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Building the Next Generation of Mentors in Africa: Principles, Practices & Impacts



The book provides well-researched findings and experiences on mentorship. It is a life-long resource material for mentors and mentees.
Building the Next Generation of Mentors in Africa
Principles, Practices & Impacts
Building the Next Generation of Mentors in Africa
Principles, Practices & Impacts
Edited by
Oyeronke Adunni Odunola & Olawale Emmanuel Olayide
Ibadan University Press,
Publishing House,
University of Ibadan,
Ibadan, Nigeria
© 2021 Oyeronke Adunni Odunola & Olawale Emmanuel Olayide
First Published 2021
All Rights Reserved
No part of this publication may be reproduced, transmitted,
transcribed, stored in a retrieval system, or translated into any
language or computer language, in any form or by any means,
electronic, mechanical, magnetic, chemical, photocopy, recording,
manual or otherwise, without the prior permission of the publisher.
ISBN: 978 978 8550 46 4
To our mentors, and mentees.
Dedication v
Foreword ix
Preface xi
Acknowledgements xiii
Contributors xv
A Mentor and A Supervisor The Nexus and Disparity 1
Victor O. Adetimirin
Institutionalization of Mentorship in the University of 11
Samuel Ayodeji Omolawal
Effective Mentor-Mentee Communication 27
Ayobami Ojebode and Oluwaseun Ayomipo
Mentor-Mentee Relationship: Scope and Boundaries 45
Oyeronke A. Odunola
Mentorship Needs of Early and Mid-Career Researchers 61
Olutokunbo B. Oyesola
Role Model Illustration of Mentoring 67
Olanike K. Adeyemo
Mentoring Strategies and Institutional Demands 79
Ebenezer Olatunde Farombi
Assessing Impacts of Mentorship on Web Metrics of 97
Early Career Researchers in Sub-Saharan Africa
Olawale E. Olayide, Omobolaji O. Obisesan and
Oyeronke A. Odunola
Appendix 107
Mentors are role models who provide leadership worthy of
emulation. The noticeable scarcity of mentors in our higher
education institutions, including universities, could be attributed to
succession crises and lack of progress in our ivory towers.
Mentorship should be incentivized and emphatically rewarded.
There are currently no incentives for mentorship in most African
universities, the same reason for continued in-breeding and
working in silos. Mentorship is a precursor for academic team-
building, succession planning, and sustainability. In some climes, it
is not uncommon to have a professor who has never participated in
any international research collaboration nor successfully
supervised any doctoral candidate.
We recall our experience of incentivizing international
experience and exposure by setting participation in international
conferences as one of the criteria for the promotion of academic
staff at the University of Ibadan, Nigeria. Let us confess that this
bold decision on international conference participation contributed
to the improvement in the global ranking of the University of
Ibadan during the 2015-2020 period. Similar experiences of
incentivizing mentorship and collaboration as promotion criteria
are prevalent in other top-rated universities in Africa.
The university is a microcosm of the universe. Hence,
institutionalizing a healthy mentor-mentee relationship is the
foundation for thriving higher education institutions.
The authors and editors of this book are seasoned mentors with
demonstrable experience and significant exposure. They have
impeccable track records of raising mentors across the continent of
Africa and beyond. Some of the chapters in this book are also co-
authored by mentors and their mentees.
The book is a timeless resource material for teaching and
learning on mentorship. We hereby commend and recommend this
book to every higher education institution in Africa and beyond.
Idowu Olayinka Ayodele Jegede
Vice-Chancellor Director
University of Ibadan, Nigeria 2015-2020 Research Management Office
University of Ibadan, Nigeria
The University of Ibadan, Ibadan, Nigeria, in 2014, subscribed to
the call by the UK‘s Department for International Development
(DFID) (now UK Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development
Office (FCDO)) to raise ‗Next Generation Mentors‘ through the
Climate Impact Research Capacity and Leadership Enhancement
(CIRCLE) programme in sub-Saharan Africa. This act of the
institution initiated the process that led to the publication of this
book. The CIRCLE programme developed the skills and research
outputs of early-career African researchers in the field of climate
change and its local impacts on development. The programme also
worked with institutions to develop a coordinated and strategic
approach to supporting early-career researchers in the continent,
and it was managed by the Association of Commonwealth
Universities (ACU) and the African Academy of Sciences (AAS).
The University of Ibadan, Nigeria, became one of the few
institutions that merited the status and designation of both ‗Home‘
and ‗Host‘ institution for the CIRCLE programme.
Alongside the fellowships was the Institutional Strengthening
Programme (ISP), which aimed at strengthening the capacity of the
institutions involved in the CIRCLE programme to provide
professional development, support, and mentorship for early-career
researchers in Africa. During the fellowship years (2015 - 2017), a
total of 100 fellowships were awarded to 39 post-master
researchers and 61 post-doctoral researchers, with exactly 50% of
awards given to female academics.
This book is a product of the Institutional Strengthening
Programme. It succinctly documents the experiences and
workshops in mentor-mentee relationships across various domains
while highlighting the important principles, practices, and impacts
of mentorship.
Financial support for the publication of this book was provided by
the United Kingdoms Department for International Development
(DFID) (now UK Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development
Office, FCDO) through the Association of Commonwealth
Universities. The support of the University of Ibadan Research
Management Office (RMO) is gratefully acknowledged. The
contribution of the University of Ibadan Climate Impact Research
Capacity and Leadership Enhancement Institutional Support
Programme (UI-CIRCLE-ISP) is well appreciated.
Victor O. Adetimirin, Department of Crop and Horticultural
Sciences, Faculty of Agriculture, University of Ibadan, Nigeria.
Samuel Ayodeji Omolawal, Department of Sociology, Faculty of
the Social Sciences, University of Ibadan, Nigeria.
Ayobami Ojebode, Department of Communication and Language
Arts, Faculty of Arts, University of Ibadan, Nigeria.
Oluwaseun Ayomipo, Department of Communication and
Language Arts, Faculty of Arts, University of Ibadan, Nigeria.
Oyeronke Adunni Odunola, Department of Biochemistry, Faculty
of Basic Medical Sciences, College of Medicine, University of
Ibadan, Nigeria.
Olutokunbo B. Oyesola, Department of Agricultural Extension and
Rural Development, Faculty of Agriculture, University of Ibadan,
Olanike K. Adeyemo, Department of Veterinary Public Health and
Preventive Medicine, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University
of Ibadan, Nigeria.
Ebenezer Olatunde Farombi, Department of Biochemistry, Faculty
of Basic Medical Sciences, College of Medicine, University of
Ibadan, Nigeria.
Olawale Emmanuel Olayide, Department of Sustainability Studies,
Faculty of Multidisciplinary Studies, University of Ibadan &
Africa Graduate Mentorship and Coaching Programme of the
Interconnections for Making Africa Great Empowered and
Sustainable (IMAGES) Initiative.
Omobolaji O. Obisesan, Africa Graduate Mentorship and
Coaching Programme of the Interconnections for Making Africa
Great Empowered and Sustainable (IMAGES) Initiative.
A Mentor and A Supervisor The Nexus and
Victor O. Adetimirin
The pursuit of a higher degree, of which research is a major
component, and an academic career involve both supervision and
mentorship. In few disciplines, supervision and mentoring are
formally integrated, while in many other fields, both are somewhat
delineated. Each of supervision and mentorship, even where there
are overlaps in features, has its peculiarities. Students who
complete their research under supervision and are mentored early
in their careers grow to become supervisors and mentors. Many
acquire the knowledge and skills for these roles informally,
through their personal experiences and those of others. An
understanding of the unique features and roles of each, as well as
factors affecting both, is important in the development of
institutional structures that will strengthen the two and improve
their outcomes. These should include periodic online courses
aimed at improving effectiveness. Supervisors and mentors need to
carry out self-assessment that help to identify their personal
weaknesses and strengths. Institutional structures should provide
feedback from students and mentees, with such feedback used to
improve the overall supervision and mentorship processes. The
institution ultimately benefits when its staff improve in their
supervision and mentorship effectiveness. This chapter highlights
the roles, attributes, and typologies of supervision and mentorship,
the relationship and nexus between the two, and offers some
suggestions on the development of institutional frameworks for
improving both.
Supervision and Its Role
Supervision has its origin in two Latin words, ‗super‘ meaning
‗above‘ and ‗video‘ meaning ‗I see‘. According to Barnett (2008),
supervision is a kind of teaching that involves advising, helping,
inspiring, leading, and liberating. Supervision involves guiding and
supporting students to generate new knowledge (research and its
Victor O. Adetimirin
results) used in the preparation of their theses that meet the
expectations of the examination process and during which students
experience clarification or repositioning of their scholarly values
and identity (Amundsen and McAlpine 2009). Doctoral
supervision is a two-way dynamic social process. It involves a
cooperative relationship between the supervisor and a student. The
process culminates in the launch of the doctoral student into the
broader scholarly community. Supervision, especially at the
doctoral level, is an inherently intense and central part of the work
of most academics; other responsibilities include teaching,
research, administrative duties, and community services, which in
this case can be the local or broader scholarly community.
The research work of the candidate carried out under
supervision is crucial in the development of a candidate‘s
academic ability. Supervisors, through their activities, produce
outcomes that are distributed, exchanged, and consumed; in the
same process, they produce and reproduce themselves as members
of the community. Doctoral students, someone supervised, often
undergo a transition to someone supervising. In effect, the
supervised now becomes the supervisor. There is no doubt that
their experiences as students shape their practices as supervisors.
In addition to their unique personal experiences as students, these
former students acquire experiences in the course of supervising
doctoral candidates. They also learn from their observation of other
colleagues-supervisors as well as through consultation with the
latter. While undertaking supervision of doctoral candidates, both
young and experienced academics continue to improve their
supervision experiences. Good supervisors perform their roles
better than their own supervisors because they have the
opportunity of learning from the mistakes of the latter. Though
desirable, it does appear that formal sources in respect of learning
how supervision should be carried out are not available. There is
no doubt that there is a need for the systematization of the
supervision process.
For the student, doctoral research comes with pressure, stress,
and nervousness, all of which bring about worries. The friction,
opposition, and hostility sometimes encountered from diverse
sources in the course of the programme bring about conflicts.
A Mentor and A Supervisor The Nexus and Disparity
Supervisors are expected to help the students to deal with these
sources of worries and conflicts. Supervisors are always
accountable for the performance of their students. The attributes
that make for effectiveness as a supervisor are:
Emotional Control,
General Outlook,
Personal Qualification,
Teaching Ability, and
It is beneficial for supervisors to carry out periodic self-
assessment on their effectiveness as supervisors. Institutions may
also request students to evaluate their supervisors as is done for
taught courses, with feedback provided to the latter. The
assessments would, no doubt, help to bring about changes that may
improve the effectiveness of supervision. Table 1 below may be
adopted for both self-assessment and evaluation by students in a
structured supervisory system.
Table 1: Criteria and Guidelines for the Assessment of Effectiveness of
Supervision by both Supervisors and Students
1 = Poor
2 = Below
3 = Average
5 = Excellent
Emotional Control
General Outlook
Personal Qualification
Teaching Ability
Maximum Score = 50; > 44 = Exceptional/Outstanding; 40-44 = Very Good;
35-39 = Good; 30-34 = Average
Victor O. Adetimirin
The appointment process into academic positions is germane to
understanding how supervisors perceive their roles and their
effectiveness. Table 2 below contrasts the appointment process in
Nigeria with that in North America.
Table 2: A Comparison of the Appointment to Academic Positions in
Nigeria and North America
North America
Tenure track position
Entry Point: Assistant Lecturer,
Lecturer II, Lecturer I
Entry Point: Assistant Professor
Confirmation after 3 years
Tenure track position after 5 to
6 year period
Less rigorous
Appointment much influenced by
Appointment less influenced by
Mentorship: Role, Attributes, Objectives, and Typologies
An academic career presents a young academic with multi-
dimensional challenges, among which are those that have to do
with their career, new roles, as well as those that are psychological.
Mentorship offers a transitional space to support staff in dealing
with the challenges presented by the external expectations on them
and the internal challenges resulting from the feelings about those
expectations (Harding 2013). Mentorship describes a relationship
in which a more experienced or more knowledgeable person helps
to guide a less-experienced or less-knowledgeable person. It
addresses the mores and values of a profession, with mentors
providing guidance on how to navigate ‗landmines‘ and
successfully transverse a professional path; it can be initiated by
either the mentor or the mentee and requires trust to sustain.
Mentorship has been observed to assist with time management and
other management issues such as emotional issues (Godskensen
and Kobayashi 2016).
The mentor may be older or younger than the person being
mentored, but he or she must have a certain area of expertise.
Several terms are associated with mentorship, and these include
role model, champion, leader, guide, adviser, counsellor, volunteer,
coach, sponsor, protector, and preceptor. As with supervisors, a
relationship exists between the mentor and the mentee. This
relationship has been perceived by mentees in diverse contexts,
which include navigator-wayfarer, sage-acolyte, teacher-student,
A Mentor and A Supervisor The Nexus and Disparity
and friend-friend. These relationships and the terms associated
with mentoring indicate an overlap in the role of supervisors and
mentors. Attributes considered by mentees for effective mentorship
by mentors, not in order of importance, include:
Fair, and
The roles of mentoring are essentially to increase career
success and prevent frustration (from stagnation). Mentors provide
information about the university culture and way of working. They
act as sounding boards and provide honest feedback while giving
their mentees opportunities to reflect and be challenged. Mentors
are expected to show respect for their mentees and maintain
confidential relationships. Mentors are distinguished from
supervisors/teachers in that they are less concerned with goals of a
particular research/content coverage and evaluation. They are more
like masters or consultants, reacting to the learner‘s situation,
relying on experience to model and convey ideas, acting as a
resource, and implicitly interweaving technical knowledge and
skills with cultural information and values (Schlager et al. 1996).
Mentors, in contrast to teachers, are considered as ‗openers of
doors‘ (Jarvis 1995). The following quote, whose source is
anonymous, describes what mentoring is all about:
If you know where you are going, your journey is short;
If you know how to get there, your journey is shorter;
Victor O. Adetimirin
If you have someone who has been there to teach you how
to get there, your journey is shortest;
If that person decides to take you there, you are already
It is not unusual for one mentor to have several mentees, just
like a mentee can have more than one mentor. The relationship
between a mentor and each of their mentees, where there are
several, is unique and different from any other in the way it
progresses (Barnett 2008), and this will be influenced by several
factors. There are several mentor typologies, among which are:
one-on-one mentoring, group mentoring, distance or e-mentoring,
and peer mentoring. There are some formal mentorship
programmes, among which is that involving student mentors,
aimed at familiarizing new students with their new university
environments. The Women in Science Mentorship Programme is
another formal programme that is aimed at increasing the number
of women with skills to impact development through research.
This is implemented through fellowship programmes. Within many
academic institutions, mentorship is to a large extent informal,
with one-on-one mentoring most common. However, in the near
future and in the light of current realities, we should expect an
increase in e-mentoring in which mentors have never physically
met their mentees. An example of this is the Africa Graduate
Mentorship and Coaching Programme (AGMCP) that connects
graduate students to accomplished academics outside their
countries. According to Lane (2018), mentoring enables action by
mentees, helps them to develop confidence, and improves their
personal effectiveness.
Several factors are known to affect the mentoring process and
outcome. These include factors that are associated with the mentor.
Among these are the teaching, mentoring, and supervision
experiences, not of the success and failure of their experiences
alone but of the experiences they gained in respect of the successes
or failures of other mentors. Of equal importance are the social
support skills that they acquired in times past. Factors that are
mentee-related such as their help-seeking competence and support
systems, especially family, are also critical to the outcome of the
mentoring process.
Mentoring does not involve setting goals for mentees or
managing mentees‘ careers. It does not involve carrying out the
A Mentor and A Supervisor The Nexus and Disparity
mentee‘s work, neither does it involve an assessment or appraisal.
The relationship between mentors and mentees must be devoid of
intimate relationships.
Supervision and Mentorship: Relationship and Nexus
Both supervision and mentorship are required for success. One is
an academic programme that is structured, time-bound, and ends
with a degree awarded to the candidate, while the other is an entire
professional career. To the extent that success in a higher degree
programme contributes in some measure to career success,
supervision and mentorship are not mutually exclusive. Some
mentoring is always involved in supervision. However, individuals
who play the role of mentors may not have been involved in the
supervision of the candidates they guide as mentors. All teaching
and supervision worthy of the name are considered to contain an
element of mentoring (Yamomoto 1988). However, individuals
can be mentored without having been in a position for supervision.
A comparison of the typologies of supervision and mentorship is
provided in table 3 below.
Table 3: Typologies in Supervision and Mentorship
In response to mentee‘s
Acquire knowledge, skills,
and competencies
Ensure career success
Defined (limited time)
Limited time/no time
limit/life long
Within specialized fields
Not necessarily in the
same field
Degree acquisition
(Usually) No degree
(Usually) older
Older (some exceptions)
More experienced
More experienced
More straightforward
Victor O. Adetimirin
Conclusion and Recommendations
There are tensions and challenges in integrating into academia, yet
there is minimal systematic developmental preparation for life as
academics, especially supervision and mentoring. Supervision and
mentoring are not mutually exclusive, but mentoring ensures that
mentees attain their career goals. It is important that universities
and other institutions of higher learning put structures in place for
new academic staff so that they can better fulfill their roles as
supervisors and mentors. Mentoring practitioners (mentors) can be
trained to be more effective. Training has been shown to improve
mentors‘ perception of self-efficacy (MPSE), which is a correlate
of mentorship success. Issues to be addressed in the formal
preparation of newly employed academic staff include: (i) an
understanding of supervision and mentorship; (ii) personal
experiences versus expectations, (iii) supervisors‘ expectation of
students; (iv) major difficulties supervisors think students
experience; (v) useful and desired resources; (vi) description of
supervisory experiences that supervisors consider particularly
helpful, and (vii) a list of activities not directly related to thesis
development but supportive of graduate students‘ progress.
Amundsen, C. and L. McAlpine. 2009. ―Learning supervision‖ trial by
fire. Innovation in English and Teaching International 46: 331-342.
Barnett, J. 2008. Mentoring boundaries and multiple relationships:
Opportunities and challenges. Mentoring and Tutoring 16(1): 3-16.
Godskensen, M. and S. Kobayashi. 2015. Coaching doctoral students A
means to enhanced progress and support self-organization in doctoral
education. Studies in Continuing Education 38(2): 145-161.
Jarvis, P. 1995. Towards a philosophical understanding of mentoring.
Nurse Education Today 15: 414-419.
Harding, C. 2013. The transitional space provided by coaching and
mentoring. International Journal of Evidence-based Coaching and
Mentoring Special Issue No. 7: 56-72.
Lane, L.G. 2018. The impact of coaching doctoral students at a
university in London. Journal of Evidence-based Coaching and
Mentoring 16(2): 55-68.
A Mentor and A Supervisor The Nexus and Disparity
Schlager, M., C. Poirier and B. Means. 1996. Mentor in the Classroom:
Bringing the World Outside In Situated Learning Perspectives,
Mclellan, H. ed. Educational Technology Publications, Englewood
Cliffs, New Jersey, USA.
Yamomoto, K. 1988. To see life grow: The meaning of mentoring.
Theory into Practice xxvii(3): 183-189.
Institutionalization of Mentorship in the
University of Ibadan
Samuel Ayodeji Omolawal
Managing human resources effectively has become vital to work
organizations and academic institutions of the 21st century.
According to Ogunbameru (2008), the heightened levels of global
competitiveness have alerted all organizations to the fact that all
their resources must be developed and utilized better than ever
before. In particular, it is becoming more acceptable that
organizations and academic institutions‘ success is hinged on their
human resources which are seen as the most important assets that
can be boasted of. This is because of all organizational assets, it is
only the human resource that is resourceful; all other resources
would produce nothing without the human element to activate and
coordinate them, and it is human knowledge transformed to
activity that gives value or utility to products or services. What is
becoming crucial, therefore, is the ability of organizations to
effectively develop their human resources in order to help unlock
their hidden talents and potentials that will free such talents for the
crucial task of creating and driving winning strategies (Omolawal
Human Resource Development (HRD) constitutes a very vital
tool for preparing workers to meet up with the challenges of
organizations. It refers to an array of organizational activities
designed to increase the knowledge, skills, attitudes, and
competence level of workers. The performance of the human
resource is dependent on the level of knowledge, skill, attitude, and
general competence of the workers. Hitherto, emphasis has been
focused on training and development as a way of achieving the
desired goals of Human Resource Development. However, as a
result of the emerging limitations associated with traditional
training and development [(e.g., cost of training, evaluation of
training programmes, transfer of learning, the attitude of workers
to training, and so on (Adeleke 2000)], it is becoming more
acceptable that relying on the normal training and development
Samuel Ayodeji Omolawal
programmes alone is no longer adequate in meeting the broad goal
of HRD. Therefore HRD programmes outside the usual classroom
arrangement are receiving more attention. One of such
programmes is mentorship. Mentorship or Mentoring is defined as
a programme in which an individual, usually older, always more
experienced, helps and guides another individual‘s development.
This guidance is not done for personal gain, and it offers lots of
benefits for the stakeholders viz the mentors, the mentees, and the
organization as a whole. The objective of this chapter, therefore, is
to shed more light on various aspects of mentorship and how it can
be utilized to promote competence development in the University
of Ibadan.
Meaning of Mentoring
Mentoring is an organizational tool adopted in addition to formal
learning events to achieve competence development of the human
resources. According to Aladejana, Aladejana, and Ehindero
(2006), mentoring is a process where an individual (mentor) offers
assistance, guidance, advice and support to facilitate the career
development of another individual (mentee or protege). Eburajolo
(2008) defines it as a relationship between a junior, often younger
person (referred to as the mentee or protégé) and a senior person
(the mentor) by virtue of which the mentor serves as a guide,
counsellor, confidant, adviser, and role model to the protégé.
Redmond (2009) defines mentoring as a process of serving as a
guide, counsellor, and teacher for another person, usually in an
academic or occupational capacity. From the plethora of these
definitions, it could be seen that mentoring is the provision of
knowledge, experience, and inspiration for another person, usually
younger, less knowledgeable, and less experienced. It could also be
conceived of in terms of the expected results: mentees observe,
question, and explore while mentors demonstrate, explain, and
model (Scandura 2006). The focus of mentoring is on building
relationships which serve as the basis for fostering a learning
culture in the organization (Aloko 2000).
The term mentor is used both as a noun and as a verb: As a
noun, it refers to an individual, usually older and more experienced
in the workplace, who offers guidance and advice to another
person, usually younger and less experienced. As a verb, it refers
Institutionalization of Mentorship in the University of Ibadan
to the process where an individual offers guidance and advice to
another person with the aim of developing the career and
competence of the younger person. The younger and less
experienced person is referred to as mentee or protégé and both
concepts are used interchangeably in this Chapter.
Brief History of Mentoring
According to Greek mythology, Mentor was the name of the
person to whom Odysseus (a.k.a. Ulysses) entrusted the care of his
son, Telemachus, when he set out on those famous wanderings of
his that we now call an odyssey and which took him, among
other places, to the Trojan Wars. Mentor was Odysseus‘ wise and
trusted counsellor as well as tutor to Telemachus. Odysseus was
concerned about the need for his son to be properly brought up so
that the son could be a wise and good leader. To carry out this
assignment, Mentor had to become a father figure, teacher, role
model, trusted advisor, challenger, encourager, and counsellor to
Telemachus (Cole 1997; Kreitner and Kinicki 2001). Mentor‘s
namewith a lower-case ―m‖—has passed into the English
language as a shorthand term for wise and trusted counsellor and
teacher. In other words, it has become an eponym for a wise,
trustworthy counsellor or teacher. In sum, what has been
historically an informal, unofficial, voluntary, mutually-agreed,
and self-selected interaction between two people has become a
programme adopted for competence development of the human
resources in organizations. However, in modern times, especially
in work organizations and human resource management literature,
mentor, which is a noun, has become a verb as well andwith or
without ing as an appendagenow refers to the patterned
behaviours or process whereby one person acts as a mentor to
Mentoring serves both career and psychosocial functions in an
organization. The career functions include sponsorship, exposure,
coaching, and challenging assignments, while the psychosocial
functions include role modelling, acceptance, and confirmation,
protection, counseling, and friendship (Roberts 1998; Kreitner and
Kinicki 2001).
Samuel Ayodeji Omolawal
The mentor-mentee relationship lies at the core of any
mentoring programme and is critical to the success of the
mentoring programme. Mentoring relationships can be single or
multiple. Single mentoring could involve a male or female mentor
and a mentee. Multiple mentoring may involve one mentor to more
than one mentee or one mentee to more than one mentor.
Mentorship can also be same gender or cross-gender. However
male mentor and female mentee relationship is challenged by
many problems: female mentees tend to be emotionally attached to
their male mentors, and this may affect the success of the
programme. Also, female mentees may fail to identify with male
mentors due to a lack of gender similarity. Studies have also shown
that cross gender mentoring relationships require more effort to
sustain than same-gender relationships. Studies in the USA and
Canada have established that mentoring behaviours and practices
occur more often in mentoring relationships than in non-mentoring
relationships. The ways and manners in which the mentor carries
out his role (i.e., his mentoring style) is also a vital factor in
determining the success of a mentoring relationship (Ghosh 2003).
The following assumptions form the foundation for a solid
mentoring programme.
Deliberate Learning is the Cornerstone: The mentor‘s job
is to promote intentional learning, which includes capacity
building through methods such as instructing, coaching,
providing experiences, modeling, and advising.
Both Failure and Success are Powerful Teachers:
Mentors, as leaders of a learning experience, certainly need
to share their how to do it, so it comes out right‖ stories.
They also need to share their experiences of failure, i.e.,
―how I did it wrong‖. Both types of stories are powerful
lessons that provide valuable opportunities for analysing
individual and organizational realities.
Mentors Need to Tell their Stories: Personal scenarios,
anecdotes, and case examples, because they offer valuable,
often unforgettable insight, must be shared. Mentors who
can talk about themselves and their experiences establish a
rapport that makes them ―learning leaders.‖
Institutionalization of Mentorship in the University of Ibadan
Development Matures Over Time: Mentoringwhen it
workstaps into continuous learning that is not an event or
even a string of discrete events. Rather, it is the synthesis of
ongoing events, experiences, observations, studies, and
thoughtful analyses.
Mentoring is a Joint Venture: Successful mentoring
means sharing responsibility for learning, regardless of the
facilities, the subject matter, the timing, and other variables.
Successful mentoring begins with setting a contract for
learning around which the mentor, the protégé, and their
respective line managers or unit heads are aligned.
Mentoring Styles
Mentoring involves a relationship between two individuals. As
with other types of relationships, every mentor/mentee relationship
is unique. No two mentor/mentee pairs are likely to have exactly
the same relationship among themselves. The nature of the
relationship depends on the mentee‘s needs and the means the
mentor adopts in trying to address those needs. The latter is
referred to as the mentor‘s style. According to Gray (1989) of the
Mentoring Institute, there are two broad types of mentoring styles,
namely: equipping and empowering styles and both further have
An equipping mentor is one whose approach is predominantly
that of a teacher, telling the mentee what to do and giving him
detailed directives on how to do it. Such a mentor tends to be
domineering, giving the mentee little room to exercise initiatives.
In this type of relationship, the mentee is dependent on the mentor,
hardly takes risks, and experiences relatively slow growth.
Under the equipping style, there are two other sub-divisions.
These are:
(a) Informational Mentoring: This is an equipping style
involving the mentor playing an active role in teaching,
explaining, and describing things to the mentee, arranging
things for him/her. Sometimes he/she also prescribes and
advises. The mentee is usually dependent on the mentor
and shows little initiative.
Samuel Ayodeji Omolawal
(b) Guiding Mentoring: This is also an equipping style but less
so than the informational style. Here the mentor suggests,
rather than prescribes, options to the mentee. The mentor
persuades and confronts the mentee sometimes and coaches
and models at some other times. He/she questions, probes,
and pushes to motivate the mentee, who tends to be
responsive to the mentor‘s actions, applying the
suggestions or considering and selecting the best of several
options suggested by the mentor. The mentee thereby
begins to show some initiative.
On the other hand, an empowering mentor is non-directive in
his/her approach. He/she tends to give the mentee a broad outline
of what needs to be done, leaving it to the mentee to use his
initiative to find solutions. The mentor is laissez-faire in his
approach and does not insist on strict adherence to structures in his
relationship with the mentee. The mentee in this relationship tends
to be more independent and self-reliant. He accepts advice from
the mentor but is able to make his own judgement as to whether to
act on it. Here, there are also two sub-divisions, namely:
(a) Collaborative Mentoring: This is an empowering style. The
mentor and mentee engage in two-way dialogues, take joint
decisions, and joint responsibility for solving problems.
The mentee is becoming more independent and shows a lot
more initiative. He values the mentoring he receives but
adapts the information and advice he/she gets from the
mentor towards achieving his/her own clearly defined
(b) Confirming Mentoring: This is also an empowering style.
The mentor serves as a sounding board for the mentee‘s
ideas. He/she listens empathetically, helps the mentee
clarify his/her ideas, and encourages him/her. The mentee
is very confident and is able to develop and present ideas of
his/her own while incorporating insights gained from the
None of these mentoring styles is ideal for all situations and
mentoring relationships. The appropriate mentoring style in any
given situation must depend on the mentee‘s competence and
Institutionalization of Mentorship in the University of Ibadan
career development, the issue at stake, and the urgency of the
solution required.
Thus, an equipping style is more appropriate for a young
recruit who is a fresh graduate with little or no experience, and
who needs a lot of guidance in the early stage of his career. It
should, however, be mixed with a little bit of empowering. For a
mentee who has had a few years of experience and is seeking to
enhance his career development, a balance needs to be struck
between the need for equipping and empowering. For a mentee
who is undergoing leadership/management mentoring, mainly
empowering plus a minimal amount of equipping would be
Generally, a mixture of equipping and empowering is required
in all mentoring relationships. However, as the mentee grows in
confidence and competence, the relative amount of equipping
should reduce in favour of more empowerment. The most
proficient mentors are those who can switch between various
mentoring styles in response to the mentee‘s changing needs.
Therefore, in mentoring the same mentee, a mentor may need to
use equipping skills and practical know-how while using
empowering styles to challenge him/her to use his/her creativity
and initiative to pursue his/her own (i.e., mentee‘s) goals.
Types of Mentoring
Two broad types of mentoring have been identified by scholars.
These are informal and formal mentoring (Blake-Beard 2005;
Aladejana et al. 2006).
Informal Mentoring
In the workplace, a young employee sometimes finds an older,
more experienced person for whom he/she has a natural affinity
and a relationship develops whereby the younger one is able to
discuss matters that concern him/her with the older one and seeks
his/her advice on various matters. This kind of relationship is
referred to as informal mentoring. Informal mentoring has its
potential benefits as well as its drawbacks.
The younger staff (mentee) could benefit immensely from the
experience of the older one (mentor), who could provide him/her
with wise counsel and guidance in his/her career development that
Samuel Ayodeji Omolawal
would enable the mentee to accelerate his/her pace of
development. On the other hand, there is the risk that the
relationship, if not properly managed, could form a platform for
godfatherism, nepotism, and/ or favouritism. Even if it does not do
so, the impression could still be created in the mind of other staff.
Other drawbacks of informal mentoring include the fact that there
are usually no defined objectives (targets). It is therefore not
possible to measure the performance or effectiveness of the
mentor. It is also not possible to guarantee that the mentors
actually have the skills required to play the mentoring role
effectively. In the light of the problems associated with informal
mentoring, an employer seeking to use mentoring as a tool for
competence development needs to introduce a formal, structured
mentoring programme (Aloko 2000).
Formal Mentoring
Formal mentoring is associated with organizations‘ HRD
programmes designed to promote and develop human resources in
terms of their competence, skill, knowledge and attitude. It is a
formal process that is aligned with other HR developmental
processes aimed at making the employees better in contributing to
organizational results. However, Raggins, Cotton, and Miller
(2000) observe that formal mentoring is arranged by organizations;
hence mentors may be less intrinsically motivated to be in the
relationship and be less personally interested in their mentees. It is
often confused with the word coaching‘. Although the two have
various similarities, they are different because coaching has a
narrower focus than mentoring and is often associated with
What is prevalent in the University of Ibadan (UI) today is
informal mentoring. Formal mentoring is yet to be instituted as a
tool for competence development. Although some departments
have formal mentorship programmes for their undergraduate
students, formal mentoring for the staff is not yet in UI. Informal
mentoring will invariably continue to thrive without guaranteeing
any benefits to the University. There is, therefore, a strong case for
the introduction of a formal mentorship programme at the
University of Ibadan.
Institutionalization of Mentorship in the University of Ibadan
Prerequisites for Mentoring Programme in the University
of Ibadan
Some organizations have sought to structure their mentoring
relationships into a process that ensures that this valuable
developmental tool is used for the good of the organization rather
than for a small number of favourites. There are, therefore, a
number of prerequisites necessary for the successful establishment
of a mentoring programme in the University.
Clear Objectives: The university‘s objectives and philosophy of
the programme must be clearly defined, articulated, and
understood by all participants.
Top Management Commitment: It is important that top
management visibly demonstrates commitment to the programme
and also provides formal backing for the programme. In other
words, the relevant highest decision-making body of the University
must give formal approval for the introduction of the programme.
Corporate Harmony: The programme must be in sync with any
existing human resource development framework in the institution
as well as with the corporate culture of the University.
Selection of Participants: Mentors and mentees must be carefully
selected because incompatibility can lead to problems that could
frustrate the achievement of the desired goals. This should be done
by considering variables such as sex, age, career interest,
experience, personality, and so on.
Programme Structure: Appropriate institutional structure must be
put in place to ensure the success of the programme. Such a
structure must cover the design, implementation, and regular
review of the programme.
Separation of Responsibilities: There is a need for the separation
of the responsibilities of supervisors and mentors. Either as work
or project supervisor, the responsibilities differ from the
responsibilities of mentors, and this needs to be clearly emphasized
to the stakeholders.
Samuel Ayodeji Omolawal
Sensitization: There is a need for sensitization of all stakeholders
to know their responsibilities, limits, scopes, and expectations.
Objectives of Mentoring
Formal mentoring programmes in the University of Ibadan stand to
achieve some specific objectives, which include:
Increasing Mentee’s Level of Competence: This will lead to
higher performance by,
- Giving challenging assignments with a clear developmental
- Providing or facilitating access to useful information and
- Teaching, advising, and coaching on a wide range of issues
including taboo subjects such as institutional politics,
relationships with the senior faculty members, etc.
- Providing exemplary leadership; and
- Acting as a role model.
Increasing Mentee’s Level of Self-confidence: This is by,
- Encouraging and praising the mentee;
- Demonstrating trust and liking; and
- Challenging and motivating the mentee to find his/her own
answers to issues that he/she faces.
Promoting the Mentee’s Career: This is by,
- Praising the mentees to others; and
- Working with supervisor to ensure that the mentee‘s
developmental needs are met.
Benefits of Mentoring
Mentorship will be beneficial not just to the mentee but also to the
mentor and the institution as a whole (Scandura 1999; Aloko 2000;
Kochan and Trimble 2000; Kreitner and Kinicki 2001): A formal
mentorship programme in the University will provide benefits as
Institutionalization of Mentorship in the University of Ibadan
Benefits for the Mentee
Orientation mentoring, designed to help new hires quickly
get assimilated into the University system, will help speed
up the settling-in process. As the new employee settles
down and begins to focus on his/her career, the mentor can
also enhance the process of competence development and
career growth.
For more experienced mentees seeking career development,
mentoring will provide a rich source of guidance and
encouragement that speeds up the development process and
this will enable UI to keep tabs on their progress.
Mentoring will also foster a better sense of belonging and
reduce the sense of alienation that the un-mentored
employees often feel, especially in the early part of their
Mentoring will provide greater satisfaction, career
commitment, and career mobility for the upcoming faculty
The programme will provide early recognition for the
upcoming generations who have been well mentored, and
this is good for their career, and will lead to rapid growth in
the teaching profession.
Benefits for the Mentor
The mentor will enjoy a rare opportunity to develop his/her
communication and counselling skills. In order to mentor
his/her mentee effectively, he/she develops an awareness of
career and competence development issues that he/she may
not otherwise possess. Thus his/her own career also
benefits as a result of the information he acquires as a
There is also the enhanced self-esteem that comes with the
recognition that one is contributing to the growth and
development of a colleague. Mentors will also derive this
psychological benefit from the programme.
There is also the possibility of economic transactions in the
future as successful mentees may want to show some
Mentors may also enjoy increased productivity as a result
of the mentee‘s efforts.
Samuel Ayodeji Omolawal
Benefits for the University of Ibadan
Mentoring has the potential to enhance the corporate
performance of our great institution. By speeding up the
settling-in process and enhancing the mentee‘s career and
competence development, mentoring will ensure that the
University is able to derive maximum benefits from its
investment in staff.
Formal mentorship in the institution will showcase the
availability and abundance of highly experienced faculty
members and senior officers.
Mentoring will also provide a structured framework within
which the experienced and senior faculty members could
pass on the benefits of their knowledge and skill to the
A well-managed mentoring programme will provide an
early warning signal in the event of difficulties with a
mentee‘s career or competence development and allows
proper corrections to be effected for the institutional
Mentoring programme in UI will contribute to creating a
better integrated and motivated workforce by avoiding
most of the pitfalls associated with informal mentoring,
which will always go on, irrespective of whether our
institution recognizes it or not.
Mentoring has the potential to assist in human resource
issues such as succession planning, career planning,
promotions, and appointments in UI.
Mentorship will enhance the capacity building of upcoming
employees of the University at little or no financial cost.
This will particularly be a welcoming development in view
of the dwindling incomes of the University.
Potential Pitfalls of Mentoring
Scholars such as Kram (1985) and Ragin (1997) have identified
potential pitfalls which may affect the success of mentoring
programmes. Some of these include:
Institutionalization of Mentorship in the University of Ibadan
Mentor/Supervisor Conflict: There is the tendency for some
supervisors (either work or project) to feel threatened by the
mentor, especially if the mentee enjoys a better relationship with
the mentor than he/she does with the supervisor.
Neglect of Main Responsibilities: It is also possible that the
mentor could go beyond the normal dictates of his/her role and
devote too much time and attention to the mentoring programme
that the main job of the mentee or the mentor suffers.
Mentor/Mentee Conflict: This may happen when there is no
compatibility between both or when the protégé feels the mentor is
not contributing much to his/her development.
Power Alignment: An organization beset with a high degree of
internal politics must be careful in setting up a mentoring
programme, because the programme could be used to further
polarize and fractionalize the organization. The mentor may end up
becoming a god-father.
Efforts and Time: Mentoring places a high demand on the
mentor‘s time and energy. Both parties must be willing to devote
both time and effort otherwise, the success of the relationship may
be threatened.
Displacement: There is also the possibility of mentors being
displaced by successful mentees.
Accusation: Mentors may be accused of nepotism which may hurt
the mentor‘s reputation and effectiveness.
Over-ambition: Opportunistic and ambitious mentees may
backstab mentors.
Mentors’ Enemies: The possibility exists that the mentee may
inherit the mentor‘s enemies within the organization.
Over-protection: Mentees may be over-protected in the work
Credit: The mentor may inappropriately take credit for the
mentee‘s work.
