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Mentoring FAQ

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Questions you’ll find answered here

What actually is mentoring?

What issues are on and off limits with mentoring?

How did mentoring start?

Why is mentoring the flavour of the decade?

Why get mentored?

Who should get mentored?

Who are our mentors?

When does mentoring work best?

Why should we both get mentors and be a mentor?

How many different types of mentor are there?

Is there a set process for mentoring?

Where does mentoring happen?

How to track results?

What actually is mentoring?


“The delicate balance of mentoring someone, is not to create them in your own image, but giving them the opportunity to create themselves,” says highly-acclaimed, U.S. film director, Steven Spielberg, who started making movies at age 12.


Mentoring’s not easy to define. Why? Well mentoring is highly individual, personalized and customized.  So mentoring is different for almost every person.

Yet, we all sort of sense what mentoring is.

Mentoring is a brain to pick, an ear to listen, and a push in the right direction,” suggests America politician, John C Crosby.

One academic, Hansford, studied 159 research reports on educational mentoring and came up with his definition.   Mentoring is a… “personal, helping relationship between a Mentor and a Mentee or Protégé that includes professional development and growth and varying degrees of support. While mentoring relationships are reciprocal, Mentors tend to be those with greater experience”.   Not bad!


This definition is a bit different…

“Mentoring is what a Mentor-Mentee pair do, consciously and purposefully – through interabobcting and dynamic dialogue – to grow each other, their lives, and their businesses or careers.”

Another academic, Professor Bob Garvey of Sheffield Hallam University provides this definition:

“Mentoring is a learning relationship between two people. It requires trust, commitment and emotional support. It involves listening, questioning, challenge and support. It has a time scale.”

Getting us closer. But still not easy to grab.

So, you might like to use these 16 definitions of mentoring, to develop your own definition.


What issues are on and off limits with mentoring?

With mentoring there is no topic ‘off limits’.  And no abtaboosolute boundaries. Most business and career Mentors are also happy to work with your personal life and family issues as you raise them. Or as your Mentor observers them.


Mentoring is basically developmental.. So a trusted and trusting inter-relating is vital.

Mentoring focuses both on optimizing your work or business performance, and on holistically developing you as a whole person. In addition, sometimes mentoring can be more like remedial coaching – where, in specific areas of work or life, you are stuck or clearly ‘not performing up to scratch’. Or where you face blockages to your ongoing growth. But mentoring is not psychotherapy or counselling.

So with some issues you might face – e.g. drug dependence, depression, a deep psychological block, mental illness, a major addiction, domestic violence, or another criminal matter – your Mentors may not always be able to assist.  Nor should they – unless they have significant professional training and experience with that issue.

Typically your Mentors will indicate they do not feel competent to deal with that particular issue.  And will point you to someone who can assist you more appropriately.  If they cannot provide that direction then and there with you, they will come back to you, after they’ve contacted their network, and found who is best for you to meet.

You are entitled to expect all your mentoring will be highly confidential… A bit like the catholic confessional.   So if your Mentor feels it is vital an issue you face is referred to others, that referral must be with your agreement and with you present.

How did mentoring start?

Mentoring has been around, in various guises, for a long, long time.   At least since the time of the ancient Greeks – where mentoring was used to ‘train’ young men in vital personal, spiritual and social values…

atenaThe name Mentor comes from Homer’s ‘Odyssey’ – an epic poem, written around the 7th or 8th centuries BCE.

Mentor is the servant and friend to whom our hero, the Greek General Ulysses, entrusts his family and household while he is away fighting the 10-year Trojan War.

During that long decade of the war, and for another ten years after as Ulysses becomes a globetrotter, Mentor tutors and cares for Telemachus, the son and heir of Ulysses.

World-wise and god-like

But, also, according to Homer, whenever Athena – the goddess of many things, including of wisdom and strategic warfare – wants to counsel Ulysses, she takes on the form of Mentor.

Hence the myth that Mentors are ‘old’, wise, and even god-like!  Ha! As we’ll see, our modern Mentors, are not necessarily old, wise, nor god-like! At least not much!

Over the centuries mentoring has morphed into many different shapes and forms.  And is still changing today. New shapes include:

Why is mentoring the flavor of the decade?

The great Austrian neurologist, psychiatrist and philosopher, Sigmund Freud, said, “Love and work… work and love… what else is there really?”

So while both mentoring and imparted wisdom have been around for a long time, increasingly, in the digital age and global world, they have become vital for these two key aspects: Your personal life and relationships. And your career and business growth.

