The value of mentoring

28 May 2024

A mentor. Do you immediately envision an older man full of life wisdom holding the hand of someone smaller or younger who is still discovering life? Then your image of mentoring is not quite accurate. And yet... you're not entirely wrong either. Mentoring is not about age or seniority. So what is it about? Guiding, building trust, challenging, self-awareness, and reflection.

At TriFinance, mentoring plays a crucial role in fostering the growth of our employees. Marjan Schollaert (Expert Manager XSU Care), Evelien Boon (Care Manager), and Jorn Hillaert (Project Manager), the driving forces behind the mentoring concept at TriFinance, share their insights.

What is mentoring?

One of the most common misconceptions about mentors is that they only step in when there's a problem, and that their role is to fix it. "Mentoring is relevant in every context and situation with the aim to help you grow as a person and a professional. A mentor will challenge you, helping you to critically evaluate yourself and different situations," says Jorn Hillaert. And yet, the concept of mentoring often remains vague. When asked, "What does mentoring mean to you in one word?" the unanimous response was: "Growth!"

Mentoring is not about solving problems, but rather a process of guidance and reflection to focus on your growth.

Jorn Hillaert

Mentoring isn’t about getting an instant, read-made answer; it’s about daring to reflect and experiment. This approach also applies to employees in stretch situations at work, when encountering something new or using a skill for the first time. These are situations where a mentor can truly add value.

“Every beginning is difficult, but you are not alone in facing such challenges. A mentor guides you through the process based on their own experiences. By asking targeted questions, the mentor encourages you to reflect on the situation, enabling you to handle similar situations differently in the future,” explains Evelien Boon.

A mentor can share best practices that give a mentee’s growth curve a significant boost.

Evelien Boon

Mentoring is not only valuable for beginners. “Experienced professionals also benefit from having a mentor. It all depends on what you define as ‘experienced’. The true challenge of a mentor is to create depth, offer challenges, and provide reflective insights,” says Marjan Schollaert. Ultimately, it’s about challenging and growing.

The value of mentoring

What’s your dream job or ultimate goal? And how defined is that goal? These are questions that everyone faces at some point. “Mentoring helps you in taking small steps towards a particular goal, today. A mentor can push, motivate, and steer you toward those initial steps for your personal growth and development. They serve as a sounding board with whom you can regularly exchange ideas, facilitating ongoing learning on the job,” explains Jorn.

Mentoring helps you take small steps on-the-job towards your ultimate goal starting today.

Jorn Hillaert

Is a mentor always older than a mentee? Not necessarily. “The mentor’s experience is often customized to address specific topics where the mentee faces challenges, whether they’re technical or soft skills. It’s not about age, seniority or job title, but rather about expertise,” Jorn elaborates. And that’s precisely why mentoring isn’t only beneficial for consultants starting their careers. “A mentor is a trusted person who allows the mentee to be open and vulnerable.” Mentoring is about exploring and advancing together.

What's in it for the mentee?

Self-reflection. Thinking about what could be improved and altered, and using those insights to make decisions, as self-awareness holds significant value. “It’s a misconception that the mentor does all the work while the mentee simply listens. Both parties need to actively engage, but moments of silence can prompt the mentee to contemplate and reflect more deeply, leading to valuable insights,” explains Evelien.

A broader perspective. In other words: expand your perspective beyond your current tasks, going deeper and broader. It’s valuable to consider how your responsibilities fit into the bigger picture or the processes within your organization, and how they support your ongoing development. Occasionally zooming out and reflecting on the ‘how’ and ‘why’ can offer great insight. 

Vulnerability and courage. Mentees often hesitate to ask questions or show vulnerability. However, mentoring hinges on establishing psychological safety between mentor and mentee. There should be no topics off-limits. “In many situations, the mentee possesses the answers already, often without recognizing it. A mentor aims to encourage the mentee to explore solutions independently. In such instances, a mentor can present multiple paths to help them navigate towards their own resolution.”

What's in it for the mentor?

People management. Mentoring is a first step in terms of people management. Even though the mentor-mentee relationship isn’t hierarchical, it’s still the ideal opportunity to look beyond the functional performance of the mentee.

Fulfillment. As a mentor, your goal is to create the same enlightening experience for your mentee. It’s incredibly gratifying to observe a mentee’s progress, not only in their on-the-job skills, but also in their professional and personal growth. By guiding professionals to reflect on their tasks, motivators, challenges and areas for improvement, they gain greater self-awareness and can apply these insights autonomously in the future, perhaps even passing them on to their own mentees. 

Wide perspective. You encounter your own set of challenges in your job, which soon becomes your reference point. Empathizing with a mentee’s situation can challenge you to break out of your own narrow focus, confront different situations and consider the broader context.

Nobody’s perfect. It’s okay to make mistakes and to talk about it with your mentor. They’ve likely traveled a similar path in the past and can steer you in a different direction.

Marjan Schollaert

Mentor vs. coach

At TriFinance, you’re assigned both a mentor and a coach. Their roles differ, which is precisely why they complement each other so well.

Coaching focuses on long-term goals, aspirations and ambitions. A coach doesn’t necessarily need expertise in the mentee’s field but excels in guiding the process through insightful questioning and reflective practices. Coaching sessions delve into ambitions, but also into values, fears and beliefs of an individual. Typically, at TriFinance, you’re assigned one coach throughout your career.

A mentor supports the consultant’s growth within projects and areas where they may feel less confident or still have room for growth. Having a mentor with similar expertise or experience proves beneficial. Throughout your career at TriFinance, you may have multiple mentors, each offering unique insights due to their diverse expertise.

Mentoring track

“Anyone, regardless of their years of experience, can become a mentor at TriFinance. What matters most is your commitment to guiding a mentee within a specific area of expertise,” explains Jorn. “The quality of the conversations is paramount. We ensure this quality through a mentoring track.”

The mentoring track was established to provide structured support for mentors and equip them with the necessary tools to be effective mentors. The track starts with a multi-day basic training covering both soft skills and the mentoring process. “Since mentoring is primarily about self-reflection and asking the right questions, we immediately focus on these aspects during the training.”

An integral part of the track involves recurrent intervision sessions, where mentors engage in dialogue and discuss cases they bring to the table. Evelien adds, “Mentors form a community where they become more familiar with each other’s expertise. This enables them to easily connect mentees with specific questions to mentors who are experts in those areas.”