How Mentoring Can Help Your Startup Be Successful

Getting your business off the ground is quite an endeavor. It is said that 90% of startups fail during their first 12 months of existence and those that survive, are most of the time unable to grow to a bigger scale of business, therefore staying always as a small operation and eventually dying off. Growing a business and scaling its operation to bigger horizons is probably as daunting as getting started, and it seems that there is one thing that successful business have in common when it comes to surviving the transition and that is, the use of mentoring.

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Working with a mentor is a very underutilized but extremely effective resource that entrepreneurs need to start seriously considering. For one, the numbers do not lie as about three-fourths of mentored small businesses survive more than five years, that is a rate that is more than twice higher than their mentor-less counterparts.  Mentors are also able to give you a unique perspective on your approach and help you identify common weaknesses on your business model, as they have the experience to back up their knowledge and them objectivity that comes from not being personally involved with the project.

Today in Suzzanne Uhland’s Blog we want to take a look at some of the ways mentors can help your startup and show you why these techniques are not just a gimmick, but actually an important tool you should always remember that you have at your disposal when it comes to navigating the world of businesses.

Experience is something you simply cannot buy and definitely cannot learn from reading books. A mentor is a unique source of such experience and someone who will be there on the ground with you helping you look at all aspects of the business, not simply giving you general advice that may or may not apply to you. The purpose of the mentor will always be on the road they have already traveled and how you can utilize the experiences that shaped them. This in order to avoid the same mistakes they made, and at the same time take advantage from the things they have learned.

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Another great advantage that mentors bring to the table and people often forgets to mention, is the amazing opportunity to be found in their vast network. Networking is of extreme importance nowadays and having a mentor on board means not only having their knowledge, experience, and input, but also their connections in the market and the advantage that comes from having access to a pool of people that can greatly benefit your career and be there when the need arises.

It has been proven that mentors are able to give reassurance and provide feedback that can be of great value to entrepreneurs. Having someone next to you who has already gone through the same process you are living is a great way to ease fears and instill confidence at such crucial moment in a business owner’s journey. Being confident can have a great impact in career success, sometimes more so than talent and even competence, so it is important to stack all odds on your favor and have that extra boost in morale than only a mentor can provide.

The boost in emotional intelligence a mentor can bring about is something else worth mentioning and a factor that cannot be overlooked. It is common amongst young business owners to be a bit rash when it comes to decisions or be too passionate about what they do. There is nothing wrong with passion, but when that passion is not properly focused and directed, you may make mistakes that could have been easily avoided. A mentor is there for you to add that maturity that comes from experience and help you develop solid basis and a more seasoned emotional intelligence.

If things go wrong for any reason, there is nothing like having a mentor there to help you cope with setbacks and to help you gain perspective on what the bigger picture is. Challenges are common and to be expected and that is why you must be prepared to understand this simple and unavoidable fact of life. Nobody knows this better than a person who is successful enough for you to look up them and that at the same time has been part of the industry for many years more than you, so that is why their value becomes so high at moments like this.

Do not become part of the negative statistics and know that startups are just one of the many aspects of business where a mentor can make all the difference, so trust the resources you have, make sure you go through all the steps and then nourish, experience and take advantage of everything having a mentor can do for your new business.


A basic and practical tip for improving your mentoring skills

Mentoring programs have ceased to be a novelty, and now they are becoming a trend in the organizational world. Therefore, it is essential that we all learn to improve our mentoring skills, so that these processes are increasingly effective and beneficial for companies and their workers. In this post, you will find a very simple tip that will help you build your mentoring qualities.

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One of the most beneficial qualities for the improvement of a mentor’s skills is, above all, emotional intelligence. This is so, because the main inherent condition when carrying out a mentoring program is, besides knowing the subject on which the program is concerned, being able to empathize with the mentee and transmit knowledge through a relationship of trust, in which the mentor should also be willing to learn everything the mentee is capable of teaching.

