This depends on what you want.

  1. If you want an informal buddy or support system, then no. People are intelligent enough to select the people they trust for personal guidance.
  2. If you want people to “get along better” then no. Since trust is at the core of relationships, mentoring cannot and should not be foisted on people. I recall being assigned a mentor. Unbeknownst to the person assigning mentors, an event many years earlier caused me to question the overlap between my value system and this mentor’s value system, so how could we develop a trusting relationship? How would I be certain that my values would be respected? Mentoring relationships require both parties to share a bit of themselves and the trust this requires cannot be “assigned”.
  3. If you want experts to share their knowledge, skills and experience to the benefit of a younger generation and for the greater good of the operation or company, then yes, technical mentoring requires structuring.

Technical mentoring is focussed on transferring knowledge, skills and experience with the express objective of developing capability in others. To ensure success, we need to provide a structure that both parties can use to guide progress.

A technical mentoring structure should include:

  • shared and explicit understanding of expectations
  • a no-fault exit clause and strategy—not everyone will get along and that is ok. We need to make sure both parties are able to walk away from the relationship emotionally unharmed.
  • ideally, a focus on a technical project with a specific outcome that forms the basis of the learning, provides the source of questions and has the opportunity for tangible and contributory milestones.
  • A closure milestone. This could take the form of a presentation by the mentee to their peers as a way to reinforce and demonstrate their new capability.