Mentoring is a method of knowledge transfer that incites development in both the mentor and the mentee. Workplaces all over the world have embraced...

by Marie Y. Philippe, PhD.

Corporate Vice President, Culture and Organizational Effectiveness
The Lifetime Healthcare Companies

Mentoring is a method of knowledge transfer that incites development in both the mentor and the mentee. Workplaces all over the world have embraced mentoring. However, it is not always clear when to consider mentoring. Further, the impact of mentoring cross-culturally in the workplace is not frequently analyzed or pursued.

Generally, a mentoring program is considered when the company seeks to develop its talent pool as part of succession planning, wishes to help employees acquire specific skills, or aims to develop its minority employees. Mentoring can also capture for future generations the expertise and experience baby boomer employees have and create more trust and collaboration among employees who face generational or cultural adaptive challenges.

Mentoring implies a transfer that can only take place when a genuine meeting of the minds occurs. During the transfer of content, the state of mental connection is an absolute necessity. Therefore, if we throw into the mix cultural differences, the inference is that the mental connection would embed reciprocal cultural awareness. Once difference awareness comes alive, it is followed by either rejection or acceptance. The mental course the mentor’s and mentee’s minds take influences the mentoring outcome.

“Mentoring implies a transfer that can only take place when a genuine meeting of the minds occurs.”

Mentoring is relationship oriented and intends to create a safe environment. In order for participants to openly share professional and personal issues, there must be safety. A safe place exists only where there is trust. As the relationship evolves, it takes a mental shift to believe that this particular person who differs from me in many ways will not judge me or try to hurt me. Mentoring also requires a long-term commitment for shared development. To be successful, both partners must commit and be willing to learn from each other. The transformation of the mentee is accompanied by a renewed mentor when the engagement is mutual. At each encounter, the mentor must maintain an open perspective and self awareness which, over time, allows for greater self discovery as she/he imparts knowledge. The mentee’s tendency to open up personally and culturally will grow within that committed time, nine months to a year or more.

Mentoring must involve indirectly the immediate manager if corporate barriers for progress are to be successfully removed. The distinction between the role of a mentor and that of a functional manager is strategic. Although the approval of a manager is not necessary for a mentoring relationship to exist, consulting one’s manager provides benefits that often far outweigh the negative.

When the manager is culturally different from the mentee, understanding the desire for a mentor can be critical. The same holds true when the suggestion for a mentor is initiated by the manager. Workplace barriers cannot be removed without a cadre of “door busters.” In most corporate cultures, it is powerful to have the open endorsement of one’s supervisor for the achievement of a goal through a third party mentoring.

As many organizations pursue inclusiveness, cross cultural mentoring is at times underestimated or often altogether overlooked. What better way to build cultural appreciation than to allow two different people to put into practice the meeting of minds through mentoring? Why not try it in 2011?

This article has been sponsored by:
Communicating Across Cultures

Marie Y. Philippe, Ph.D.

Marie Y. Philippe, Ph.D.

Corporate Vice President, Culture and Organizational Effectiveness
The Lifetime Healthcare Companies

Well known for her leadership contribution in corporate culture transformation through strategic diversity initiatives and organizational change management. She can be reached at [email protected]

  • Rene Petrin

    July 20, 2011 #1 Author

    Congratulations on a well written article! As a mentoring consultant for 22 years, I frequently read articles that confuse the reader rather than enlighten. Yours was one that had the right principles (long term relationship, trust, etc.)and the right conclusions. I can with my experience that cross-cultural mentoring is one of the most effective ways of removing barriers and gaining a champion in a majority mentor. I’ve frequently had white males articulate how transformational it was for them to mentor someone from a different sex or culture. Thanks for writing your insightful article.

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