Know yourself. When somebody does not know herself/himself, she/he knows nothing at all. Being aware on your response to certain situations means you will be able to recognize how you feel throughout a day. That is basic. What things do you not support from others? What things make you feel better? If you already know what motivates you, then use that knowledge. Knowing how to answer these questions is key to helping promote the personal growth of mentees. In order to present a point of reference in terms of models of motivation, empathy and emotional balance, it is necessary, precisely, to begin by knowing yourself.

In this way, mentors would achieve to develop emotional intelligence as a tool to ostensibly improve mentoring programs. More than anything, we must emphasize a fundamental aspect. The first is, as mentioned, to work on empathy. This means being able to put yourself in the shoes of other people and contemplate reality from that perspective (especially, if you have to teach the mentee to look at things from a different point of view.)

Read also: Why is mentoring the best way to raise leaders in your company?, by Suzzanne Uhland

On the other hand, you must work on your emotional balance. All people have impulses, but emotionally intelligent people are different from the rest in thinking before acting and controlling their impulsiveness. This has a lot to do with the first point because without him this would be impossible.

It is essential that you find an emotional balance. If not, it would be unfair to you and for those who relate to you. It is good to let off steam and hit a scream in intimacy from time to time, or cry if that is what you need at that moment but do not let the emotions drag you away. Therefore, you should not repress your emotions but do not let them govern you. You are the one in control to allow or not to flourish, and knowing how to manage them is a feature of emotional intelligence.

Without an adequate emotional balance, it is impossible to advance in your improvement as a mentor, mainly because if you are not a person emotionally balanced, you cannot develop as a person, in general.

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It is important that the mentors understand that the authority that is held against the mentees is something that is constructed. It is not assumed per se. For that authority to be possible, and, therefore, the guide and transmission of knowledge from the mentor to the mentee, the latter must see in the former a model to follow; someone with a set of solid qualities. So to advance in your emotional management it is very useful to discover what your values are and analyze the beliefs that have formed you around those values. These beliefs are the filters by which you see the world and determine your way of thinking and feeling. If you want to get a higher level in your results, you have to be willing to let go of some of your old ways of thinking to adopt new ones. If to perform this task, you need support consider the Coaching services.

Always remember the following tips:

  • Recognize your true feelings, especially your fears and desires.
  • Channel your feelings for making choices and reaching your goals.
  • Turn the anger into productive energy and use it to fill yourself with it.
  • Look for the positive side of negative feelings: Yours and others.
  • Go ahead to go beyond your comfort zone in terms of your commitment.
  • Recognize your principles and what really matters to you.
  • Show empathy, understanding, and acceptance towards the feelings of others.
  • Before counseling, sermonizing, judging or ordering, listen.
  • Take on new challenges

We have all had a mentor in our lives. Maybe more than one. A mentor is someone we can turn to when we need to make decisions or we feel lost (not just in the workplace). We all, to some extent, end up becoming someone’s mentors (friends, children, etc.). Become the mentor you have always wanted to have or the one you remember with such gratitude.

Recommended: How to Be an Amazing Mentor: 12 Ways to Make a Positive Impact on Others

The Mentoring Action Plan And How To Put One Together

Mentoring is a wonderful activity that brings together not only two individuals looking for ways to mutually grow both personally and professionally, but also a practice that enhances the opportunity for employees inside a company to transcend and for the organization itself to be better by ensuring the people that make up their ranks, are individuals committed to growth and the accomplishment of the mission. Here at Suzzanne Uhland’s blog, we have talked about all of these benefits before in our many articles on mentoring, and one of the things that we have always said is that just like any endeavor you are about to undertake, you must have a clear direction of where you are going. A ship needs a bearing as well as a map to navigate the vast waters, and just like a vessel, so does your mentoring relationship need to have meaning and a clear objective in mind in order to be successful. Today we want to talk about mentoring plans, about how they are put together and the criteria to judge whether they are working the way they should.

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A mentoring action plan is a way for a mentee to realize where they are currently, where they want to get to by the means of their new found mentoring relationship, and more importantly, how they are going to go about actually getting there in the first place. The first thing that must be done is to ask yourself some really insightful questions like: What exactly do I want to accomplish from this relationship? Which skills do I lack or need to improve in order to be a better version of myself? Are there any alliances or partnerships I am interested in forging? Is there a way to measure what I have learned and put it to the test? How can I apply these new skills to my current position and how can they help me advance further professionally?

All of these can help mentees create a vision statement. A vision statement is all about seeing yourself in a place where you are not yet, but where you want to get to eventually.

Creating a vision statement can be considered the first action to take when putting together your mentoring action plan as it is used as the basis of decision-making processes and a way to find out what you really want to get out of your efforts being placed into the mentoring program. A vision plan requires for you to make a list considering the questions we talked about earlier, and also include things that you see as your own personal weaknesses and strengths. This information can help you identify your capabilities, limitations and immediate goals to pursue.

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The next logical step is to actually identify those goals and state them in a specific and realistic way so they are attainable considering your current skills and intentions. Taking a look at your past performance reviews or analyzing prospective jobs or positions you would like to attain are great ways to identify areas of possible development. Remember the acronym SMART when are putting together a set of goals to work towards.

S stands for being specific about the things you want to achieve. M is for those goals to be measurable and meaningful for you, your environment, the company, etc. A is for attainable, achievable or action-oriented instead of empty words that are nothing more than just hopeful-thinking but lacking direction and acceptance. R stands not just for realistic by also relevant and reasonable. It goes without saying that your goals must lead you somewhere and not simply be something else you are able to do,  since that by itself, doesn’t amount to much. Last but not least, we have T that stands for tangible, time-based and timely because you have to set timelines in order to know if this is working at all or you are just wasting your time. Challenging yourself is quite important because nothing worth it comes along without hard work.

Setting deadlines should come after and this is the way you get motivated to see progress and push yourself to continue moving forward. This can be done by having schedule benchmarks and feedback sessions to evaluate progress together and adjust accordingly.

The real change begins when the mentoring action plan is truly put together and subsequently put to work. Having everything laid out for you is the best way to take charge and begin to work towards objectives that can be measured and closely monitored. Regardless of how things are done, mentoring relationships are organic partnerships and they will find their own way to move forward because they do not all work the same way. Your particular case may find a different set of challenges as those of your coworkers and have common strengths that others may wish they had. The important thing is to continue growing and to always understand the importance of proper planning.

Why is mentoring the best way to raise leaders in your company?

This is happening more and more frequently, which is quite encouraging. A company with problems (eminently, with communication problems) decides to adopt a change of perspective and start doing things differently and decides to implement a mentoring project. The company’s directives hire an expert in this area and all of them design the program with the objective that the directors become the mentors of the top executives of the organization, who could be the leaders of it in the future, to develop their leadership skills. When these types of adjustments are made, the benefits are so many that they are difficult to classify. However, the most important of these is the new form of leadership that is built and executed for the good of the entire company.

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When leadership is built from mentoring processes, the leader that results is not a simple advisor to his or her subordinates, and, of course, he/she is not someone who simply delegates and gives orders so that everything is done to his or her convenience. A leader built a from mentoring processes, first of all, uses coaching skills and techniques; forms and transmits knowledge, and relates and sponsors the mentees. This type of leader considers three basic dimensions that must be developed in any professional role: Emotional, intellectual and social.

Obviously, for this to be achieved, it is necessary to have certain knowledge. Otherwise, the mentoring program could fail. Ideally, a company may start with a small group of mentors and mentees. A group of ten people, for example, is easy to follow and monitor, and from there it is possible to quantitatively extend the new versions of the mentoring programs.

In the same way, it is vital to choose the pairs of mentors and mentees very well. This selection should be made jointly with experts in the human resources area, or with external organizational psychologists. The idea is not simply to organize couples that get along but to complement each other in their knowledge and experience, and from which a true learning can emerge.

Before executing anything, it is very important to plan the sessions, and, above all, to elaborate a very detailed internal guide that includes a practical methodology that is easy to put into practice.

Read also: Why does your company need a mentoring program?, by Suzzanne Uhland

These types of programs are, of course, tremendously beneficial for mentees. What most often stands out in them is the increase of confidence towards the executives of the organizations, as well as a greater assumption of challenges when it comes to their roles. However, the most surprising factor about mentoring processes is the benefits in terms of increasing and improving skills to train other people and developing their potential.

There is always an increase in the level of personal satisfaction of mentors, which is a valuable resource in an organization. In fact, mentoring is one of the practices that most increase the level of commitment and satisfaction of the people who are part of a company.

The mentors consider their participation in the program very satisfactory, not only for the improvement of their competences but also for having contributed to achieving a difference, a change, and improvement in the lives of their mentees. In the same way, this happens because both mentors and mentees expand their own networks of professional contacts, as well as the acquisition of new technical knowledge (both for mentors, who are updated by the new knowledge that mentees bring from the academies, and for mentees, who are nourished by the experience of the mentors.)

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Mentoring has an exponential effect because it not only generates benefits for mentees and mentors but also for the entire company. It can be noticed in all programs, both for small (and family) companies and for large corporations. The main improvements that are obtained thanks to these programs for organizations are four.

The first is that organizational training is improved, especially when company executives become mentors, based on the example of those who participated in the mentoring program, and have taken as mentees other people within the organization to mentor them. The second is that individual performance is improved. This is so because the mentees generally show greater commitment, loyalty, and productivity. The third thing is that, as mentioned above, there is an increase in the level of trust: Mentoring programs increase trust between the members of the Board and senior executives or senior leaders of the company, as both parties learn to communicate in a closer and sincere way. Finally, governance is significantly improved throughout the organization. The relationships between the different interest groups at the internal level of the company improve, there is a clearer and more direct knowledge of the talent, and the leadership capacities of the people who work in the organization. This facilitates the identification of future leaders that the organization may need.

Recommended: Predicting the future of mentoring programs

What Are Mentors Exactly Suppose To Do In A Partnership?

Those of us, who have been fortunate enough to work with a mentor at some point in our lives, understand the importance of having such person next to us as part of our growth process. The role of a mentor is extremely influential in an individual’s career and it can pave the road to success for those who are trying to find their footing and want to take advantage of the experience that only comes from years of working in the industry. Career-changing is the perfect adjective to describe what a mentor can do for something who really wants to take charge of their own professional development, so today here in Suzzanne Uhland’s blog we want to use this opportunity to help mentors figure out what exactly their role entails and which practices do fall outside of their scope of practice. Even if you are not a mentor but a mentee, this information can be quite useful to help you analyze your own expectations and understand how you can best benefit from the relationship while at the same time giving back, as it is important to remember that mentoring is not a one-way street and the best mentorships are known for being a symbiotic exchange in which both parties grow, learn and become richer from an experience that should not be taken lightly.

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Companies should also do their parts by understanding what they are asking for their senior leaders when they assign them as mentors and how they can best support the relationship by giving all parties involved the necessary tools to be successful in an endeavor that will surely help the organization greatly in the short and long term.

The difference between mentoring and coaching.

In some articles, you will see that people often put both of these terms in the same category which is not entirely wrong, but it is important to understand that coaching and mentoring are not ideas that can be referred to interchangeably because they do not mean the same thing. Mentoring normally is done in the long-term basis and with the growth and professional development of the mentee and while coaching has very similar ideals, it is not something that is done for a long time, since it focuses on very specific behaviors that need to be corrected or changed and some goals that want to be achieved. Both of these strategies are great and they work always with the benefit and growth of the mentee in mind, but while one has the characteristics of a marathon in which participants pace themselves and goals are set of the long term. Coaching usually yields results a lot faster because it focuses on something specific and time sensitive that the mentee wants to achieve.

Planning a short and long-term strategy.

Mentors and mentees work together in creating a strategy that includes both short and long-term goals. Think about those goals as a map before you go on a trip. It is necessary to understand where you are going so you can take the best route and also so you know exactly when you are going to get there. Setting up goals and benchmarks is sensible and quite responsible, and that is why this is one of the most important things a mentor has to encourage the mentee they have taken under their wing.

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Encouragement and support.

Mentors sometimes work as cheerleaders as they provide support and encouragement to their mentees. Mentors are supposed to help their partners think outside of the box and go outside of their comfort zone to try new things and to see things from a different perspective. In order to do this, mentors need to identify resources that can help their mentees advance their development and grow in their professional world. Support can also be found in learning tools and materials such as books, workshops, and courses. As a mentor, it is great if you are interested enough in helping your mentees find such tools

Honest and raw advice.

A mentor has to be able to provide truthful and unadulterated advice so their mentees. It is not their job to pull any punches and their job is to say things honestly and without a filter, something that mentees probably would not be able to get anywhere else but from their mentors. This type of insight is very valuable and it is considered of the greatest things a mentor can offer their partners.

A mentor is not there to tell you how to do things.

This is very important to stay away from. Mentors should not be telling their partners how to do things; instead they are supposed to encourage them to find solutions and to be able to solve their own issues. Mentors are not problem-solvers but instead, they are partners that provide encouragement and guidance from a perspective of experience and professional knowledge.

Why does your company need a mentoring program?

One of the main problems that organizations have in our country (and, in fact, in the whole continent) has to do with the very way in which the idea of business has been assumed. For a long time, since the times of wealth and growth, in the middle of the last century, the business world has focused on the mere idea of production, enrichment, and expansion. Precisely, that is where the problem lies since, although it is necessary to make money and not stop growing, it is also necessary to think of the world we are building. Creating a business culture is as important as economic development. One of the ways to foster that business culture is through mentoring.

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Mentoring is closely linked to our Western literary history. In Homer’s ‘Odyssey’ we find the term ‘mentoring’ for the first time. Mentor was an old man who lived in Ithaca, and who was responsible for helping Ulysses in his absence during the War of Troy. His work also consisted of training Telemachus, the first son of the hero. According to Greek mythology, the goddess Athena used the face of Mentor when she wanted to communicate with Telemachus while he was looking for his father.

Recommended: Coach or Mentor? You Need Both

Therefore, a mentor refers to a counselor, someone who is capable of giving wise and prudent advice. Recently, the term has been widely used in the business environment since it has allowed to enhance the learning of employees based on the help of more experienced workers. There are two great types of mentoring. The best-known is called ‘behavioral mentoring.’ In this category, there is typically someone with more experience that tells the mentee what things should be done and how according to the way the mentor has worked for years in the company. This is a simple transmission of knowledge, like a father who’s teaching his son how to keep carrying out his profession.

The other mode of mentoring is known as ‘development mentoring.’ In this type, the process is not limited to a vertical transmission of knowledge from a mentor to a mentee. Here the mentor seeks, above all, that the mentee develops skills, finds ways to solve problems, to find ways to develop his or her own methods. For this reason, although the mentor must be someone experienced, it is more important that he or she be trained to develop the mentee’s intelligence.

Read also: Why people in the business world need a mentor?, by Suzzanne Uhland

This type of programs, especially the second one, not only allows the productive capacities of the company to continue in constant expansion but help the employees to build themselves as persons. It is, in some way, a social investment. When employees have gone through mentoring processes, particularly development mentoring ones, they generally positively affect the business environment and produce changes in other employees and processes of the entire company. This happens, above all, because development mentoring aims at a modification of the identity rather than just a behavioral programming. When the mentees have changed (actually, improved) a series of mental patterns, they become better people and employees.

Mentoring is more than a necessity for companies. Some might think that mentoring processes only take place in large companies, with a large human resources departments. Actually, it is not like that. In fact, mentoring programs in small and medium-sized companies have been as frequent as in large ones, and for several decades.

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The reasons why a company needs mentoring programs are basically two. The first one is that companies, like all systems, are becoming more complex as they grow and form subsystems (in the form of departments, such as logistics, marketing, production, etc.,) and these, in turn, gain depth during the growth of the company. This is one of the great objectives of any organization, but here there may be a problem if the departments start operating as independent entities and thus lose the direction of where the organization should go as a whole. Mentoring is, then, a way of building bridges between different areas, of transmitting knowledge among them and redistributing information more equitably.

The second reason is that mentoring itself leads us to question the idea of professional success. What does it mean to be successful? Certainly, it is not just about making money, but about building ourselves as people. Mentoring, then, is a possibility to do so, to bring new values to society, instead of focusing solely on productivity.

Mentoring makes us more human, in a moment of history when the obsessions with artificial intelligence and large-scale automation processes force us to rethink our situation in the world as human beings. Companies do not function thanks to the workforce of millions of machines (at least not for now,) but thanks to human beings who feel, who dream, who seek to improve themselves. So, it does not matter what industry a company belongs to, nor how big it is. A mentoring program can be tremendously beneficial in any case.

In this TED video, Kam Phillips explains how mentoring has the ability to change the world.

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The Most Common Mentoring Mistakes Made By Companies And Employees

Here at Suzzanne Uhland’s blog, we have talked about many times of the clear advantages of having a mentoring program set up for your employees, as well as joining one as a mentor or mentee in your organization. Companies benefit greatly when they pair up their employees and thus bring new member up to speed on the company’s practices, procedures, and goals while at the same time investing in the development of new members of the organization. If you are a senior employee, then mentoring opens up a door of opportunities in a whole different way, by giving you the chance to learn skills that perhaps were not relevant during your own training and that are common with today’s younger generations, or also by helping you enhance your own leadership skills in a real-world environment.

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It is clear that the advantages are many and for everyone involved, but then again we have to talk about the most common mistakes organizations and individuals make when putting together, maintaining and participating in a mentoring program. Mistakes and wrong dealings when it comes to mentoring can develop to become difficulty seeing the advantages of the relationship, benefiting from being part of a mentorship and even result in the failure of the program itself.

These are some of the most common mistakes made when it comes to mentorships.

Sometimes even great mentors fail because they forget to do things such as reframing challenges in a way that can be easily understood and properly assessed by the mentee. Our frame of mind is something crucial when it comes to finding ways to deal with obstacles as things may seem impossible to solve and predicaments may feel impossible from where we are standing. Reframing problems allow us to remove ourselves from the predicament and literally find a new approach. A great mentor knows this and sometimes that is what sets them apart from the rest. Forgetting about reframing or simply tackling issues without changing our frame of mind is a big mistake in mentoring and one that even experienced participants easily fall into.

Another big mistake in mentoring happens when mentors simply give out the answers to mentees. Finding solutions is about coaching individuals and helping them reach conclusions on their own for the most part. A good mentor is not a person who solves issues for you; instead, they guide you and help you find the answers on your own while helping you stay on track while a goal has been set and a plan has been hatched.

The problem with giving a mentee the solution to their issue is that we are literally taking away from them the opportunity to grow and learn from experiences. The job of a mentor is to facilitate such learning opportunities and not to take them away from their mentees.

A great way to mentor is to ask questions. Instead of telling them what to do, have them answer questions about why they haven’t done something yet, thus making them really think about what is it that is stopping them from taking risks or to analyze aspects that they may have not considered before.

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As a mentee, one of the biggest and most common mistakes is choosing a mentor that is too similar to you. It is very comfortable to talk to someone with your same background and way of thinking, so developing that kind of relationship will be naturally easy, however, it isn’t recommended to avoid contrast when it comes to mentoring. You will learn the most from partners that are of a different gender and background because you will be exposed to a whole new spectrum of experiences that can enrich your own. Think also outside of your chain of command and go for someone who is not your direct supervisor so you can avoid conflicts of interest. Be bold and brave and get out of your comfort zone.

Another mistake mentees make has to do with asking for advice that is too general. Always be specific about your questions, about the issues that worry you and about the advice you want to receive. It is normal to not be clear about your needs at first, but finding out is part of the experience.

As an organization, one of the most common mistakes people make is wrongly pairing participants. Sometimes this is done at random and that spells out a recipe for disaster. Remember that not all senior members are willing to participate in mentoring, so this shouldn’t be something that is imposed on people. The trick is to find people who are excited about the opportunity to teach others and partner them with employees who have interest in advancing their professional life and goals that can benefit from receiving help from others with more experience.

The last and probably the most important mistake companies make is that they forget to follow up and supervise their own mentoring program. That could mean the end of the program itself, easily.