Samuel Ayodeji Omolawal
These potential pitfalls are capable of affecting the success of the
mentorship programme, and it is, therefore, necessary that
appropriate structures be put in place to prevent them from
It is worthy of note that mentoring programmes go beyond the
level of organizations concerned with profit-making. Today, non-
profit making organizations operate mentoring programmes;
tertiary institutions also run mentoring programmes designed to
guide the career, conduct, and academic performance of younger
faculty members and students. The processes are the same, but the
major area of difference is that while profit-making organizations
organize mentoring programmes to increase the competence level
of their employees with the aim of increased organizational
productivity and profitability, tertiary institutions are concerned
more with career development, scholarship, conduct and academic
excellence of the students and upcoming faculty members. The
philosophy behind formal mentorship in a tertiary institution like
the University of Ibadan is to prepare the students in terms of
character and learning and the younger faculty members in terms
of scholarship, academic excellence, and competence. While this is
seen as a right step in the right direction, efforts should be taken to
ensure that the programme is within the framework of the
philosophy behind its introduction. Care also needs to be exercised
especially in the area of receiving feedback from mentors so that,
where necessary, reviews could be done to further strengthen the
Adeleke, A. 2000. The role of training and development in enhancing
corporate growth and survival. Human Resources Management-
Journal of the Institute of Personnel Management of Nigeria 10(5):
Aladejana, A., F. Aladejana and S. Ehindero. 2006. An Analysis of
Mentoring Relationships among Teachers: A case study of Obafemi
Awolowo University, Ile-Ife. International Journal of Evidence-
Based Coaching and Mentoring 4(11).
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Aloko, Bamidele. 2000. Mentorship as a tool for competence
development: The SPDC experience, in Human Resources
Management. Journal of the Institute of Personnel Management
9(4): 5-14.
Blake-Beard, S. 2005. Critical trends and shifts in mentoring experiences
of professional women. Equity Skills News 4(7).
Cole, G.A. 1997. Personnel management theory and practice. London:
Eburajolo, V.O. 2008. Coaching and Mentoring: Tools for effective
Human Resource Performance, being paper delivered at the Annual
Conference of the Oyo State Chapter of CIPMN.
Ghosh, R. 2003. Cross-Gender Mentoring, Retrieved from
Kreitner, R. and A. Kinicki. 2001. Organizational behaviour. London:
Kochan, F.K., and Trimble, B., 2000. From Mentoring to Co-Mentoring:
establishing Collaborative Relationships, Memory into Practice, Vol.
39, No. 1, Pp 20-28
Ogunbameru, O.A. 2008. Human Resource ManagementIn Industrial
Sociology, Ogunbameru, O.A. & Oribabor, E.P. (eds.), Ibadan:
Penthouse Publications, Pp 167-193
Omolawal, S.A. 2014. The challenge of human resource development in
Nigeria‘s sustainable development agenda. The Nigerian Journal of
Sociology and Anthropology 12(2): 83-97.
Putnam, Robert D. 1995. Bowling alone: America‘s declining social
capital. Journal of Democracy 6(1): 65-78.
Ragins, B.R., J.L. Cotton and J.S. Miller. 2000. Marginal mentoring: The
effects of type, quality of relationship and programme design on
work and career attitudes. Academy of Management Journal 43(6).
Redmond, W.A. 2009. ―Mentor (mythology).‖ Microsoft Encarta.
Roberts, A. 1998. The androgynous mentor: Bridging gender stereotypes
in mentoring. Mentoring and Tutoring: Partnership in Learning
Scandura, T. 1999. Mentoring. Journal of Applied Psychology, Retrieved
from Google
Effective Mentor-Mentee Communication
Ayobami Ojebode and Oluwaseun Ayomipo
Mentoring is one of those ancient methods of education that
survived modernism and modernity, and are being inculcated in
contemporary educational and training contexts. In the pre-colonial
Africa, mentoring was the means by which a son learns the trade of
the father and becomes a master; it is also the way a daughter
attained womanhood in character and skills through inculcation
from the mother or, in some African cultures (such as the Rukiga
in Uganda), the aunts. Traditional African mentorship was,
therefore, a largely informal and unstructured process. This does
not rule out the existence of formal structures as well. For instance,
the Calabar maid preparation school, also called Fattening Rooms,
is one of those semi-formal and semi-institutionalised traditional
mentoring practices that happen outside the family.
Whether mentorship is formal, semi-formal or informal and
unstructured, communication remains indispensably central to it. If
improperly handled, communication can create confusion in the
mentoring process and lead to a premature termination of a
potentially fruitful mentor-mentee relationship. That is what is
crucial about this chapter. We briefly describe mentoring and the
functions of a mentor; we then turn to mentoring as
communication. We sum up the nature of human communication
and then discuss the role of mentor-mentee communication in the
mentoring process. We discuss the communication tools that can
assist the process of mentoring as well as the obstacles that might
be encountered on the way and how to address them.
Defining Mentoring
It is generally accepted that mentoring is a process by which an
experienced person helps a less-experienced person develop the
adequate capacity to surmount an obstacle (Cruz, Goff, and Marsh
2020). Malen and Brown (2020:41) see mentoring as ―an inclusive,
reciprocal, and an ongoing process in which individuals
demonstrate their genuine commitment to the professional and
Ayobami Ojebode and Oluwaseun Ayomipo
personal growth and well-being of others.‖ They further explain
that mentoring is born out of a mentor‘s desire to help a mentee
rather than to advance his own self; it is an intentional and a
developmental relationship between a mentor and a mentee and
involves different forms of official and unofficial interactions.
From the foregoing, mentoring can be defined as a process by
which an experienced person helps, nurtures, and assists someone
who is less experienced to become more experienced, steady, and
capable of overcoming certain challenges, and ultimately, to also
become a mentor.
Mentoring is different from supervision. As posited by
Gallacher (1997), supervision involves directing or guiding people
towards realizing organizational objectives. Its goals are quality
control, personnel development, and promotion of commitment to
the realization of specific objectives. Largely, supervision is formal
and clear-cut, with a clear beginning and end. Mentoring, on the
other hand, goes beyond formal relationships. It covers more areas
of life and decision-making and can be lifelong.
The functions of a mentor are many. Gallacher (1997)
presented a list of them, including the actions that constitute
carrying out each function. The functions are as follows:
(1) Coaching: Teaching technical skills, helping to clarify
performance goals and learning objectives, suggesting
strategies for achieving goals and objectives or meeting job
performance requirements, and reinforcing effective on-
the-job performance.
(2) Increasing Exposure and Visibility: Providing
opportunities for the protégé to demonstrate competencies
and special talents, and representing the protégé‘s
competencies and concerns to higher-level administrators.
(3) Protecting: Minimizing the protégé‘s involvement in
controversial situations, helping the protégé avoid costly
career mistakes, and offering warnings about various
pitfalls in the organization.
(4) Sponsoring: Nominating the protégé for promotion,
specific positions, or special assignments; expanding the
Effective Mentor-Mentee Communication
protégé‘s network of professional contacts; and linking the
protégé with educational opportunities.
(5) Role Modelling: Stimulating growth and development of
the protégé, and demonstrating successful professional
(6) Encouraging: Providing acceptance, validation,
confirmation, and friendship, and bringing together several
protégés who may help one another.
(7) Advising: Helping the protégé to clarify and achieve career
goals, helping the protégé to evaluate career options, and
recommending strategies for career development.
(8) Explaining: Providing the protégé with information on
policies and procedures in the organization, clarifying
organizational goals and objectives, and identifying
Gallacher (1997)‘s list is a useful one. However, the point has to be
made that these functions are overlapping. For instance, coaching
involves explaining just as one can hardly protect without advising.
The functions are also not to be understood as a linear sequential
process; they are dynamic, interwoven and non-linear.
Mentoring as Communication
From the foregoing, it is obvious that mentoring involves a large
dose of communication between a mentor and his or her mentee(s).
To effectively coach, encourage, advise, instruct, guide, etc., a
mentor and a mentee must communicate. Communication is
pervasive. It is intertwined with all aspects of human life and can
sometimes be complex (Adler and Rodman 2006). Since to
succeed in mentoring is to succeed in the series of communication
engagements between a mentor and his or her mentee(s), it is
imperative for mentors and mentees to have a good grasp of the
meaning and nature of communication in the context of mentoring,
the factors that influence communication effectiveness, the roles
that both parties are supposed to play in communication, the
various communication tools that can be employed in mentoring,
and some obstacles to communication in mentoring and how to
handle them.
Ayobami Ojebode and Oluwaseun Ayomipo
Communication is a dynamic and complex, multifaceted
process. It could be verbal and/or nonverbal (Lemon 1990).
Communication does not have a universally acceptable definition.
However, a large number of scholars agree that it is a process of
exchanging information, thoughts, feelings, and attitudes among
participants. The exchange in communication is usually a two-way
process. In communicating, we wish to influence the other person,
and we also end up getting influenced. Mentoring is that
communication process by which we share and exchange
information, knowledge, skills, and experience with someone so
that they may grow in life and career.
Mentors and mentees alike must be conscious of the fact that
communication between them could be in three forms: verbal
(using words), nonverbal (not using words), or a combination of
verbal and nonverbal. That mentors and mentees should be careful
in their use of words while communicating needs no emphasis.
However, a great deal of harm is often done to the mentor-mentee
communication process because many people underestimate the
significance of nonverbal communication. Nonverbal
communication goes beyond unintentional body language.
Oftentimes, people intentionally communicate solely with
nonverbal gestures, including silence, with the aim of speaking
loudly and clearly. Nonverbal gestures are sometimes also used to
reinforce verbal communication for greater impact. To succeed in
mentor-mentee communication, both parties must be able to
appropriately decipher what their nonverbal actions and inactions
mean and choose to appropriately adjust to them as occasion
demands (Lemon 1990). The questions to ask at this juncture are
these: ―Am I really sensitive to the various nonverbal cues of my
mentor/mentee? Do I intentionally and adequately adjust to their
nonverbal cues while communicating with them?‖ The figure
below illustrates the importance of nonverbal cues in mentor-
mentee communication.
Effective Mentor-Mentee Communication
Fig. 1: ―Of course I communicate. You know very well that a grunt means ‗yes‘
and a snarl means ‗no‘.‖
Nature of Human Communication
What we carve out as the nature of human communication is
largely affected by the way we conceptualize communication.
Conceptualizing communication as a process of exchanging
information, thoughts, feelings, and attitudes among participants
agrees with the view of scholars who believe that communication
is transactional. This school of thought believes that humans
usually send and receive messages simultaneously and designates
them as communicators rather than senders and receivers of
information. It believes that as humans, we are capable of
receiving, decoding, and responding to another person‘s behaviour,
while at the same time, that other person is receiving and
responding to ours (Adler and Rodman 2006). This view captures
the process of mentor-mentee communication. It is
diagrammatically represented below.
Ayobami Ojebode and Oluwaseun Ayomipo
Fig. 2: A general representation of transactional model.
Source: Adler and Rodman. 2006. Understanding human communication. 9th edition.
New York: Oxford University Press.
Now we will discuss a few points about the nature of human
communication in the context of a mentor-mentee relationship,
viewing it from the transactional perspective. One, human
communication is by nature an exchange of meaning
between/among the participants. Meaning, in the context of
communication, is the way an individual understands or makes
sense of a code/message or a piece of information that he/she has
or receives. For communication to be effective, the parties
involved must have common grounds of generating meanings from
verbal or nonverbal codes/messages. Also, communication as an
exchange implies that the participants are in it to give and take
from one another. Every participant sends and receives pieces of
information and sometimes does so simultaneously. The
implication of this in mentor-mentee communication is that the
parties involved must be willing to initiate communication with
and also respond to communication from each other. When there is
ineffectiveness of either party in initiating or responding, there can
be various forms of challenges.
Two, human communication occurs between/among humans.
This point looks simple, but it is of great importance. Human
beings are human beings. They are not deities, gods, angels, or
God. They are not machines, even though they use communication
machines (gadgets) as channels of communication. The
implications of this point are two: one, participants in mentor-
mentee communication should regard each other as human beings
Effective Mentor-Mentee Communication
and make room for flaws, excesses, limitations, etc., which are
inevitable realities of being a human being; two, while using
communication gadgets to communicate, mentors and mentees
alike should realize that the communication is not between two
machines (such as two android phones), but it is between two
humans who have every physiological, psychological, socio-
economical, etc., characteristics of humans (which machines do
not have).
Three, human communication is an intentional engagement to
influence the person(s) we communicate with. There are usually
preconceived goals that we want to achieve by communicating
with people, though unintended goals are also sometimes achieved.
Thus, it is imperative for participants in a communication context
to communicate purposefully in order to exert intended influence.
Also, communicators must be empathetic with each other. They
must seek not just to be understood but also to understand each
other‘s goals for communicating at a given instance, for example, a
mentee who keeps calling a mentor on the phone and a mentor who
keeps ignoring the calls of his/her mentee both need to be
empathetic to each other. The empathetic mentee will excuse the
mentor by reasoning that he/she is not able to attend to calls at the
moment. He/she will therefore stop calling and explore other
means of communication, such as a text message. The empathetic
mentor will also reason that the mentee needs to speak with
him/her urgently and thus send a message, promising to call as
soon as he/she can or asking the mentee to call at a certain time.
That way, the mentee will not feel ignored, and the mentor will not
feel disturbed.
Furthermore, human communication is hampered by noise.
Noises are extraneous things in a message that distort it and
prevent it from being received as intended. Examples of noise
include channel noise (arising from the gadgets used to
communicate, e.g. bad communication as a result of bad network
from the telecommunication service providers), semantic noise
(arising from probable irritation from the wrong pronunciation of
certain sounds our words), and psychological noise (arising from
fatigue or bad emotions that set communicators in a bad mood).
