This mentoring month John Hitchin CEO reflects on some historic research and the continuing questions of how we as consultants / coaches / advisors / facilitators show up for others.

John Hitchin Renaisi CEO
John Hitchin

Quite a few years ago I ran a qualitative research study for a large youth charity that was using multiple types of one-to-one support to help the young people that came through its doors. I was very proud of the study because I could tell the findings and analysis changed the way they thought and caused them to redesign some of what they did.

While the report was used internally by the charity, there was a table that my colleagues and I placed in a (probably barely read) appendix, that I have used a great number of times since. I use it to help me think about what kind of intervention we are using in Renaisi’s work.

The table focused on youth support and looked at tutoring, counselling, mentoring and coaching. In other settings, you could add the advisor, consultant and facilitator roles. The dates of the research studies quoted within the table below highlight that it was a good while ago, and so there may be more up-to-date studies, but what I’m still interested in is the question of how we take on and use different roles in our work relationships.

Type of intervention 

Remedial/Engaging  Preventative
Preventative (with at-risk subjects) or remedial/engaging and instrumental or developmental Remedial/engaging and instrumental 
Purpose Remedial/engaging and instrumental Remedial/engaging and instrumental Instrumental – Tackling underachievement in education/ Tackling high-risk behaviour or developmental – Supporting vulnerable individuals in the transition from adolescence to adulthood Instrumental – Tackling underachievement in employment 
Time frame of intervention Short (3-6 months) 

Medium/ Long (typically 6 m- 1yr) Medium/ long (typically 6 m- 1yr) Short (3-6 months) 
Service deliverer Professional 

Professional Professional –  adult/peer volunteer Professional – adult volunteer 
Site School-based 

School-based (particularly for young people) School-based or community-based Community-based 
Effectiveness criteria (‘what works’) Islam, 2010 
Constant supervision and coordination of tutors, 
Appropriate training and feedback system for tutors  
Careful structuring of tutoring sessions  
Ward, 2007: 
Providing advice based on ‘the personal risk of the individual rather than (just delivering) predetermined standard messages’; 
Using multiple theoretical approaches to behaviour change’. 
Dubois et al. (2002)  
Setting – school, workplace or community (with school settings reducing positive effect size) 
Monitoring of programme implementation  
Mentors’ background in a helping role or profession (e.g., teacher)  
Provision of ongoing training to mentors  
Provision of structured activities for mentors and youth  
Inclusion of a parent support or involvement component  
(Fulfilment of) expectations regarding frequency of contact 
Relationship intensity 
Philip et al, (2004) 
Shared control; 
Shared experience. 
O’Broin, (2010) 
Quality of interpersonal interactions 
Mutual co-creation of the coaching relationship 
Ability of coaches to adapt to their individual coachees 
Ability of coaches to show positive attitudes (particularly objectivity); 
Ability to create bonding and engagement as ongoing processes 
Trust and other engagement processes.  

What roles are we taking on and why?

On Mentoring Month I have thought about a few things.

  • When we’re working with an organisation who brings us in to do a piece of work for them, how and when do we move from being a consultant that ‘fixes’ a problem to a more advisory role that may coach some colleagues, or encourage mentoring and support across organisations who are sharing similar challenges?
  • In our work with people who have been excluded from the labour market, sometimes my colleagues tutor specific skills, such as ESOL or CV writing, but more often than not they are coaches. How do they flip between the role of tutor and coach? Does that choice mean leaving out some value? Here I think about the work of EMPath in Boston, and how much they have leant into the coaching role. Should we be doing that?
  • For our Transitions service, we created a mentoring relationship between the refugees seeking work and professional partners. Here the big question is the power dynamic. From our perspective (and as evidenced in our evaluation) both sides have a lot to learn from each other. How do we nurture that idea of mutual mentoring?
  • In our place-based work, how we facilitate collaboration is an ongoing question and challenge. We say that we want to facilitate (not lead) change, but we also need to set up peer-mentoring relationships within and between places, and that means we need to take on a championing role. How do we do that while remaining non-hierarchical?

I could go on with the questions, but basically, Mentoring Month makes me think about being intentional about the roles we take on. If we are not intentional about our role we may use the wrong tool for the job, miss the subtleties of difference between roles, and we may also bring a range of assumptions and biases about ourselves and others that excludes groups or individuals who are minoritised.

So, this Mentoring Month leaves me with a much bigger question about how we show up for each other.

John Hitchin Renaisi CEO