The evolution of coaching and mentoring within organisations: Part 1

evolution of coaching and mentoring

The evolution of coaching and mentoring within organisations:  Part 1

In terms of the evolution of coaching and mentoring over the course of history, where informal mentoring occurred throughout every community, so today does it continue in every organisation.

While the elders of the cultures of yester years shared their wisdom and knowledge with those younger than themselves in order to maintain the wellbeing of the order, with today’s organisations the evolution of coaching and mentoring has resulted in companies having their own culture, leadership and in effect, their own body politic.

In the evolution of coaching and mentoring in today’s businesses this learning is transferred in the form of skills, ability and knowledge developed over time and passed down by all types of leaders, supervisors, managers and executives.

Until the end of the 20th Century mentoring was conducted infromally

Up until the end of the 20th Century, mentoring was conducted informally, especially when mentor and protégé were in white collar positions.  Senior executives would ‘adopt’ talented newcomers or potential star performers.   At that stage several key characteristics were consistent with the nature of mentoring.


  • Single-minded focus on career development


To speed up their professional advancement employees sought mentorship both within and outside of the organisation.


  • The belief that the mentor should be a protector


The mentor was seen to be an advocate of the younger individual, using his or her network to support the mentee’s upward development.


  • The desire to clone look-alike, think-alike act-alike managers


Mentors invariably sought out those whose aspirations matched their own at that particular age.


  • The vision of mentoring that was fundamentally elitist


Mentoring was not designed to speed up development of younger managers.  Rather it was a strategy to assimilate high-potential individuals into the inner circle of management.


  • Little concern for corporate mission or strategy


Emphasis was placed on the mentee’s career development as opposed to organisational development.


  • Lack of awareness of hidden talent


Individuals where characterised by what they did as opposed to their potential.  As a consequence, young people who could have benefited from mentoring were overlooked despite their career aspirations due to managerial blindness to any but specific job holders or university graduates.

This version of mentoring still persists in certain organisations today.  However, at the end of the 20th Century mentoring took on a very different look and purpose.

To begin with, research revealed the work of mentoring relationships in leadership development which led to a renewed interest in the concept.  As organisations began to recognise that in order to do their job well mentors need to see the task as comprising more than a peripheral aspect of their work, organisations added coaching and mentoring to the managerial job description.

Pairing off junior and senior employees

Certain companies reinforce coaching and mentoring by pairing off junior and senior employees.  The importance of mentoring is further emphasised with the provision of training to both mentor and mentee.  The reason behind training a mentor is to enable the individual to address both short-term situational needs and long-term aspirations.   Mentee training enables the younger individual to learn how to become a partner with the more, take greater responsibility and accountability for his or her development and effectively used what is taught.

Cross-gender mentoring

Yet, even into the late 1980s, few male managers dared mentor a woman lest their reputation be tarnished by sexual innuendos.  But, as organisations sought ways and means to build high performance managerial and executive teams they began to practise cross-gender mentoring.

Structured mentoring programmes

Structured mentoring programmes can be highly flexible with mentors and mentees choosing for themselves whether they can or should work together.  In order to facilitate such pairing, the organisation may maintain a system whereby the mentees can list their needs and mentors can identify the talents they could bring to the mentoring relationship.  Such systems can enable mentoring relationships to develop at various corporate facilities even across national boundaries.

However, many more structured mentoring programmes exist.  For example, certain mentoring programmes are organised under the direction of a single manager, often called a mentoring co-ordinator, who identifies appropriate mentoring matches and who is available to support both mentor and mentee as and when the need arises.

There are also programmes that enable mentees to evaluate their mentors and to appraise the efforts of their mentees.

Click here to enrol on a coaching programme: