REFRESH-Mentoring for all Generations

By Bruce Mayhew, Executive Coach, Corporate Trainer & Conference Speaker

Great organizations realize that mentoring is a key strategy for leaders to improve employee engagement, adaptability and retention. Gone are the days of knowledge is power, and that knowledge being concentrated at the top among one – or a few leaders. Employee growth must be part of today’s leader’s daily routine while flexibility, creativity and inspiring their team are their superpower.

And while mentoring is beneficial for us all, it’s important to note that mentoring is a natural experience for Millennial and Gen Z employees. Call it mentoring or call it parenting, Millennials and Gen Zs have always been encouraged by their parents and teachers to see mistakes as learning opportunities. This is a great opportunity for organizations and leaders when it comes to motivating and retaining employees who by nature are on a constant quest to better themselves.

To be clear, seeing mistakes as learning opportunities and mentoring doesn’t mean employees can avoid responsibility; leaders and mentors must make sure they always manage expectations. However, employee engagement, trust and retention are usually enhanced when mentees have the opportunity to discuss, reflect on and learn from challenging situations with someone they trust.

You Get Out What You Put In

Mentorship requires intentional investments of time and energy by everyone involved. As with most things everyone gets as much from mentoring as they put in whether they are the mentor, the mentee or even the organization.

As a mentee the more clearly you define your goals the more value you will get out of your mentoring relationship. I always recommend mentees come to each session with specific questions to ask and/or situations where they would like support. This is easier than it may sound. For example, I find keeping a diary of questions or situations I have experienced makes a big difference in the quality of discussions I have. I also find that when I keep a diary, my subconscious keeps working on the questions and situations I’ve logged. Because of this I become more aware of my feelings, impact and potential next steps. Then, when I get to my mentoring session, I am far more prepared to have insightful discussions.

As a mentor you must be even more aware of your goals and responsibilities. You are the leader here which means you must stay balanced between their goals and values and your goals and values. And while you have knowledge and experience, you also have to let your mentee make their own decisions… and not take it personally when they do things differently than you would. You are there to help your mentee think differently, challenge them, push them to consider different points of view. So, if your mentee does things differently than you, it means you are doing a great job of creating an independent thinker.

Set Ground Rules

Both mentee and mentor must be ready to work at building a trusting, respectful relationship. Trust is the key. Everyone involved needs to feel safe and know each other is committed to the process.

Mentoring works best when you both agree your mentoring relationship will be a two-way-learning opportunity where wisdom and experiences are shared. Even though the primary purpose should be focused on the mentee, the mentor should still get lots of personal and professional satisfaction helping someone grow. In addition, being a mentor is a great opportunity to learn and to be challenged by new ways of thinking, new ideas and perhaps new technology.

It’s also important everyone agrees to come to meetings prepared, on time and with an open mind. Honesty will go a long way to building trust. At the first meeting I recommend the mentor and mentee should discuss mutual goals and what each of you expect from the other. I also recommend you both update these goals and expectations regularly. One ground rule I like to clearly state is that I acknowledge the mentee isn’t expected to follow a mentor’s advice and that each of us are expected to listen with an open mind and evaluate it without prejudice.


If you are looking to create lasting change in your organization or even if you are a leader who wants to create lasting change within your team, look at how you can introduce mentoring into your corporate culture. Mentoring for all generations provides employees great growth opportunities. By encouraging a positive approach in all aspects of your business and relationships, you will soon see your work environments becoming more joyful, creative and productive.

Bruce Mayhew is an executive coach, corporate trainer & conference speaker. He specializes in soft skills like leadership development, generational differences, difficult conversations training, change management, time management and email etiquette.