Supercharge Your Career: CMI’s Ultimate Guide to Mentoring

Monday 09 December 2019
Every one of your questions about how to form a lasting and valuable professional relationship answered


At CMI, we are all in agreement that mentoring is an excellent way of developing skills, relationships, and personal growth, and launched our own research to map out and fully understand the current mentoring landscape in the UK. We surveyed almost 1,000 managers to get their take on mentoring and sponsoring, and have shared our findings in our Sponsoring Women’s Success report.

In our research, we found the the overwhelming majority said that being mentored or being a mentor had improved their personal and professional growth: 59% of those surveyed said mentoring improved their knowledge and 57% said it improved their confidence and personal skills. One such person that mentoring has benefitted is Andy Johnson, managing partner at Change Partners, a leadership coaching consultancy. He has been a mentor and a mentee in the course of his career, and is a big advocate for mentoring as an important way to develop as an individual.

“I felt that my Mentor provided a great sounding board, helped me navigate through the politics of the organisation, pointed out when (in his view) I was misunderstanding or misinterpreting a situation. As a result, my self-awareness and therefore self-confidence increased, and I became more effective in my role.”

Johnson started his career in the Royal Navy, which instilled in him the importance of developing others. “Mentoring is a wonderful process for accelerating development. Although we learn from making mistakes, that doesn’t mean everyone has to repeat the same mistakes to learn.”

Why Get a Mentor?

Mentoring can help you identify the areas you want to develop. Like Johnson, you could gain confidence, build a network and develop your communication skills. Having a different perspective on things can also help you get better at solving problems and ensure you’re making the right decisions.

With CMI Mentoring, you get matched up to Mentors according to the skills you want to develop. It’s up to you to keep the relationship moving forward, as you are the instigator. Of the senior leaders we surveyed for our Sponsoring Women’s Success report, 72% told us they became a mentor as they felt it was the right time to share their skills and experience, and 83% told us they were looking for a mentor who displayed a clear willingness to learn. Now’s the time to take advantage of this stellar opportunity!

How to Choose a Mentor

Choosing the right mentor for your depends on where you are in your career and what you want to achieve, says Pam Dyson CMgr FCMI, who is involved with several mentoring programmes. Sometimes it can be beneficial to find someone who has a completely different approach than you have, particularly if you’re trying to develop your behaviours, where it can pay to be challenged. If you’re just starting your career and are learning the ropes, you might want someone with similar values, who offers a guiding hand.

“It’s a business relationship – it’s not a friendship,” she says. “Sometimes, the mentoring relationship may turn into a friendship after they’ve finished, but while you’re doing it, you have to be business-like about it.”

Mentor or Coach?

There’s a big difference between a mentor and a coach, says Dean Westwood CMgr FCMI, who delivered a webinar on mentoring for CMI earlier this year. “A coach is someone who shows you what to do and provides you with answers. A mentor is someone who discusses things with you and finds ways of showing you the value in what actions you take. They show you any obstacles and help you to interpret and investigate your own actions, instead of forcing their will upon you.”

CMI Southern Board Chair Suzanne Anderson has two mentors and says that mentoring is a very powerful tool for young, aspiring managers. “I see mentoring as an ongoing discussion with someone I trust to help me address certain aspects of my work, but equally it can be used in so many different ways.”

How It Works

Charlotte Dennison, district crown prosecutor at the Crown Prosecution Service, Met her mentor for one hour every six months. You might meet your mentor more often than that. You might also communicate remotely, using tools such as WhatsApp. The important thing is that it works for you, and it’s realistic in terms of the time your mentor is giving up for it.

In Dennison’s mentoring sessions, she is challenged and questioned by her mentor, which helps her to really think about what she’s doing and wants to achieve. “One conversation with my mentor which had an incredible impact upon me was his constant asking: Why choose this job? Why choose this role? You could do anything, so why CPS? I was surprised by my answer. I had initially joined CPS (almost 10 years) to be an advocate and prosecute in Court, but things change. This conversation really crystallised for me that what I want to do is promote excellence in public service, alongside engaged colleagues at every level of the organisation.”

What You Should Do if Mentoring Goes Wrong

Merv Williams was working in sales in his first management role at a software company. He’d moved house to start the job, and he felt he had a lot to learn. A senior manager at the business offered to at as his mentor, which helped to boost his confidence and get him through the first six months. He quickly started improving performance on his team, surpassing his sales targets. He became one of the organisation’s biggest sellers in less than three years.

“That’s when things began to change a bit,” Williams says. “The consensus around the office was that I was set to be promoted into a much more senior role, passing colleagues who had been at the company for decades. Suddenly, my mentor was quite distant and disruptive.”

In the end, Williams resigned as the atmosphere between him and his mentor had become toxic. It’s important to ensure that the mentoring relationship really works for you, says Pam Dyson – if it isn’t, you should bring it to an end as soon as possible.

“Stopping a mentoring relationship can be harder than starting it because you have an established relationship – it can be a very difficult conversation. So get the ground rules started in the first instance and get your objectives planned out. Then you’ve got a better chance of making the pairing work.”

As a mentee, you are committing to:

  • Taking a proactive approach to your relationship with your mentor(s). This means responding to communication within an appropriate time frame, allocating regular and reasonable times in your schedule to engage with your mentor(s) and utilising time in between discussions to progress towards your goals. While the relationship is active we suggest quarterly catch-ups (i.e. every three months) at a minimum.
  • Respect your mentor(s)'s boundaries, cultural customs and religious beliefs.
  • Respect your mentor(s)'s time and other responsibilities, ensuring you do not impose beyond what is reasonable and giving your mentor as much notice as possible if it is likely you may miss an appointment, trying every possible channel of communication.
  • Abide by CMI's Code of Conduct and Practice.

Read CMI’s mentoring policy for more on how you should approach mentoring as a mentee. Note that CMI’s scheme is not intended as a fast track to work experience or visa sponsorship, and is not intended to lead to a direct offer of employment or internship within the mentor's company or field.

Sign up to CMI mentoring to find a mentor from across CMI’s network of senior management professionals.

Click here to read our Sponsoring Women’s Success report in full.