Noise causes misunderstanding, confusion, and mis-
communication. The moment a party cannot appropriately decipher
Ayobami Ojebode and Oluwaseun Ayomipo
the message, such will not be able to respond appropriately. In
mentor-mentee communication, using vocabulary beyond the
linguistic level of each other, lack of proper contextualization of
meanings, and biased ideas or messages can all constitute noise
and hamper communication. The implication of this is that the
mentor and mentee must envisage the interference of noise in their
communication and make provisions to contain it.
Human communication is also sensitive to context. Context, in
communication, implies the situation that surrounds the
communication engagement. Better still, it can be defined as the
place or setting where communication is taking place. The way
humans behave is affected by where they think they are, and so is
their communication behaviour. The way a professor will expect to
be communicated with by his/her students in the class will
certainly be different from the way they will communicate in a
football viewing centre if they are fans of the same football club.
Insensitivity to the context of communication can breed
miscommunication and hamper the effectiveness of mentor-mentee
communication in a number of ways.
Factors that Influence Communication in Mentoring
Factors that influence communication in mentoring are many.
Everything that affects both the mentor and the mentee can
influence the way they communicate. Below is a list of some of the
factors, adapted mostly from DECS mentoring (2008):
(1) The self-concept and self-esteem of both the mentor and
(2) The personality of both the mentor and mentee;
(3) The attitudes, beliefs, values, and biases of both the
mentor and mentee;
(4) The perception that the mentor and mentee have of each
(5) The assumptions that the mentor and mentee make about
each other;
(6) The expectations that the mentor and mentee have from
the communication;
Effective Mentor-Mentee Communication
(7) The background and experience of the mentor and
mentee (including cultural differences, religious
differences, and socio-economic differences);
(8) The power and status of the mentor and mentee;
(9) The personal presentations of the mentor and mentee
(how they look and how they choose to present
(10) The preoccupations (biological and mental state) of the
mentor and mentee;
(11) The number of mentees being communicated with: for
instance, communication during individual mentoring
encounters, will differ from communication during group
mentoring encounters;
(12) The degree of familiarity between the mentor and the
(13) The physical distance or space existing between the
location of the mentor and that of the mentee;
(14) The difference between the importance that the mentor
and mentee attach to a particular piece of information or
subject being communicated;
(15) The self-awareness of the mentor and mentee and how
open each is willing to be with the other;
(16) The gender of the mentor and mentee;
(17) The prior life experiences of the mentor and mentee;
(18) The official/organizational regulations guiding mentor-
mentee communication, if such exist in their context; and
(19) The difference between the ages of the mentor and the
Roles of Mentor-Mentee Communication
In a mentor-mentee communication context, the two participants
are not on the same level of experience. The mentor is more
experienced, while the mentee is less experienced. The essence of
mentoring is to pull the mentee up the ladder of experience and
help him/her develop the capacity to overcome challenges. In
mentor-mentee communication, the mentor does the following.
One, the mentor informs the mentee(s) of opportunities and
deadlines. He/she serves as a journalist. He/she uses his/her
Ayobami Ojebode and Oluwaseun Ayomipo
experiences, exposures, and networks to locate opportunities for
his/her mentees, informs them of the opportunities and deadlines
so that they can take advantage of the opportunities for their
growth and development.
Two, the mentor inspires and commends his/her mentee(s).
He/she serves as a motivator to them. Climbing the ladder of
experience in any endeavour in life can be a daunting task. Without
the constant motivation and encouragement of persons who have
trod the path, a beginner may be utterly discouraged and be
tempted to abandon it. Thus, mentees need the constant
motivational communication of mentors to be able to successfully
navigate their ways up the ladder of experience in their chosen
Three, the mentor rebukes/warns the mentee in order to steer
him/her off dangerous paths. This way, the mentor serves as a
prophet to the mentee. The mentor, being an experienced person,
knows the path that the mentee is travelling so well. The prior
good and bad experiences of the mentor while climbing the ladder
of experience in the field would have taught her many lessons with
which she guides her mentee. And, when the mentee refuses to
yield to instructions, the mentor will have to rebuke/warn him or
Four, the mentor also counsels the mentee, thus serving as a
shepherd. To counsel is to advise, to offer someone suggestions for
solving problems/challenges. The mentor will have to do this at
some point in time when the mentees are confronted with
challenges that they cannot surmount.
Five, the mentor guides/educates the mentee. This way, he/she
serves as a teacher. The ultimate goal of mentor-mentee
communication cannot be achieved without the transfer of
knowledge, skills, virtues, etc., from the more-experienced mentor
to the less-experienced mentee. Mentors are teachers, and when
they are effective onesmaking the teaching learner-centricthe
results are usually great.
Mentor-Mentee Communication Tools and Contexts
There are different communication tools that can be engaged to
facilitate mentor-mentee communication. While the mentor and the
mentee may prefer different channels for communicating with each
Effective Mentor-Mentee Communication
other, it will be wise for the mentee to adjust his or her taste to
what works for the mentor. Mentor-mentee communication should
be directed/led/coordinated by the mentor but centred around
meeting the needs of the mentee. Below are some of the tools that
can be adopted for mentor-mentee communication.
New communication media e.g., WhatsApp, Telegram,
Face-to-face, one-on-one communication;
Telephone conversations (including Skype, Zoom, etc.);
Small group communication (such as mentees‘ group); and
Joint tasks e.g. co-authorship.
As mentioned earlier, human communication by nature is
context-dependent. In other words, the place we are, the situation
we find ourselves in, the environment, the location, etc., influence
the way we communicate. This implies that the way we construct
the message that we send to the recipient, the channel/tool we use,
the noise we envisage and deal with, the type of response we get
from the recipient of our message, the verbal and nonverbal cues
we engage in communication, etc., are influenced by the
location/situation in which the communication is taking place. In
mentor-mentee communication, sensitivity to context is of prime
importance. Neither the mentor nor the mentee (especially) should
overlook the influences on/around each other while building
expectations about how their communication engagement will go
at a particular time. Insensitivity to the context of communication
breeds miscommunication and disappointment, which negatively
affect the mentoring process. The rule of thumb is that mentees
must be very mindful of and always be adjusting to the contexts
surrounding the mentor while communicating if they want to
succeed under the mentor. Also, the mentee must be quick to
forgive the insensitivity of the mentor to their contexts because
offense builds barriers to effective mentor-mentee communication.
Obstacles to Mentor-Mentee Communication
There are many obstacles to mentor-mentee communication. Any
of the aforementioned factors that influence mentor-mentee
communication can constitute a barrier to effective communication
Ayobami Ojebode and Oluwaseun Ayomipo
when not properly handled. However, a few more of the obstacles
are explained below.
Information Asymmetry between the Mentor and the Mentee
Bergh et al. (2018) define information asymmetry as a condition
wherein one party in a relationship has more or better information
than another.‖ Obviously, the mentor qualifies to be a mentor
because he/she is more experienced than the mentee. He/she has
acquired much information over the years about the field that the
mentee is just joining. That wide gap in the volumes of information
that the mentor and the mentee have about their field creates an
information imbalance (information asymmetry) that can hinder
effective mentor-mentee communication. Information asymmetry
can make a mentor (sometimes unintentionally) show (though not
telling) the mentee that the latter is a fool. Information asymmetry
can also make the tolerance of the mentor to the immaturity or
excesses of the mentee lower than tolerable for the mentee. Also,
information asymmetry can make the mentor feel as though the
mentee is more of a parasite to him/her as the mentee only takes
from the mentor and does not add to his/her volume of knowledge
on the field. Information asymmetry can also make the mentor
have undue expectations of the mentee and thus place undue
pressure on the mentee, which can be discouraging. It takes a
mentor with a mentors heart to successfully deal with the obstacle
of information asymmetry.
Power Asymmetry
Mentor-mentee communication cannot be effective when there is a
power imbalance. In other words, when the mentor feels like the
independent/the powerful/the boss/the slave master while the
mentee feels like the dependent/the powerless/the subject/the slave,
communicating with each other cannot achieve the best results.
This is because mentoring achieves the best of results when
communication is transactional and not linear. A slave-master-
minded mentor cannot get proper feedback from a slave-minded
mentee. There could be many justifiable reasons for this feeling of
power asymmetry, but it is not congruent with the original concept
of mentoring from the Greek mythology earlier shared. Mentor,
Effective Mentor-Mentee Communication
who was the first mentor, was a friend and a guide to Odysseus
while preparing him for the Trojan War.
Cultural and Sub-cultural Differences
Differences in the cultural backgrounds of the mentor and the
mentee can also negatively influence their communication. Every
culture has its sets of ―acceptable‖ practices, and sometimes these
can be in contrast with that of another culture. A good example of
such is the way a younger person greets an older person in Igbo
and Yoruba culturesit is different between both settings. There
are also religious norms and beliefs that are different and
sometimes contradictory. For instance, it may be proscribed in a
religion for a man to shake the hand of a woman, while in some
other religion, it may be an act of warmth and love. Also, there can
be differences in organizational/school/departmental cultures.
Besides cultural differences, there can also be sub-cultural
differences between a mentor and a mentee. A subculture is a
cultural group within a larger culture, often having beliefs or
interests at variance with those of the larger culture. For instance,
there are some Christians and Muslims who do not conform to
other adherents of their respective religions in some fundamental
beliefs. When there are sub-cultural differences between a mentor
and a mentee, even though they belong to the same culture, they
should discuss them and adjust to them in order to ensure effective
Lack of Clarity on Roles and Expectations
As earlier stated, human beings by nature communicate to
influence others to meet certain preconceived demands. Moreover,
the roles we think others should play in a given situation and our
expectations of how they should play them greatly influence the
way we communicate to influence others. In mentor-mentee
communication, when the roles and expectations that both parties
have of each other are not explicitly shared and agreed upon, there
is bound to be miscommunication and disappointment. Thus, it is
expedient for the mentor and the mentee to figure out their roles in
the relationship, compare notes, and ensure clarity before they set
sail together.
Ayobami Ojebode and Oluwaseun Ayomipo
Linguistic Differences as Obstacles
Words are very powerful, and the ways we construct meanings are
different. Our interpretations of words are often influenced by who
we are, that is, our backgrounds. The expression ―You are not
serious‖, from a mentor to a mentee, can have different meanings.
Thus, it is expedient that both the mentor and mentee grow in their
sensitivity to how each other constructs meaning out of words in
order to ensure effective and rewarding communication.
Importantly one should remember that words change their
meanings with time. The word ―cure‖ once meant ―clever‘, just as
―prestigious‖ once meant ―involving the use of tricks‖. ―Nervous‖
once meant ―strong‖ and an ―assassin‖ once meant a ―drug addict‖.
With time, meanings change. The age gap between a mentor and a
mentee might mean that they hold different meanings for similar
words and expressions. Not only this, new words and new
meanings seem to be coined more rapidly by younger people than
by old. Therefore, there is a need to try to close that gap by
listening actively and asking for clarifications.
Communication: What is Expected of a Mentee?
The success of a mentor-mentee communication lies much in the
hand of the mentee. He/she is expected to be focused and
committed to achieving good results from the mentoring
experience. Whatever legitimate thing it takes to be successfully
mentored and become an experienced person is worth giving to
mentor-mentee communication. Below are some of the things that
are expected of a mentee in mentor-mentee communication.
(1) Ask questions. Ask questions in ways that your mentor
appreciates, and when he/she appreciates such.
(2) Give updates. Give feedback. Don‘t assume your mentor
knows the outcome; rather, share it. Effective
communication is transactional.
(3) Articulate your needs very well before presenting them
to your mentor. And, in presentation, be clear/precise.
Use appropriate words (that your mentor understands).
(4) Disagree respectfully and with tact. Dont deflate the ego
of your mentor. Be sensitive to the emotions of your
mentor when ―arguing.‖ Win-win is the best situation in
Effective Mentor-Mentee Communication
any respectful argument, but if it is not possible at any
given time, let your mentor win. If anyone will have to
feel bad after the ―disagreement,‖ let it be you.
(5) Communicate (exude) confidence, but dont be proud. Be
sensitive to your mentors definition of a good/confident
mentee, and stay within the limit.
(6) Apply discretion. Avoid gossip, tale-telling, and rude
criticism. Dont do anything that rubbishes the image of
your mentor or runs him/her down. Mentors sacrifice a
lot to pull mentees up the ladder of experience. Often
they cannot explain the pains they are passing through,
and even if they can, mentees may not understand. Thus,
it is expedient that mentees remain loyal to their mentors,
even if that is risky. The golden rule is ―Whatever you
wish your mentees do to you, do to your mentors also.‖
(7) Seek clarifications. It is not a sin to seek clarification.
Mentors guide, instruct, warn, rebuke, motivate, etc., in
ways they think best. Sometimes, due to differences in
age, exposure, experience, etc., mentees may not
understand what the mentor means. In that case, it will be
good to seek clarifications. However, clarifications must
be sought in ways that are acceptable to the mentor and
at the right time.
(8) Ensure that the subjects of discussion are not only and
always work-related. (He/she‘s a mentor, not (just) a
supervisor). Often, especially in academic settings, a
mentor can also double as a supervisor of a particular
project or task at hand. In that case, mentees must resist
the temptation of limiting communication to only
subjects that concern the project, thus making the
mentor-mentee relationship strictly official. Also,
sometimes, a supervisor may not open the door of
mentorship to his/her supervisees. In that case, a
supervisee should also not go beyond his official
boundary to avoid miscommunication. Overall, mentors
should be related with as social beings who have more to
their lives than work. Mentors‘ lives are affected by all
that happens to them, and mentees should understand
this. Mentees should therefore share life matters with the
mentors too, howbeit in a proportion that the latter can
delightfully accommodate.
