The Power of Mentoring in Organizations

Petrin book

Rene Petrin is the guest this week on Leadership Development News. Today we are going to be talking about mentoring. Rene is an expert who can really tell us about how to bring about the mentoring in your organization.

Rene is the author of the book called Mentoring: A Business Strategy That Works. It’s available on Amazon, also on He has spent numerous years in human resources discovering that most companies were not doing an adequate job developing their number one asset, which of course are their employees.

Rene Petrin had the mission to create an organization devoted solely to teaching business how to mentor talent. Today he is a leader in the mentoring field. He has developed unique mentoring tools that emphasize the importance of interpersonal dynamics while creating standards of excellence, a high level of integrity and keeping the promise of mentoring.

Dr. Cathy Greenberg: The International Coach Foundation has been talking about the importance of mentoring and Google did a study recently on what people really want from managers, and they said the number #1 thing they wanted was a coaching style, and a mentoring opportunity.

Rene and I met at a very timely opportunity in the not too distant past. I was doing some research for a major, global Fortune 500 company who was trying to start a women’s mentoring network. I reached out and Rene was right there. He was the first one to come back to me with some research that had real results in it based on his work, at Management Mentors. Then he turned me on to his book, Mentoring: A Business Strategy That Works. I was really hooked, great information, great resources, and it’s an honor and a privilege to have Rene on the show today.

So let me without further ado, bring on our guest and tell you a little bit about him here. I think you did a great job, Relly, of setting up the idea that his mission was to create an organization devoted solely to teaching businesses how to mentor talent. Now a lot of businesses try this on their own and they put people together. They are kind of doing it willy-nilly and they are trying to figure out who to put together. What I think you are going to find in today’s show about mentoring is that it really is a strategy that works if you do it the right way.

Let’s talk a little bit about Rene and why he did this. You know his entrepreneurial spirit combined with this keen insight into human behavior, led Rene to found the Management Mentors Organization in 1989. The philosophy really was simple, it was to show companies how structured mentoring programs are the most powerful and the most effective strategy for professional development within an organization.

With more than 12 years of experience as a VP of Human Resources, in both health care and sales; a lot of people wouldn’t see some of the similarities in healthcare and sales and human resources, obviously, which is the glue. Because you have Human Resources in every organization across every industry—it’s just a natural part of how we grow corporations. Rene has experience managing all areas of Human Resources, so it’s really across industries that he has learned how to do this. But he always maintained a special interest in how employees develop. Through his concentration in this field, he began to realize the power of mentoring in organizations and how it increased and that it increased his focus on the areas as well.

It was almost like it was a philosophy that was self-feeding and self-propagating. Rene’s educational background is also equally impressive. He earned a Masters degree in consulting and counseling psychology from Harvard University, and a Bachelors degree in Health Administration and planning from the University of New Hampshire. He holds many powerful, organizational titles and certifications, and today, Rene strives to be a leader in the mentoring field.

He really tries to deliver on the promise of excellence that mentoring can provide to help maintain an organizations retention, talent, and certainly it’s emotional intelligence, and the integrity of the promise of mentoring. After today, you can also learn more about Rene’s organization at He has several other websites but that is his main website for resources and consulting services.

Dr. Relly Nadler: Rene, one of the things that we always start off with is a little quick background from you. Who have been some of your key influences? We always talk about leaders here; who have been some of the folks that have been leaders in your life?

Rene Petrin: It’s an interesting questions because, when I start to think about it, I think I have been most influenced by two main psychologists; Carl Yule and Carl Rogers. I think what I gained from that was the focus on the individual and the way people develop and what influences them. That really allowed me to be able to bring those ideas to mentoring.

In terms of influence, I think that I was lucky enough to have several very, very important mentors in my life. One of them actually introduced me to the human resource field where I made my career for a long time. I’ve also had the benefit of being mentored and I’ve also enjoyed the experience of mentoring.

Dr. Cathy Greenberg: One of the things that I know people are interested in hearing about if they are not themselves well-read in the area of mentoring and coaching, is how do you define mentoring and was this, in fact, one of the many motivations behind writing your book?

Rene Petrin: Well, mentoring is a term that everybody understands but they don’t understand in the same way. I see mentoring as a transformational relationship whereby a mentor facilitates the professional and personal development of a mentee. The key word there is facilitates. So what mentors do is they assist someone on the journey to development, they don’t do it to them, they don’t do it for them, they do it with them. That to me is mentoring, which is why a lot of people want to have a mentor relationship because it is transformational.

