Fresh Look – Is your mentor doing all s/he can for you?

Few of us consider the range of services a mentor might potentially provide us. Some mentors are merely advice givers; they tell us what to do but don’t do other things great mentors do. Great mentors not only provide task guidance but also groom their protégés for future positions by providing challenging assignments, giving them a platform for increased visibility, helping them develop the skills they will need in the future, protecting them from career hazards, and actively sponsoring them by spending their political capital on their behalf.[1] Is your mentor doing all these things for you? For an assessment, take the following test.

Mentor Role Instrument[2]

Directions: Indicate your level of agreement with all the items below with the following scale

5=strongly agree 4=agree 3=neither agree nor disagree 2=disagree 1=strongly disagree

My mentor:

1. ____ helps me attain desirable positions.
2. ____ uses his/her influence in the organization for my benefit
3. ____ uses his/her influence to support my advancement in the organization.
4. ____ suggests specific strategies for achieving career aspirations.
5. ____ gives me advice on how to attain recognition in the organization.
6. ____ helps me learn about other parts of the organization.
7. ____ “runs interference” for me in the organization.
8. ____ shields me from damaging contact with important people in the organization.
9. ____ protects me from those who are out to get me.
10. ____ provides me with challenging assignments.
11. ____ assigns me tasks that push me into developing new skills.
12. ____ gives me tasks that require me to learn new skills.
13. ____ helps me be more visible in the organization.
14. ____ creates opportunities for me to impress important people in the organization.
15. ____ brings my accomplishments to the attention of important people in the organization.

Scoring: Calculate an average item score for items 1, 2, and 3. This is a rating of your mentor as a sponsor. If your score is above 4.6, your mentor provides a high degree of sponsorship. If it is below 3.9, your mentor does not serve as a good sponsor.
Calculate an average item score for items 4, 5 and 6. This is a rating of your mentor as a coach. If your score is above 4.9, your mentor is an active coach. If it is below 3.5, your mentor does not coach you very much.
Calculate an average score for items 7, 8, and 9. This is an assessment of the extent to which your mentor protects you. If your score is higher than 3.9, your mentor is active in protecting you. If your score is lower than 2.2, your mentor is unlikely to shield you from perilous situations.
Calculate an average score for items 10, 11, and 12. . This is a rating of your mentor as someone who challenges you. If your score is higher than 4.9, your mentor challenges you more than a typical mentor. If your score is lower than 3.6, your mentor provides little challenges in your relationship.
Calculate an average score for items 13, 14, and 15. This is a rating of the extent to which your mentor gives you visibility in the organization. If your score is higher than 4.6, your mentor enhances your political visibility. If your score is lower than 3.2, your mentor does not enhance your visibility.

If your mentor falls short on any of these services, have a talk with her. Few mentors receive mentoring training, so the chances are that a conversation along these lines will illuminate your mentor and motivate her to provide a more complete suite of services. This is particularly true if you are a female, since current research indicates that males receive more mentoring services than females.[3]

[1] B. Ragins, B. Townsend & M. Mattis. 1998. Gender gap in the executive suite: CEOs and female executives report on breaking the glass ceiling. Academy of Management Executive, 12: 28–42.
[2] B. Ragins & D. McFarlin. 1990. Perceptions of mentor roles in cross-gender mentoring relationships. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 37: 321-339.
[3] J. Bono, P. Braddy, Y. Liu, E. Gilbert, J. Fleenor, L. Quast & B. Center. In press. Dropped on the way to the top: Gender and managerial derailment. Journal of Organizational Behavior.