Our digital world has seen the growth of ‘markets of one’, on-line learning systems and programs, customization… all of which support the one-on-one customized, learning and developmental nature of mentoring. And in turn, mentoring brings the interactive, human face to all our digital technology.

Following Freud, some Mentors work with you broadly on every aspect of your life and being.   Other Mentors work with you more narrowly mainly on your career or business. Still others, like the team at C.E.O. Mentor, do both.

So mentoring has become increasingly popular for many reasons:

  • mentoring well suits the digital agetick
  • it is flexible, personal, interactive, customized
  • it suits a wide variety of situations and human endeavours – sports, start-ups, education, business, family, life, career, personal growth, asset creation, spiritual development, resilience, emotional development….
  • it is a two-way trusted relationshipand a meaningful commitment
  • it suits all age groups from the youngest to the oldest – and is great across generations
  • it enhances both the Mentee and the Mentor.

Mentors make the difference

As a result, many highly successful individuals publicly acknowledge the role their Mentors play in their success.

“Research on why people have become masterful in a niche – professions, trades, sports, science and the arts, highlights the importance of having mentors. Talk to any great software engineer, project manager, athlete or artist and they will tell you that their mentor(s) made the difference.”

Why get mentored?You may choose to be mentored for many, many different reasons.  But in brief:

  • so you grow you
  • you grow others and your relationships
  • you grow your business, or career
  • you create and fulfil your chosen Life Purpose
  • you work consistently to add value
  • you have the life and life style you need and want
  • you make a big difference in the world.

Ripples on the pond


As you grow and expand you, like ripples on a pond, you learn to enhance others – including your team, your clients, your potential clients, and the whole range of your personal relationships.

In turn, you expand your business in ways that add value and make a difference to our broader society.

So, Mentoring can expand you, your talents, the talents of your team, your clients, your resources, your networks.

By a multiple of say 10 by 10 by 10. Win-win all the way!

Build on your talents and strengths

After many years of wasted effort, and many billions of wasted dollars spent on training and coaching, Mentors now know that it is a big waste of time, effort and money to attempt to ‘fix’ your weaknesses.

Rather the biggest pay-off, by far, is for you and your Mentors to gain a firm handle on your natural in-born talents. And for you to work together to turn those talents into skills and strengths.Talents are your innate, inborn abilities. They manifest as recurring patterns of behavior.

“Recognize the skills and traits you don’t possess, and hire the people who have them.” Warren Bennis, the mentor to Howard Schultz, the Founder and CEO-Chairman of Starbucks.


Who should get mentored?

Who should get mentored? You should!  You should have Mentors – both informal and professional Mentors.  And you should be a Mentor to others.  Both!

  • “We all need Mentors, plural, for no one Mentor can cover our entire Universe.”
  • “If you are the ‘right’ person, and you select the ‘right’ Mentors, then mentoring is definitely for you.”

Naturally, there atasksre T.A.S.K.S. involved

You quickly find there are: Talents.  Attitudes.  Skills.  Knowledge.  Systems and Structure, involved in both your having Mentors, and your being a Mentor.

Some of these T.A.S.K.S. you already have. Some you will acquire in the process of being mentored, or being a Mentor.


Who are our Mentors?

peopleThis is a deeper question that it might look. The answer is actually ‘anyone and everyone’ – if we allow them to be.

“If I hadn’t had mentors, I wouldn’t be here today. I’m a product of great mentoring, great coaching… Coaches or mentors are very important. They could be anyone – your husband, other family members, or your boss,”  claims Indra Nooyi, the President and CFO of PepsiCo.

We ask members of our Entrepreneur Master Classes to fill in a ‘cheat sheet’.  This sheet reminds them of different types of Mentors who have mentored them to date, at different times, and in different ways.

Most entrepreneurs are surprised when they identify 40+ people.

Examples of our Mentors

  1. Individuals we admire and seek to emulate in some way can be our ‘Mentors’ even though we never meet them: e.g. Nelson Mandela, Mother Theresa, our favourite sports person, Buddha, Christ, Mohammed, etc.
  2. Parents, teachers, religious leaders, sports coaches, bosses – they all mentor us in various ways, and at various times – both formally and informally. They mentor us as they model behaviour for us, encourage us, challenge us, open new doors, help us to strive for something bigger-better-different, help us to see our innate potential, show us aspects of us we didn’t know about, enhance our knowing, develop our skills, give us access to resources…
  3. Strangers we only see once can have an enormous impact on us for good.

In August 2009, I was sedated in hospital waiting for my appendix to be removed, when a young policeman arrived to tell me my son, Antony, was dead. To put it mildly, that proved to be a pretty rotten day.

