mentors and mentees must not talk ill of each other.

In the event of the mentoring engagement failure, it is good to have a debriefing between mentor, mentee and other related parties to avoid future engagement failures. This would indicate that the mentor and menteeacknowledge they must further develop knowledge and skills needed for a mentoring engagement.

In conclusion, both mentor and mentees should realise that mentoring is a progressive field which is growing, and it is important to continuously improve mentoring. Mentoring has the risk of poor outcome and as such all involved must be prepared to accept this unfavourable situation. Therefore, we need to take great care in the structure, methods, receiving and delivering mentoring to mitigate poor outcome. It is important for mentors to accept failure and move on otherwise the field of mentoring will not progress.
Muthu Singaram

Founder, VibaZone (Canada, India and Malaysia) and CEO, HTIC-MedTech Incubator, IIT Madras

Singaram has been working with entrepreneurs, companies, individuals, government organizations, regional ministries in the areas of entrepreneurship, technology incubation, technology acceleration , innovation, technology transfer and leadership for more than 25 years.

He has conducted workshops for technology transfer managers in the regions to enable them to carry out technology transfer.


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