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Mentoring – a pathway to a stronger, more inclusive culture

There isn’t a right or wrong way to approach mentoring, but there are misconceptions and fixed mindset executions to mentorship that can negatively impact talent and culture development.

In brief

  • How can you maximize the value of mentoring?
  • How can you help build an inclusive mentoring culture and what are the benefits?

Since my college years, I’ve had four mentors, beginning with the professor who interviewed me for an academic scholarship at my alma mater, Fairleigh Dickinson University. That was followed by the first person who gave me a job out of college prior to joining Ernst & Young LLP (EY), and then a senior leader at a notable publicly traded Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) who counseled me early on in my tenure as a partner at EY.

It was not until my later years in public accounting that I encountered my first mentor who looked like me, a senior member of the EY US Executive Board, which should not come as a surprise in a profession where the portion of Black partners remains at just 1%, according to the Journal of Accountancy[¹]. Further, I am the sector leader for an industry that has long been criticized for lacking racial diversity. Yet, every mentor, regardless of race or gender, can be valuable in some way. Each of my mentor-mentee relationships has been unique and followed a different cadence as to when and where we would meet. It’s often said about relationships that it’s not the quantity of time you spend together, but the quality of time that matters most. This is true when it comes to mentoring, so long as you’re committed to the process.


‘I’m just too busy right now,’ works once, maybe twice. If the relationship with your mentor and the value it can provide is important to you, you’ll find a way to keep in touch. With the current challenges of spending time with others in- person and in this virtual world where a face-to-face meeting is only a click away, there is no reason why you can’t make the time to connect with anyone, including your mentor. Otherwise, you’re just wasting each other’s time. When you find the right formula, mentorship can become one of the most meaningful relationships you’ll ever have.


What does great mentoring look like? How can effective mentorship help develop individual talent and inclusive culture? What are the traits and characteristics of a great mentor? What are the most effective ways to mine and match mentors and mentees?


Here are some other lessons I’ve learned about how to maximize the value of mentoring and the benefits of building an inclusive mentoring culture in your organization:

Research shows that companies with diverse and inclusive teams tend to outperform their less diverse peers.

Effective mentoring requires a culture of accountability


There are several key design decisions organizations must address when establishing mentoring programs: Will the program be open to all or focused on particular groups? How long will the program be – weeks, months or just a single session? How will mentor-mentee matching occur? Which key performance indicators will be used to measure success? How will the program enhance the mentee’s exposure and visibility in the organization? What additional training or support will mentors receive?


Mentors and mentees should discuss their expectations at the beginning of the relationship, establish goals and check in periodically with one another. Two-way communication is key. Mentors might ask their mentee questions like, “What do you hope to gain from our mentoring relationship?” “What obstacles are you currently facing?” “In what areas do you require my support?” Mentees should also ask questions to get to know their mentor better. Questions might include, “How often should we be in touch?” “In addition to our in-person meetings, whether virtual or face-to-face, may I email, text or instant message you for advice?”


The best mentors inspire their mentees to create a future vision, take a genuine interest in them, create a safe space to speak openly to one another, provide corrective feedback in an encouraging way and practice absolute confidentiality. Great mentees take initiative, are goal-oriented, accept personal responsibility, follow through, embrace continuous learning and accept criticism.


Finally, recognize that mentorship is a two-way street. The relationship is most effective when both the mentor and mentee find value from sharing each other’s knowledge and experience and adopt one of life’s most important lessons: Never stop learning.

The views reflected in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Ernst & Young LLP or other members of the global EY organization.


In summary, there is no single approach to how an effective mentoring program should work. With that thought in mind, consider the long-term value of building a mentoring culture in your organization. We can all learn from one another and gain insight from unique experiences and perspective. It doesn’t have to be a formal one-on-one relationship. Create opportunities for knowledge to be shared and give your team the space to make it happen. Commit to making mentoring a priority in your organization, then find the best way that works for you and your team.

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