Ayobami Ojebode and Oluwaseun Ayomipo
(9) Affirm the mentor. Mentors are human beings too. Every
human being loves affirmation. We are social beings: we
are happier, better, livelier, and more productive among
people who love us than those who are indifferent to us.
Show that you appreciate your mentor in ways that
he/she understands appreciation. Celebrate what he/she
celebrates, love what he/she loves, be proud of your
mentor, and let him/her know that you are proud of
(10) Listen to your mentor. Listen to what he/she is saying,
listen to what he/she is not saying, listen creatively,
empathetically, listen to understand what he/she is saying
and do not just hear him/her speak. Be an active listener
(in ways that are acceptable to your mentor). Use
nodders, hogs, bees, muffs, gap fillers, and dart throwers
to show that you are following the conversation.
Listening is one of the most difficult language arts, if not
the most difficult. However, you don‘t have to be a
professional listener, but at least your mentor must be
able to say that you are a good listener.
(11) Know the difference between a mentor and a
―tormentor,‖ and be prepared to achieve your goal
despite all odds. Sometimes, a mentee gets a ―tormentor‖
instead of a mentor: he/she gets someone who talks down
to him/her instead of discussing with him/her, he/she gets
someone who sets him up for failure instead of clarifying
goals and expectations with him/her, and he gets
someone who is task-obsessed instead of being
relationship-focused. Getting what we do not bargain for
sometimes is one of the realities of life, but it is not
enough of an excuse not to achieve our goals. While it is
disgusting for a supposed mentor to be operating as a
tormentor, a mentee should not take laws into his/her
hands or behave in unruly ways. Instead, wisdom for the
tormentor-mentee communication should be sought from
seniors and trusted mentors.
Mentor-Mentee Communication in Reverse Mentoring
Reverse mentoring is a situation in which a mentee needs to ―help‖
his/her mentor learn certain skills. For instance, a mentee of a
professor can be an information and communication technology
Effective Mentor-Mentee Communication
(ICT) guru and may need to put his/her mentor through some ICT
lessons to enhance the mentor‘s proficiency. In that instance, the
mentor has temporarily become a mentee of her/his mentee, and
the mentee has temporarily become a mentor of her/his mentor.
When such a situation occurs, the mentee must keep the
communication focused on informing and skilling the mentor and
not on ―sermonizing‖ him/her. Remember, the mentor is a human
being with an ego that must not be deflated. Also, the mentee must
not use ―sharp‖ commands in instructing the mentor.
Rebuke/warning is out of it. Instead, very polite requests, seasoned
with respect for the person of the mentor, should be deployed.
The laudable goals of mentoring cannot be achieved without
effective mentor-mentee communication, which has been
discussed in this chapter. To succeed in mentor-mentee
communication, the mentee must know that the bulk of the job is
on him/her, though the mentor has much work to do too.
Mentoring is an intense journey. It is very demanding on both the
mentor and the mentee. Choosing one‘s partner carefully is
therefore very important so that both parties can run and end well.
Adler, R.B. and G. Rodman. 2006. Understanding human
communication. 9th edition. New York: Oxford University Press.
Bergh, Donald; Ketchen, David; Orlandi, Ilaria; Heugens, Pursey and
Boyd, Brian. 2018. Information asymmetry in management research:
Past accomplishments and future opportunities. Journal of
Management 45. 014920631879802. 10.1177/0149206318798026.
Cruz, Joshua; Goff, H. Maria and Marsh, Josphein P. 2020. Building the
mentoring relationship: Humanism and the importance of storytelling
between mentor and mentee. Mentoring & Tutoring: Partnership in
Learning DOI: 10.1080/13611267.2020.1749344.
DECS mentoring. 2008. True Colours Training Manual: Self-esteem
Program for Young Women
Ayobami Ojebode and Oluwaseun Ayomipo
Gallacher, K.K. 1997. ―Supervision, Mentoring, and Coaching: Methods
for Supporting Personnel Development In Reforming Personnel
Preparation in Early Intervention: Issues, Models, and Practical
Strategies Edited by Winton, P.J., McCollum, J.A. and Catlett, C.
191-214. Baltimore: Brookes.
Lemon, Jennifer. 1990. Fashion and style as non-verbal communication.
Communicatio: South African Journal for Communication Theory
and Research 16(2): 19-26, DOI: 10.1080/02500169008537718.
Malen, Betty and Tara M. Brown. 2020. What matters to mentees:
Centering their voices. Mentoring & Tutoring: Partnership in
Learning DOI: 10.1080/13611267.2020.1793086
Mentor-Mentee Relationship: Scope and
Oyeronke A. Odunola
The Concept of Mentoring
Mentoring could simply be defined as a relationship between a
mentor and the mentee aimed at learning and development as well
as advancement in careers for both of them (Chin et al. 1998).
Generally, mentoring involves the provision of guidance by a
senior colleague who is more conversant with the know-how
needed in a specified institution. The mentor, therefore, serves as a
role model and confidant, offering advice and knowledge, skills
acquisition, and intuition useful to the mentee (Ramanan et al.
2002). According to John C. Crosby, ―Mentoring is a brain to pick,
an ear to listen, and a push in the right direction‖.
Mentoring is essential for educational development at all
levelsundergraduate, graduate, post-doctoral, etc. It is also
needed in other areas like: career development, especially in the
academia (early-career and mid-career). ―Researchers and research
administration, administrative and management positions, pastime
hobbiesindoor games (backgammon, chess, ludo, monopoly,
scrabble, etc.), and outdoor sports (badminton, football, golf, hide
and seek, lawn tennis, etc.) are all areas where mentoring is
needed‖. Sometimes, an individual might need multiple mentors
to be fulfilled.
A successful relationship transforms both parties (individuals
or groups), organizations (institutions), and communities (Ragins
and Kram 2007). For an established institution like the academia,
mentoring has a great input on the research outputgrants,
publications, conference attendance, policy formulation, and
uptake by the community. Consequently, therefore, mentoring is
expected to be a critical part of training for Early Career
Researchers (ECRs) and Research Administrators geared towards
building the Next Generation of Researchers and Research
Administrators and leveraging on the institution‘s strategic vision
and missions.
Mentor (son of Alcumus) in Greek mythology was a trusted
and more experienced friend of Odysseus. When the latter was
Oyeronke A. Odunola
about to set out for the Trojan war, he entrusted Mentor with the
care of his house and the education of his beloved son,
Telemachus. On several occasions in the Odyssey, during the
Trojan war, the goddess Athena assumes Mentor‘s form to give
advice to Telemachus or Odysseus. Thus, Mentor refers to a
faithful friend, companion, and wise adviser. The concept and act
of mentoring are, therefore, not new.
Fig. 1: Calypso receiving Telemachus and Mentor in the Grotto (William
Hamilton Ra 1751 1801).
Differentiating Mentoring from other Terminologies
Mentoring, at times, is confused with coaching, consulting,
counselling, and training. While the terminologies appear similar,
they are distinctive. The differences between the terminologies,
their acts, and practices are as explained in figure 2 (Bakker and
Jansen 2013). In addition, a mentor is often interchanged with an
adviser. While a mentor performs the role of an adviser, an adviser
may not necessarily be a mentor. Mentoring is generally a personal
as well as a professional relationship which is more than advising.
Mentor-Mentee Relationship: Scope and Boundaries
Fig. 2: Differentiating terminologies (Bakker and Jansen 2013).
Developing Mentor-Mentee Relationship (MMR): Scope
and Boundaries
(a) Mentor-Mentee Relationship
Mentor-mentee relationships are mostly driven by the mentor who:
Manages the relationship and brings out the most potential
in the mentee;
Encourages the mentee and provides his/her shoulder for
support and strength;
Nurtures the relationship with perseverance, patience, and
experience to give time enough for development;
Teaches with a lot of tolerance in order to see the potential
Offers leadership with one ability to give direction(s) to the
mentee, and
Responds to the mentee‘s needs with great flexibility.
Mentor-mentee relationships are customarily a one-to-one
relationship, with a more senior person mentoring a junior one.
Other mentoring relationships that exist includepeers mentoring
Oyeronke A. Odunola
(i.e., when peers identify issues and assist each other based on their
different experiences) and group mentoring (i.e., when a group of
individuals come together to mentor and help each other. This is
common with early career researchers). Some mentors also use the
group mentoring approach when they need to give guidance or
resolve a common issue among their mentees. However, their
mentoring relationship with each mentee remains exclusive.
(b) Characteristics of a Good Mentor-Mentee Relationship
A good mentor and mentee relationship is mutually established
with clear goals, confidentiality, and trust. Both the mentor and
mentee must be good listeners, open-minded and having clear two-
way communication skills, offer time and space, support,
encourage, and facilitate learning for each other. In addition, they
should be able to share experiences, offer inspiring ideas, create
time for each other, and build and expand their network.
(c) Types of Mentor-Mentee Relationships
Mentor-mentee relationships exist in two different categories,
however, each relationship is unique, and no two are exactly the
same. The two major groups are cross-gender [male mentor and
female mentee (very common), and female mentor and male
mentee] and same-gender [male mentor and male mentee (most
common) and female mentor and female mentee (not very
common)] relationships. Mentor-mentee relationships could also
be cross-cultural and mentoring by supervisor. For both cases,
the mentor-mentee pair could be cross-gender or same-gender
(fig. 3).
Mentor-Mentee Relationship: Scope and Boundaries
(A) (B)
(C) (D)
Fig. 3: Types of mentor-mentee relationship: From clockwise direction:
(A) Female-mentor/Female-mentee; (B) Female-mentor/Male-mentee;
(C) Mentoring by supervisionFemale-mentor/Male-mentee, and (D)
Cross-culturalFemale-mentor/Male-mentee (Hausa/Yoruba).
(d) Role of Mentors in Mentor-Mentee Relationships
The mentor is the driver of the mentoring relationship and is,
therefore, expected to offer vision, make solid time commitments,
schedule regular high-quality meetings, set agenda, monitor the
progress and timeline, and set the pace to be a good mentor
through role modelling—‗Do as I do‘ and ‗Watch me and do
better‘ models.
Oyeronke A. Odunola
(e) Role of Mentees in Mentor-Mentee Relationships
A mentee should embrace the relationship with openness from the
onset. He/she must be positive, proactive, willing to learn, have
clear expectations, creative, and innovative. Mentees should be
receptive to the mentor‘s comments, keep in touch, and arrange
follow-up meetings with adequate preparations. They should not
be afraid of taking risks and stepping out of their comfort zones.
Finally, according to the words of Bruce Lee, “Always be yourself,
express yourself, have faith in yourself, do not go out and look for
a successful personality and duplicate it.” Mentoring is not
(f) Stages of Mentor-Mentee Relationship
Mentor-mentee relationships, whether structured or informal, go
through four main stages, namely: Initiation, Cultivation,
Separation, and Redefinition (Kram 1983).
Fig. 4: Phases of the mentor relationship.
(Walsh et al. 2017)
(i) Initiation This is the onset of the relationship, and may take
between six months to a year after the first interaction between the
mentor and mentee. The first meeting is usually short, more of an
introduction and exchange of contact details, but very important
for the relationship as the first impression lasts forever‘. Series of
meetings are held afterwards as agreed by the two of them. There
is a need to agree on a mutual relationship before commencement.
Some of the questions to be asked during the initial meetings
include the under listed; but bear in mind that it is good to start
Mentor-Mentee Relationship: Scope and Boundaries
with open-ended questions initiated by the mentor. Examples
(a) Tell me about yourself, What are your academic needs?
How is your relationship with your Head of Department/
supervisor/senior colleagues/ peers? etc. The mentor also
talks about him/herself at this point.
(b) How formal should the relationship be?
(c) Should everything be discussed, or should there be
restrictionsother institutional matters, home, community,
After the initial set of questions, the pair could thereafter consider
the following questions:
(a) Can a productive and non-threatening relationship be
(b) Are they comfortable to the level of giving/asking for
advice and accepting criticism?
(c) Can they meet frequently enough for the needs of the
mentor-mentee relationship?
They then determine what their expectations are, set SMART
(Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound)
goals, and the duration of the relationship. An agreement (not
necessarily written) is reached between them, and the relationship
is initiated.
(ii) Cultivation This is the stage where the mentee is developed,
and it takes between two to five years. Communication is very
crucial at this stage, with both mentor and mentee being responsive
and flexible. The types of contact between them, at this stage,
include face to face meetings (this should be encouraged as much
as possible), phone calls (to pass urgent messages across or for
random checks on the mentee), electronically via emails (for
exchange of documents, etc.), and quick-witted contacts
(unexpected invitations for joint attendance at diverse occasions).
Communication through a third-party must be avoided.
During this stage, the mentor-mentee build and expand their
networks at the local, national, and international levels, attend
Oyeronke A. Odunola
events such as conferences, seminars, athletic events, etc., and
have meals together. They work on the SMART goals, identify
solutions to pressing issues, and maintain a balance between family
life, career, and personal goals. This stage determines the success
of the mentor-mentee relationship (fig. 5).
