The 'mentee' may have a greater emotional investment in the relationship than should be the case with a coach, and the mentor is not as dispassionate as a coach should be. Mentoring allows an inexperienced manager to benefit from someone with a more seasoned perspective. The mentor may act as a sounding board or as an inspirational role model and may play devil's advocate or simply teach valuable lessons.
Where did it come from? In Greek mythology, Mentor was Odysseus' trusted adviser and friend. In due course, Athena (the goddess of wisdom, not the poster shop) took the form of Mentor and appeared before the wanderer's son Telemachus, also acting as a guide. It has always been a smart career move to latch onto someone at or near the top, and try and draw on their experience (and contacts). Alternatively, staying in touch with a 'retired' person can be beneficial. Just because the corporate memory has been outsourced or let go doesn't mean it should be ignored.
Where is it going? According to a recent CIPD survey, nearly three-quarters of UK organisations use mentoring schemes. Most plan to increase their use of mentoring over the next few years. Mentoring isn't easy; it requires the time and commitment of both parties. But it may be one of the best ways to advance your career or break through the glass ceiling. An initiative called 'women directors on boards' has been launched by consultancy The Change Partnership along with Cranfield University, PricewaterhouseCoopers and several female senior civil servants. There's no need for female mentors to disguise themselves any more.