Mentoring Myth: Mentoring as a Performance Management System

mentoring myths

There are some mentoring myths we encounter day in and day out as we guide our clients on their mentoring journey. This is the first in a series of posts on mentoring myths. Watch as we bust this myth wide open! 


Mentoring Myth: Mentoring Can Be Used as a Performance Management System


BUSTED: In the world of talent management, people often misuse words like mentoring and performance management. After all, both involve professional development and share common goals. What’s different is how each one goes about achieving these goals.


Performance management is a system for measuring whether an employee is “performing” adequately on the job. Managers use this information to assist the employee in becoming a better performer. Goal setting is a vital part of performance management.

OKR (Objectives and Key Results) is a famous goal-setting framework that helps organizations define its objectives and then track the outcome. It is a simple approach that uses specific metrics to measure progress towards the goal.


Learn about OKR here.


The goal of performance management is to develop an employee in his/her current position. While performance management sometimes involves planning for future performance, most often it centers on the employee’s current job performance.


Mentoring, on the other hand, promotes professional development by linking an employee with a mentor who will focus on the overall development of that employee. Mentoring is transformational and involves much more than simply acquiring a specific skill or knowledge. Mentoring is about a relationship and involves both the professional and the personal. In many ways, mentoring is like counseling. Mentoring will certainly help with the mentoree’s current job, but it also poises the mentoree to take the next steps in his or her career.


Should Mentoring and Performance Management Be Linked?


You should absolutely link mentoring programs to performance management — meaning, you should link those competencies deemed important by an organization as employees develop for future roles. There is a difference, however, between linking mentoring to performance management and turning mentoring into a performance management system. Let’s use an example for clarification.


If I want to develop one of my employees into a true leader, then I’ll probably use various approaches: seminars, training, coaching, etc. I’ll want to measure progress in these areas and determine if the development is successful. This requires me, as a manager, to be “hands on” with the development of this employee into an effective leader.


Now, let’s say I think it would be great for my employee to have a mentor who is experienced in leadership. I bring in this mentor, we have discussions, and the person mentors my employee. I get periodic reports from the mentor, and we discuss the results. This process has turned the mentor into a “second manager” as opposed to letting him or her simply support the employee’s development. In essence, it has created a relationship that focuses on results and measurement as opposed to one of development and transformation. There’s nothing wrong with this approach per se, but it isn’t mentoring, and it shouldn’t be called mentoring. It’s more akin to coaching.


Also read: Top Tips for Getting Mentoring for Leadership Development


On the other hand, let’s say I’ve identified my employee as a talented person with leadership abilities. I could recommend that he or she participate in our company’s mentoring program to develop more leadership skills as well as other necessary career-building skills. Since I’m focusing on this person’s long-term development—development that could move this person out of my department or even out of my company—I should not be directly involved with my employee’s mentor.


Yes, it may be useful for my employee to receive feedback from me regarding what to focus on with the mentor, but this is by way of suggestion as opposed to requirement. And, yes, I should be informed of meeting schedules to ensure they don’t disrupt my department, but in a mentoring program, my role is to support my employee’s meeting time with the mentor, offer suggestions to my employee on areas of development, and STAND BACK and let the relationship happen.


If you want to get this myth plus five more in one handy package that you can easily access and share with others, then download our complete white paper: 6 Mentoring Myths Busted.


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Topics: Business Mentoring Articles & News, Mentoring Myths