By David Clutterbuck (United Kingdom)

It would be easy to conclude, from the vast numbers of research papers and studies on mentoring, that the field is pretty well covered. In practice, that’s far from the truth. It’s noticeable, for example, that there are far more quantitative studies than qualitative. (The opposite is the case for the parallel field of coaching.) There is hardly any that combines quantitative and qualitative methods. Moreover, mentoring isn’t a single, readily classifiable phenomenon or set of activities. When Kathy Kram did her first, small sample study 30 years ago, she looked at a specific aspect of mentoring (informal, unsupported) in a specific culture (the USA). But the kaleidoscope of mentoring is constantly changing. Across the world, the word mentoring has many meanings, most if not all valid within their context.

A truism often forgotten by academics is that the intent of research is not just about their achieving tenure; it is about establishing knowledge that will have practical application. For a long time, the reputation of academic research was not helped by the divergence between the conclusions of academic papers and practitioner experience in the field, with regard to the relative merits of formal versus informal mentoring. This divergence was at least partially the result of failings in the structure and definition of much of the research, by both academics and practitioners – in particular, simplistic assumptions about what success looks like, and for whom, how many frogs a mentee seeking an informal mentoring relationship has to kiss before they find a prince, and what are the differences between formal and informal arrangements.

Source: iCN Issue 11 (Executive Coaching); pages 46-49

About David Clutterback

David Clutterback is a mentor or coach, a faciliatator of good practice in Boardrooms; and as the practice leader in international consultancies David Clutterbuck Partnership (DCP) and Coaching & Mentoring International (CMI) which specialise in supporting organisations in developing mentoring and coaching programmes, and in establishing sustainable mentoring and coaching cultures. DCP also offers consultancy and training in Systemic Talent Management. Everything he does revolves around helping people and organisations harness the power of dialogue.