(A) (B)
Fig. 5: Cultivation Phase of Mentor-Mentee Relationship: (A) 2nd Unibadan
Conference of Biomedical Research (2010); (B) 53rd Annual Meeting and
ToxExpoTM of the Society of Toxicology, Phoenix, Arizona, USA (2015);
(C) CIRCLE manuscript writing workshop for ECRs, University of Ibadan
Mentor-Mentee Relationship: Scope and Boundaries
(iii) Separation A major goal of the mentor-mentee relationship
is to guide a mentee to acquire the requisite skills, become
independent and successful, and be able to mentor other persons.
The relationship, therefore, does not last forever and must end at
some point. This is the separation stage and it takes between six
months and two years. Separation takes two major forms
successful and sudden.
Successful separation is the ultimate goal leading to the raising
of Next Generation Mentors‘. Most successful separations are
well celebrated by the mentor-mentee pair. Formal relationships
usually end after the celebration, while the informal ones may
Sudden separation takes place abruptly and is usually
unplanned. This may be due to genuine reasons such as a change in
location, that makes the needed face-to-face interaction difficult,
and/or lack of continued expertise. Mentor-mentee relationships
also end suddenly due to incessant and unresolved disagreements
like: inability to adapt to change by both the mentor and mentee,
inability to communicate effectively, third-party interference
(especially from other senior colleagues of the mentee),
overlooking cogent feedback, pressure from gender issues (such as
in male mentorfemale mentee relationships), demands for equal
rights by the mentee (in situations relating to rewards), lack of
integrity by the mentee despite guidance, no evidence of ability to
source for funding, no evidence of promotion as and when due, no
evidence of being recommended by the mentor, and lack of mutual
respect by both mentor and mentee.
Painful separation should be avoided in all mentor-mentee
relationships. This could be achieved by effective communication
and management of the crisis by discussing and agreeing on
whether the relationship should end and when; future plans for the
particular mentor-mentee relationship; intellectual ownership of
research ideas, ongoing research projects and others; and whether
the mentee can continue to work on the research ideas and projects.
For both successful and sudden separations, the mentor-mentee
must strive to maintain collaborations.
Oyeronke A. Odunola
(iv) Redefinition This phase is indefinite and can take many
forms, from complete termination to continuing mutual
relationship. Mentoring can be a very pleasing experience,
especially when it is built on mutual respect and trust. It is,
however, important to note the mentoring is not a cloning process,
and not all stages are beneficial to the mentor or mentee.
(A) (B)
Fig. 6: Successful mentor-mentee relationship AWARD mentoring
programme: (A) Dr Oyeronke Odunola and Mrs Pamela Akin-Idowu -
Initiation phase in Mombasa, Kenya (2009); (B) and (C) Separation and
redefinition at NIHORT, Ibadan, Nigeria witnessed by other mentees,
family members of the mentee, friends & staff of NIHORT (2011).
Mentor-Mentee Relationship: Scope and Boundaries
(g) Evaluation of Mentor-Mentee Relationship
Mentors are expected to equip their mentees by guiding and
facilitating them, while the mentees, in return, are to equip them-
selves while using the mentor as a resource and guide. Respect for
each other‘s time, viewpoint, regular evaluation and review of the
relationship, is very important. This will help them know if the
relationship is still of value or determine if it should be terminated.
Mentors should encourage their mentees to have ‗Individual
Development Plan (IDP)Goal description, actionable steps,
measurable definition of success, resources needed, and target
date‘—and perform a regular self-assessment. Completing and
working with IDP also help to ascertain that the mentor and
mentee are on the same page with respect to the progress of the
relationship. For a comprehensive evaluation, the following
questions should be reviewed by the pair as and when due:
(a) From the relationship so far, are we a suitable match for a
mentor-mentee relationship?
(b) Have we been invigorated enough after our meetings or
have we met enough?
(c) Is the amount of time we are investing a good match for
what we have achieved so far in our mentoring action plan
and agreement?
(d) Are we doing well, or is there a need to shift mentoring
(e) What have we appreciated about each other so far?
(f) Is there a need to discontinue the relationship and separate?
If yes, when? And what would we want to remember as the
strengths in the relationship? Also, what do we wish to
express in the way of gratitude? If no, are there areas we
need to improve on, or is our performance good for now?
Advantages of Mentor-Mentee Relationships
(i) Advantages for the Mentee: These include, career
advancement with institutional and global visibility and the
remunerations attached to it, better motivation on what
he/she needs for professional development, learning of
specific skills and knowledge from the mentor‘s expertise
and experience, has a shoulder to rest on, a welcoming ear
Oyeronke A. Odunola
to share frustrations and successes, as well as peace of
mind and satisfaction.
(ii) Advantages for the Mentor: These include, career
enhancement with increased institutional and global
visibility and the remunerations attached to it, increased
self-reflection, developing a new generation of mentors
with accompanied prestige, learning new technologies,
developments, and current contents from mentee.
According to the popular Yoruba (a tribe in southwestern
Nigeria) adage, “When a giant rat becomes old, it is
breastfed by the offspring”. In addition, it has been
documented in literature that those who mentor gain from
―contributing to something beyond themselves‖ (Nakamura
et al. 2009).
(iii) Advantages for Mentor-Mentee Relationships: These
include, enhancement of professional development and
growth from exposures to other institutional approaches,
promotes the breakdown of the ―silo‖ mentality, and
increases knowledge transfer.
(iv) Advantages for the Institution: These include, prevention of
brain-drain, encouragement of staff retention and reduction
in turnover costs, and increased national and global
webometric ranking.
Difficult Situations in Mentor-Mentee Relationships:
The Way Forward
Mentor-mentee relationships, just like any relationship, have
diverse problems ranging from:
(a) Mentor‘s incessant complaints—mentee not using mentor‘s
time effectively, lack of focus and commitment, poor work
habits and poor writing and communication skills, etc.
(b) Mentee‘s incessant complaints—mentor too busy, does not
give credit or encouragement, does not answer emails,
delays in providing feedback and guidance, does not
understand academic expectations, disputes about
authorship for publications, etc.
Mentor-Mentee Relationship: Scope and Boundaries
(c) Mentor‘s inadequate mentoring process—not knowing
what to discuss, talking too much, irregular and constant
postponement of meetings, misperception of roles, and
breach of trustby being indiscreet, intruding into
mentee‘s privacy, and abusive mentoring.
(d) Career-related problemsbetrayal and damaging acts
stemming from revenge, yielding to wrong advice, and
psychosocial behaviour(s) like, bullying and back-biting.
(e) Cultural differences and language barriers.
(f) Mentoring Womenmentoring women could be
challenging because of added factors such as:
(i) Cultural and religious perceptions to women in
academia or other job-description.
(ii) Difficulty in getting mentors due to the fact that
most women often downplay their capabilities
and consequently their attractiveness as a mentee,
limited access to informal networks, peer-
perceptions of cross-gender mentoring relation-
ships, and few same-sex role models.
Mentor-mentee must think and reflect on the problems at hand
before making a particular decision. Problematic issues should be
resolved early enough. They should support each other, address
conflicts appropriately, and reinforce something positive about
themselves. Cultural and gender sensitivity of the mentee should
be maintained with sensitive issues discussed in private. Sensual
connections with the mentee should also be avoided, and the
relationship kept professional. The mentor should review the long-
term goals of the mentee occasionally and help him/her develop
career plans appropriate for his/her goals and skills. Relationships
with too many incompatibilities should be terminated.
Additional assistance should be given to women in identifying
and forming mentoring relationships. Women have been shown to
benefit more from mentor-initiated or mutually-initiated
relationships (Stonewater et al. 1990). Moreover, multiple
mentoring, especially the ‗collective-mentoring and peer-
mentoring models, could be more effective for women. Above
Oyeronke A. Odunola
all, female mentees should be inspired to look beyond the self-
imposed, institutional, and societal barriers.
Final Thoughts
We all need to make sacrifices and contribute our quota to secure
the next generation of mentors who will reach out to the early
career researchers, mid-career researchers and research
administrators and help transform our society. We also must ensure
that the University system remains the very best in mentoring
Bakker, S. and A. Jansen. 2013. A Mentoring Skills Workshop. The
Coaching Centre, Stellenbosch University.
Chin, M.H., K.E. Covinsky, M.M. McDermott and E.J. Thomas. 1998.
Building a research career in general internal medicine: A
perspective from young investigators. J Gen Intern Med. 13:
Kram K.E. 1983. Phases of the mentor relationship. Acad. Management
J. 26(4): 608-625.
Nakamura, J., D.J. Shernoff and C.H. Hooker. (Collaborator). 2009. The
Jossey-Bass higher and adult education series. Good mentoring:
Fostering excellent practice in higher education. Jossey-Bass.
Ragins, B.R. and K.E. Kram. (Eds.). 2007. The handbook of mentoring at
work: Theory, research, and practice. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Ramanan, R.A., R.S. Phillips, R.B. Davis, W. Silen and J.Y. Reede.
2002. Mentoring in medicine: Keys to satisfaction. Am J Med 112:
Stonewater, B.B., S.A. Eveslage and M.R. Dingerson. 1990. Gender
differences in career-helping relationships. Career Development
Quarterly 39(1): 72-85.
Sosik, J. and V. Godshalk. 2005. Examining gender similarity and
mentor‘s supervisory status in mentoring relationships. Mentoring
and Tutoring 13(1): 39-54.
Walsh, A., C. Noesgaard and E. Kustra. 2017. Program for Faculty
Development, McMaster University, Faculty of Health Sciences,
Hamilton, ON CA
Mentor-Mentee Relationship: Scope and Boundaries
Other Resources
American Heart Association Mentoring Handbook
MentorBook.pdf National Academy of Sciences: Adviser, Teacher,
Role Model, Friend: On Being a Mentor to Students in Science and
Engineering. P.15.
NPA’s Mentoring Toolkit:
Mentorship Needs of Early and Mid-Career
Olutokunbo B. Oyesola
Paving your way up the career ladder can be daunting at times,
especially when you are just a beginner or new entrant with little or
no network. Mentorship has been advocated as a key aspect of
success for many, especially early career professionals in the
workforce, because of how it helps in breaking down knowledge
hierarchies and eases the difficulty of building networks that are
most times hard to penetrate without knowing anyone. Therefore,
there are mentorship needs that both mentors and mentees have to
identify, order, and document. The main concern here is early and
mid-career researchers at the higher educational institutions who
need to ask and answer the following questions: What types of
mentors can they choose from? What are the characteristics of a
successful mentor? What are their roles and responsibilities as
mentees? and What are the benefits of mentorship and reasons for
seeking a mentor?
Types of Mentors
The first among several needs of an early and mid-career
researcher in any organization is to have knowledge of the three
main types of mentors, which are: (1) someone in your area of
specialization or area of interest; (2) someone you want; and (3)
someone who is one of your hardest critics.
It is important to have a mentor who works in the same
institution, faculty, college, department and/or unit of the work you
are currently doing. Having a mentor in your academic work is
critical. He or she should be a person who can be a mirror and who
can help you get better at what you are doing every single day. It is
not about your promotion but about the work you do, the value you
add, and the joy you derive from it. Learning this through a mentor
will make you take decisions based on what you will enjoy doing
because it brings out your passion and inspiration. Your identified
mentor should be a person that does not need to be embarrassed
Olutokunbo B. Oyesola
about asking questions and not bowing to levels in an
Another mentor you need to have is based on the necessity to
―plan a future and build a relationship‖. At a particular point in
time, an individual should think about where he/she wants to work
next and should have two or more mentors set up as potential
futures. What you need to learn from this second personality are:
Would I like to work at that organization or run a similar
Do I like the culture of the organization or business?
Do I like the leadership?
Do I like the people?
Do I like the work?
Your last category of mentor should be a critic. Two important
things you will learn from a mentor who is a criticare: (1) Your
biggest critics must always have feedback for you. You will get
more valuable feedback from that kind of mentor than you could
get from anyone else you work with. (2) When you ask a critic to
mentor you, the next time you are in a meeting, they have an
interest in you; shaping you and helping you. This aspect or trait of
a critical mentor is interestingly dynamic. They will be less vocal
about their criticism, and they will hold it for your next mentor
session where it can actually help you.
The Characteristics of Successful Mentors
As an early and mid-career researcher in the University, part of
your mentorship need is to have a fore knowledge of the
characteristics of successful mentors; this will help you in
identifying a mentor and being fulfilled in the mentorship process.
Rodd (2006) identifies the following as important characteristics of
successful mentors:
Interest in lifelong learning and professional skills,
Cultural sensitivity, and
Understanding the roles of a mentor.
Mentorship Needs of Early and Mid-Career Researchers
Hurst and Reading (2002) outlined the following to be important
mentor‘s characteristics:
Positive attitude,
Teachability, and
Other characteristics compiled by other authors like Callam
(2006), Weamser and Woods (2003), Ingarsoll and Kralik (2004)
and Murray (2006) include: active listening, effective observations,
reflective conservation, awareness of different learning styles,
common planning time, opportunity to collaborate, and instructive
and supportive communication.
Awareness of Benefits, Roles, and Responsibilities of a
Mentoring Relationship
Mentors and mentees give and grow in the mentorship process. As
early career researchers, you can learn valuable knowledge from
your mentor. Through this process, past mistakes are corrected and
competencies are strengthened. Before engaging in the mentoring
or mentorship process, there is a need for mentees to be aware of
the benefits they stand to gain and what their mentor-to-be stands
to benefit. Early and mid-career researchers do not know that as
mentees, they have roles and responsibilities in the entire
mentorship process.