Dr. Relly Nadler: When people ask what you mean by transformational, how would you describe that?

Rene Petrin: Well, for me what it means is that mentoring is about establishing a relationship. So, it’s all about this relationship: I would be able as a mentee to feel comfortable with my mentor, and also to feel that there is a trust there whereby I want to share with my mentor things I wouldn’t share with my boss for example, someone who has control over my career; I want to share this with my mentor who basically is there to assist me.

By establishing this close relationship, what happens then with the trust—I can then develop in ways that I might not otherwise. So I can take some risks with my mentor because they create a safe learning environment. I could share something like, “I don’t have the self-confidence that people think I have” for example. So it goes to a deeper level rather than simply acquiring skills and knowledge. That I think is what makes a difference between coaching and mentoring.

Dr. Relly Nadler: I know you have a lot of resources and we want to be able to promote those. So; what kinds of resources does that have? Cathy and I have are at organizations every day and a lot of times I have seen them set up mentoring relationships and they have just kind of petered out because they don’t have the structure. So what kind of resources are available?

Rene Petrin: Well, it’s the training arm of my company, Management Mentors. What it is basically, is where we are building elearning courses. So we have two at the present time. One is How to Create a Successful Mentoring Relationship which would be for both mentors and mentees to take online so that they understand how to build a successful relationship. Then the other one is a certification process for internal mentoring program managers; those people in organizations that have to create a formal mentoring program. Of course, we will be adding more.

Dr. Cathy Greenberg:  We hear the term informal and formal mentoring all the time. What is it in your mind that distinguishes this practice and how can someone understand further.

Rene Petrin: Those are really good points. Informal mentoring really is based upon what I call chemistry. It probably happens if you’ve had mentors, it probably happened the same way. I met this person at work, we developed a kind of closeness just talking, we seem to have common interests, and then over the course of time I discovered that they were actually mentoring me. As I said before, without my mentor I wouldn’t have gotten in to my career of human resources. So, if we didn’t have that personal connection and chemistry, it wouldn’t have gone that far.

An informal relationship doesn’t have ground rules per se; we didn’t sit down and talk about goals specifically, we just simply worked together in a sense of my mentor gave me some advice and guidance along the way.

Formal mentoring is very different. It’s really based on what I call compatibility. An organization will develop a questionnaire which will deal with some of the personality characteristics as well as some of the talent, skills and knowledge that a mentor might have that a mentee wants, and using an algorithm they will then put people together. Assuming good will on both parts, these people will work together formally for a specific period of time, with specific ground rules and specific focus.

Now given that, there is a range there between people who really establish a mentoring relationship in a formal way and those that simply end up with kind of a coaching relationship for the mentoring because the chemistry wasn’t really there. Chemistry really drives the informal relationship; compatibility really drives the formal one.

Dr. Relly Nadler: So it’s really kind of that structure that we want to get into. You said this a little earlier, but given that both Cathy and I are coaches, how do you define the difference between coaching and mentoring? Sometimes those two words are used interchangeably.

Rene Petrin: There is an overlap, but I think what I do, because there is so much confusion, I try to make a stronger distinction than that may be there. Some of the other differences are based upon the way the program has to work. For example, in mentoring, the manager is never the mentor in a formal program. Whereas in coaching, the manager could be a coach. In mentoring, the mentor and the mentee’s manager never speak about that relationship, it’s considered a confidential relationship. Whereas in coaching, obviously a coach will report to the manager any progress with regard to whatever is being coached on. So that the mentor has absolutely no imput into that persons mobility within the organization, because we don’t want to create a conflict between the mentee’s manager and the mentee and the organization.

Dr. Relly Nadler: Are they often in the same department, or is it sometimes better to just have someone else in the organization who is more knowledgeable about the organizational awareness?

Rene Petrin: They are usually from separate departments / separate division. Mentoring is a great way to kind of break down the solo mentality because you have people cross-pollinating each other. The key is as long as the mentor is not in the direct supervisory line, and there are some other considerations but that is the main one, then anybody else can be that persons mentor, but not within that same supervisory line for the reasons I just outlined.

So you see, coaching is really performance based and whereas I think mentoring is more developmental based. They are similar but not the same.

Learn more about mentoring and how it can help your organization and your people to grow. Listen to the complete interview, without commercials, above.





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