February 5, 2018

Use this two-step mentoring process to help your employees develop their unique skills

Susan deGrandpre of Collaboration Consulting can be reached at

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Q: My employees vary widely in their potential. What kind of mentoring should I offer to give them opportunities to develop their unique strengths?

ACE Advises: Apply this two-step process to any level of potential and mentoring content.

  • Identify potential: There are two factors to consider: Will and skill. To what extent does this person want to learn, and at what skill level already?
  • Identify specific learning need and mentor: We each have individual potential, development needs and strengths. We are at different levels with different facets of our work. We can learn, we can teach.

HIgh will/high skill: This person is a candidate for advancement. Current work is mastered, and the employee wants more. Mentoring focuses on setting and achieving new challenges. Mentoring from a career development role model — a senior-level person or someone more senior or an organization influencer — is helpful here.

High will/low skill: This is typically a person new to a role. Mentoring focuses on mastering the current work, speeding the learning curve. Mentoring from a content expert works best here.

Low will/high skill: This person probably has been in a role for a long time, has mastered status quo work, but resists change. Mentoring focuses on encouraging receptivity to changes, and reinforcing value of skills already in place. Peer mentoring is often powerful in these situations.

Low will/low skill: This person performs poorly across the board, a better candidate for performance management than mentoring. Some mentoring may be included in the performance plan, but the emphasis is on setting very clear remedial, rather than developmental, goals and consequences of meeting them or not.

Direct supervisors most appropriately work with these situations.


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