But when I became conscious around 8 am the next day, an Indian nurse was sitting at my bedside. She held and stroked my hand, and gently repeated over and over my name, “Neville, Neville, Neville…”

The nurse left when my wife, Johanna, arrived. Later, after a sleep, I tried to find the nurse and thank her. But she had been a temp – there just for the evening. None of the other nurses on the new shift knew her name. So I don’t. Yet I will never forget her.

        4. Friends, peers, business associates can all informally mentor us at various times.

        5. Children can mentor us.

A young 6-year-old, Ryan moved the world when he set out to raise $70 to build a well in Angola. And found it really needed $2,000.

Ryan’s neighbours, motivated by what the young boy had done, financed his trip to see the well in place, and the whole village turned out to give their traditional welcome of clapping to this somewhat overwhelmed young boy.

And see Ryan’s Well Foundation for more information.

    6. And, of course, paid professionals and bosses mentor us inside and outside our businesses and work places.

“My job is not to be easy on people. My job is to take these great people we have and to push them and make them even better.” Steve Jobs, Co-Founder of Apple.

When does mentoring work best

Mentoring works best when your mentoring relationship works best.” “Bad mentoring relationships are worse than no relationship at all,” says Jean Rhodes, professor of psychology at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. Research shows, she says, that “negative interactions are much more salient than positive ones. This is similar to extensive research findings showing that at work the most important factor in anyone’s performance, effectiveness, engagement, customer-orientation, loyalty and job satisfaction is the nature of their relationship with their immediate manager.

More, specifically, mentoring works best:  

  1. On an ongoing, regular basis for a period of a year or more.
  2. When we are facing a period of transition, e.g.:
    • moving from university to full-time work
    • setting up a new business
    • returning to work after having children
    • wanting to get our business to grow
  3. When we face a specific issue, or crisis, or opportunity:
    • our business is unprofitable
    • we’ve been fired, or know we might be
    • we know something is wrong, but we don’t know what
    • we want to grow interstate, go offshore, go international
    • we face major uncertainty…

Why should we both get mentors and be a mentor?

Richard“Learning is finding out that you already know. Doing is demonstrating that you know it. Teaching is reminding others that they know just as well as you. You are all learners, doers, and teachers.”  – U.S. best-selling author, Richard Bach.

Each of us has our own best way to learn.  One of these ways is learning by both ‘doing and being done to’.

Which is one reason we strongly recommend you become both a Mentee and a Mentor. Especially if you are an entrepreneur, aspiring entrepreneur, owner-manager of your own business, or CEO:

  • get a Mentor, or two, or three.
  • be a Mentor to others:  To your team. To your clients.  To young people still at school or at university.  To… you fill in what’s appropriate.

In addition, against the background of the massive changes occurring in our society and businesses, being a Mentor to your business or work team, and to your clients, proves to be one of the most effective ways for you to lead, grow talent, and incubate the human spirit. And to grow you and your business.

How many different types of mentoring are there?

Under the onslaught of new research, new technology, and the digital revolution, how we lead, learn, perform, and mentor change almost daily.

Today, there are:

For ease, we list the different types of mentoring under five different categories:

  1. Power Mentoring – face to face

    The traditional, somewhat out-of-date, ‘fat cat’, guru-StylE  mentoring, where an older, wiser, more experienced individual guides another younger, less skilful, less experienced ‘Mentee’.   For example: “Mentoring is a close relationship between two people where the Mentor guides and assists the Mentee to a level of personal and professional or business excellence not previously achieved.”

    Search for role models you can look up to and people whoTake an interest in your career. But here’s sn important warning: You don’t have to have mentors who look like you:? “Had i been waiting for a black, female soviet specialist mentor, I would still be waiting. Most of my mentors have been old white men, because they were The ones who dominated my field.”  – condoleeza rice, the first afro-american woman to serve as U.S. secretary of state.

    A recent variation of this traditional mentoring is reverse mentoring where younger, more tech-savvy, individuals mentor older executives who are less familiar with digital technology.


    Condoleeza Rice, the first Afro-American woman to serve as U.S. secretary of State.A recent variation of this traditional mentoring is Reverse Mentoring where younger, more tech-savvy, individuals mentor older executives who are less familiar with digital technology.

  2. Peer mentoring or reciprocal mentoring

    Is An Emerging Form Of Mentoring Where Two ‘Innocent’ Peers, Or ‘As-If’ Peers, Each Mentor Each Other – Asking, ‘Dumb’ Questions Of Each Other, And Then Mutually Finding The Answers.

    Research Shows, Particularly For Students, This Is Highly Effective Mentoring. However In Reality Most Of This Research Is A Variant Of Power Mentoring. Rather Than Studying The Same Course, At The Same Time, The ‘Peer’ Is Actually A Year Or Two Ahead.

  3. Personal or self-mentoring

    The Whole Trend Of Modern Mentoring Is Towards Personal, Self-Directed, Self-Owned Mentoring.   Or What We Might Call Self-Mentoring. This Self-Directed Learning May, Or May Not, Be Facilitated By A Professional Mentor.

    The Emphasis Here Is Not Just On Learning, But Learning How To ‘Teach One’s Self.’ The Growth Of The Internet, Search Engines, Social Media, Digital Technologies, Universities On Line, Self-Learning Modules, Are All Making It Possible For Self-Learning And Mentoring To Grow Exponentially – Creating A Massive New Paradigm About What It Means To Be ‘Educated’.

    “Increasingly It’s Not What We Know, But How To Find Out What We Need To Know, When We Need It, That’s Vital.”

  4. E-mentoring

    E-mentoring uses email and smart technologies such as online or web-based tools, Skype, video links or mobile phones as the main way of communicating between Mentor and Mentee. This style of mentoring is more user-friendly for individuals under 35 who have grown up digital. And is especially useful for mentoring individuals at a distance.   Or where their job is ‘on-the road’.

  5. Group mentoring

    Traditionally, mentoring was always face-to-face and one-to-one. But now there are a growing number of organisations with group mentoring.

    Some of the variations include:

    Where different mentors contribute their expertise to a team
    Where a chair-Mentor facilities the team mentoring each other

    See: The Hows and Whys of Group Mentoring
    Designing and Implementing a Group Mentoring Program

    Styles of mentoring changing
    In addition, the styles of mentoring are changing considerably. Google the topic and you find a number of style assessment tools.

Is there a set process for mentoring?

The quick answer is NO! In reality, some mentoring sessions are structured, planned and formal.  Some are unstructured, unplanned, ad hoc, and informal.  Some are very brief  – Mentoring Moments – and conducted on the run.

At the core of most mentoring lie five key, complex processes:

However, many other sub-processes are also involved:


So there’s no ONE set process – no one size that fits all. And tailoring, mutual learning, and change are all inbuilt into mentoring. This is part of mentoring’s charm and part of its impact.

Make sense?  For how could there be just one set way to mentor, when the needs, skills, focus, objectives of each individual Mentee (and Mentor) change over time?

The way your Mentor assists you, changes with your ever-changing needs and circumstances.  This constant tailoring-making of mentoring is what makes it soooo powerful.


Where does mentoring happen?

This depends on the type of mentoring we’re talking about.  If you meet with a peer, that can be where you study, where you work, or in another space, like a coffee shop.

Where your mentor is your team leader, or someone else at work, that’s normally where you meet – possibly in his-her office.

Where you engage with a professional, paid mentor, typically you meet in their professional offices.

Mentoring in cyber space

lookingIncreasingly, however, since around 1993, mentoring occurs on line.

By telementoring. By skype, FaceTime, Google Hangouts, etc.

By e-mail. By podcasts and webinars. By structured on-line program.

“I’ll happily mentor anyone who wants mentoring,” writes British novelist Bernard Cornwell, “and most of that goes on by internet rather than face-to-face.”


How to track mentoring results?

Another big topic – with multiple answers.  Some measurements can be objective, or relatively objective, based on the degree the pre-agreed objectives are met:

  • increase in clients, sales, profits, return on funds employed
  • ratings given for a public speech
  • comparisons between before and after surveys
  • changes in performance evaluations
  • implementation of a totally new business model

Many, perhaps most, will be more subjective:

  • defined Ah-ha experiences
  • tangible sense of growth in self-awareness
  • ability to define and use a specified learning model

More answers

You find more questions about mentoring answered at our chairman’s personal web site, nevillechristie.com.

Some tools

Explore this messy site carefully. It contains links to some useful self-assessment tools.

And see these surveys and templates.

Contact us and Get in touch

C.E.O. Mentor’s Founder and Chairman, Neville Christie, has started dozens of businesses, chaired more than 200 boards and mentored several hundred entrepreneurs and start-ups.

To dialogue directly about any mentoring questions at all, feel free to contact thenev Executive Chairman of C.E.O. Mentor, Neville Christie, who has been a Business and Entrepreneurial Mentor for over 48 years.

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e-mail:   neville@nevillechristie.com