Mentorship is a special partnership between two people, based
on a commitment to the process, expectations, focus, mutual traits,
and respect. It also encompasses the activities that allow the
transfer of knowledge and skills from a mentor to a mentee. As
early and mid-career researchers, note that the success of any
mentorship process depends on clearly defined roles and
Olutokunbo B. Oyesola
Benefits of Mentorship to Mentee
Gain sharper focus on what is needed to grow
Improve development as a professional from a higher level
Gain capacity to transform values and methods in achieving
one‘s desire into productive actions;
Awareness of complementing/contemporary formal study
or training and development programmes;
Knowledge of career development opportunities;
Being assisted with ideas and honest feedback;
Exhibit strength and explore potential;
Get career networks and receive greater exposure;
Improve courage to express expectations, goals, and
concern; and
Receive knowledge of organizational culture.
Responsibilities of a Mentee in Mentorship
Meet your mentor at a fixed timemonthly, weekly, or
fortnightly in person or on the telephone;
You need to be proactive in contacting your mentor or
scheduling meetings;
Be committed to self-development;
Take up responsibilities for acquiring and improving skills
and knowledge;
Engage in discussions on individual development with your
Be open and honest about goals, expectations, challenges,
and concerns, so that others can help you too;
Always prepare for meetings and come with agenda;
Seek advice, opinion, feedback, and direction;
Be receptive to constructive criticism/feedback and always
ask for it;
Respect your mentor‘s time and resources;
Stay accessible, committed, and engaged during the period
of your mentorship; and
Provide feedback to your mentor on what is working or not
working in the mentorship relationship.
Mentorship Needs of Early and Mid-Career Researchers
Reasons for Mentorship
The reasons for participating in a mentorship programme will
assist any early and mid-career academic in identifying the right
mentor. These reasons may include one or more of the following
Skills and network development to advance and achieve
success in academic career;
Transforming your academic career to industry,
government or community sector, or other roles within or
outside of the university;
Seeking guidance on specific fellowships, grant, or
publication goals;
Seeking general advice and guidance related to identifying
approaches to dealing with life or career-related challenges;
Seeking academic promotion and academic leadership.
Mentorship is both a process and a procedure that is guided by
certain basic principles or guidelines. A self-assessment (on the
why, who, what, where, how, etc., of mentorship) by the early and
mid-career researcher mentees is required before engaging in a
mentorship programme. Within the university system, early and
mid-career researchers need to identify the types of mentors
available within the system before choosing who will mentor them.
Also, before choosing a mentor, they need to be aware of the
characteristics a successful mentor should possess. This will
inform them of the traits they will acquire from the mentor and if it
is consistent with their present lifestyle or the kind of lifestyle they
will like to be identified with in the nearest future.
Mentees also need to know that in mentoring, there are certain
roles and responsibilities they need to perform in order to benefit
from the entire mentorship process. It is paramount for mentees to
do a self-assessment of the reasons they need mentorship. These
basic mentorship needs, if put into consideration before entering
into mentoring, will assist early and mid-career researchers to
achieve purpose in academics and fulfillment in life.
Olutokunbo B. Oyesola
Callan, S. 2006. What is Mentoring? In Mentoring in the Early Years,
A. Robins (Ed.), (pp.516). London, UK: Paul Chapman.
Ellen, B., L.A. Irina, S. Yusuke, H. Chaya and M. Lynn. 2015.
Mentoring: A review of early career researcher studies. Frontline
Learning Research 3(3): 68-80.
Hurst, B. and G. Reading. 2002. Teachers mentoring teachers: Fastback
493. Bloomington, IN: Phi Delta Kappa International.
Ingersoll, R. and J. Kralik. 2004. The impact of mentoring on teacher
retention: What the research says. Denver, CO: Education
Commission of the States.
Jonathan, D.K., D. Alisa, M.K. Alexander, T.B. Heather, N.R. William
and M.W. Anne. 2018. Career-Focused Mentoring for Early-Career
Clinician Educators in Academic General Internal Medicine. doi:
June, R. 2014. Mentoring Program; Guidance and Program Plan.
Learning and Development Programs Division (HC-22) Office of
Learning and Workforce Development. doi: http//DOE_Mentoring
Jung, H.Y., B. Brian and D.S. Mary. 2016. Mutual Mentoring for Early-
Career and Underrepresented Faculty: Model, Research, and
Practice. doi: 10.1007/s10755-016-9359-6.
Kathy, E.K. and A.I. Lynn. 1985. Mentoring alternatives: The role of
peer relationships in career development. The Academy of
Management Journal 28(1): 110-132.
Laura, G.L., C. Gloria, L. Erin, Dolan and W. Brad. 2017. Mentoring in
Higher Education.
Laura, K.D. 2013. Mentoring: A Strategy to Support Novice Early
Childhood Educators. doi: http//15447-Article%20Text-13712-1-10-
Murray, J. 2006. Designing and Implementing a Mentoring Scheme:
University of Worcester Sure Start recognized Sector-endorsed
Foundation Degree in Early Years In Mentoring in the Early Years,
A. Robins (Ed), (pp.6378). London: Paul Chapman.
Rodd, J. 2006. Leadership in early childhood (3rd ed.). New York, NY:
Open University Press.
Weasmer, J. and A.M. Woods. 2003. Mentoring: Professional
development through reflection. The Teacher Educator (39)1: 64-77.
Role Model Illustration of Mentoring
Olanike K. Adeyemo
Who is a Role Model?
Role models are those who possess the qualities other people look
up to in order to help them determine appropriate behaviours.
Virtually everyone can be a role model, relatives, professionals,
athletes, politicians, etc. However, role models are usually defined
by individuals‘ aspirations. Also, visibility plays an important part
in making someone a role model.
Role models do not have to be people known personally, nor
do they need to interact with those who consider them as role
models. They can be looked upon, admired, and emulated from
afar. Mentors, on the other hand, are like personal role models.
More formally, we can state that mentors are trusted individuals
with more experience and wisdom than another person (mentee)
who helps guide that person with respect to a concern or desire. It
is therefore a personal, two-way relationship. Mentors want to see
their mentees succeed, while role models may not even know who
you are.
Roles of Mentors
Developing and Managing the Mentoring Relationship:
Initially, this involves assessing one‘s readiness and
interest, accepting to mentor someone, building trust,
setting goals, and keeping the mentoring relationship on
track are usually ongoing needs.
Sponsoring: Opening doors and advocating for mentees
allows him/her to develop new skills and gain meaningful
visibility. Creating and seeking new opportunities for
mentees and connecting him/her with people in the
mentor‘s network are effective ways of sponsoring.
Guiding and Counselling: A mentor may serve as a
confidant, sounding board, and personal advisor to the
mentee, especially as the relationship grows deeper over
Olanike K. Adeyemo
time. S/he helps the mentee explore and understand
emotional reactions or personal conflict or explore ways to
deal with problems. As counsel, s/he is also able to warn
mentee about behaviour tendencies that are a poor fit with
organizational culture or that are leading him or her into
troubled territory.
Protecting: Keeping an eye out for potential threats to the
mentee allows him or her to quell them or adjust before
they become significant problems. For example, if a mentor
hears a rumour about their mentee, they can deftly correct
misperceptions and misinformation. Protecting may also
involve cutting red tape or helping mentees avoid
assignments that arent a good fit or will slow them down
towards reaching their goal.
Teaching: Many mentors enjoy the teaching aspects of
mentoringtransferring knowledge, sharing experiences,
and recommending assignments.
Motivating and Inspiring: Mentors support, validate and
encourage their mentees. When mentees are assisted in
linking their personal goals, values and emotions to the
larger organizational agenda, they become more engaged in
their work and their development.
Modelling: Just by observing their mentors, mentees pick
up many thingsethics, values, and standards; style,
beliefs, and attitudes; methods and procedures. Mentees are
likely to follow mentors‘ lead, adapt their approach to their
style, and gain confidence through their affiliation to their
mentors. Mentors therefore, need to be keenly aware of
their behaviour and the example they are setting.
Types of Role Models
(1) Positive Role Model: A positive role model should not just
be someone who has accomplished what an individual
desires to accomplish; they should be someone who shares
Role Model Illustration of Mentoring
one‘s values and uses an approach one can emulate. Three
examples of positive role models are:
(a) A peer who is better at the job,
(b) A subordinate who‘s doing the job better than one
did it, and
(c) A superior who is worthy of emulation.
(2) Reverse Role Models: Not all role models have to be
positive. The reality is, having reverse role models is just as
(if not more) important. Reverse role models check a lot of
the same boxes as positive role modelsthey are
successful, they have achieved something an individual
wants to achieve, and they provide models of behaviour
one can follow to achieve the same thing. But their values
are different and unworthy of emulation. In other words,
they teach an aspiring person not to imitate the individual‘s
(model‘s) value system. This has more to do with the
moral/ethical implication or consequences that might be
associated with the said success.
(3) Anti-Role Models: An anti-role model is someone who has
not achieved what an aspiring individual desires, despite
being on the same career path. It is very important to study
the people who have, thus far, failed at accomplishing their
goal(s) because their values and behaviours will provide
guidance for avoiding a similar fate.
Identifying Role Models in the Workplace
This is determined by an individual‘s aspiration and vision. An
individual seeking a role model needs to first gain self-
understanding of his/her values, strengths, and areas of weakness
to enable accurate judgement of the right role model,
professionally. Choosing a role model who already possesses the
traits an individual needs or wants will give them a focal point in
identifying and choosing a role model. For example, it is important
to make a list of those attributes one would like to achieve or flaws
that one would like to correct. It could be that the individual wants
to learn more about growing in the company or being a better
Olanike K. Adeyemo
manager of their time. Once those goals are written down in black
and white, it is easier to identify role model candidates. It is also
vital to listen to what trusted others have to say about role model
candidates and figure out how to relate appropriately with a
workplace role model to achieve the desired outcome. Sycophancy,
tale-bearing, and other negative moves to attract the attention of a
superior do not usually end well, nor earn an individual the respect
of other colleagues or even that of the role model candidate.
An individual will usually emulate traits they love in role
models; it is however important to note that one should still
maintain his/her individuality and not be clones of their role
models. Workplace role models are confident and positive
individuals. Some of the fantastic traits of a workplace model
Demonstrate Confidence and Leadership: A good role
model is always positive, calm, and confident in themselves
and their ability; they, therefore, command followership
Great Communicator: Good communication means
listening as well as talking. People are energized by leaders
who explain why and where they are going. Great role
models know they must have a consistent message and
business plan and communicate it repeatedly until everyone
Knowledgeable and Skilled: Having solid knowledge and
expertise but also able to apply the knowledge effectively,
i.e., the ability to use information and applying it in a
Lifelong Learner: Great role models are not just
―teachers‖; they are constant learners, challenging them-
selves to get out of their comfort zones and surrounding
themselves with smarter people. When team members see
that their role model can be many things, they will learn to
stretch themselves in order to be successful.
Respectful and Empathetic: taking people for granted, not
showing gratitude, or stepping on others to get ahead is not
a trait to emulate. Role models are respectful of contrary
opinions, superiors, peers, and subordinates.
Role Model Illustration of Mentoring
Take Pride in their Achievements but are Humble: Role
models are not afraid to be different and unique, proud of
the success(es) that they have earned but are not rude or
disrespectful to those less successful. People who do not
think of achievements as a competition that has to be won
are great role models.
Share their Expertise: Sharing knowledge increases the
productivity of the team.
Willing to Admit their Mistakes: Role models demonstrate
an often-overlooked part of leadership by apologizing,
accepting accountability, and correcting mistakes.
Workplace Role Model: Positive or Negative?
Positive Role Models: They exhibit all the traits earlier
highlightedalways cheerful, respectful, willing to assist, and
empathetic towards co-workers and those they lead, if in a position
of authority. They are pleasant, personally and professionally;
some other qualities of positive role models in the workplace
Credit-Sharing: A leader who believes in and practices
giving credit where credit is due will motivate others to do
more in the workplace.
Constructive Criticism: An individual who wants to be
effective understands the need for constructive criticism.
This builds rapport and growth in the workplace. A leader
that gives constructive criticism is a role model who will
ultimately build a great team. Positive role models in the
workplace do not criticize just for the sake of complaining.
Rational Leadership: Making decisions based on facts, not
emotions, and what is best for everyone ensures the buy-in
of the team and hence self-motivation.
Listening: A positive role model listens with respect and
empathy, even when not in agreement with the viewpoint.
They treat others the way they want to be treated.
Negative Role Models: They are unfriendly, uncooperative, and
complain about anything and everything because they are usually
unskilled and unwilling to learn to be more productive. Negative
Olanike K. Adeyemo
workplace role models could pitch co-workers against each other,
be unreasonable, and humiliate subordinates. It is therefore
advisable to stay well away from negative role models. Some
workplace examples of traits of negative role models are:
(a) Withholding information;
(b) Arriving to meetings late;
(c) Having a selfish agenda;
(d) Sabotaging the organization; and
(e) Scheming to get ahead.
Finding the Right Role Model
It is vital to choose a role model carefully; those at the top of their
game, the best in their fieldand with strong moral standing and
an upright character. Though they may have their flaws (who
doesn‘t?), they should be inspiring despite their weaknesses. This
helps to see how it is possible to overcome or simply turn a
weakness into a </