• Peak Performance

Values-Centred Mentoring: The Key to Greater Insight and Impact



While the COVID-19 pandemic has an enduring impact on nearly every facet of our lives – both business and personal – how can we make sense of these changes and continue to improve our performance at work?


One of the fastest ways to increase our insight and impact is through a values-centred mentoring program.


While mentoring has been a part of leadership development for decades, a new focus on values-centred mentoring is arguably the ideal remedy for helping people get back on their feet, manage the ‘new normal’ of the post-pandemic world and deal with changes whether they are welcome or not.


Despite much thinking to the contrary, our values can and do shift over time as our life circumstances and priorities change. This is why it is important to take stock of what we value at regular intervals, in good times and in bad.


At the most basic level, and despite our personal differences, there are three things that everyone values —survival, safety and security, all of which have been threatened to some degree by the pandemic.


These three essential needs become more evident during times of stress, as do our personal and organisational values. The dropping of any ‘mask’ provides an excellent opportunity to provide extra insights during the mentoring process as our ‘true’ values come to the fore.


So how can you use this dynamic to benefit your mentoring relationship? First, we need to step back and understand what values are and why do they matter.


What are values and why do they matter?


Richard Barrett, global thought leader in values-based leadership and organisational transformation, has worked with and studied values for more than 25 years. He believes values are much more than “what is important to us”. Barrett describes values as the energetic drivers of our aspirations and intentions and the source of all human motivations and decision-making. In simple terms, values matter because they drive many of the decisions we make and the actions we take.


Becoming consciously aware of what’s driving our decisions and actions is crucial to developing a deep and authentic mentoring relationship, and to addressing recurring issues the mentee wants to work on.


Values-Centred Mentoring


The goal of mentoring is to assist in the growth and development of the mentee and learning, empathising and listening are three essentials of a successful mentoring relationship.


Values-centred mentoring is the idea that mentors draw on their own and their mentee’s values for direction, inspiration and motivation as they support and encourage their mentees to develop their skills, improve their performance and become the person they want to be.


A recent survey of members of the Stanford Graduate School of Business Advisory Council rated self-awareness as the most important capability for leaders to develop. Knowing where our natural inclinations lie in order to boost and compensate for them is key to success.


Self-awareness starts with the values that underpin our characteristics and idiosyncrasies and where mentoring can help shine a light.


Although made easier by a quick assessment, it is possible to tell what people value in their lives by what they talk about, what they pay attention to, what they care about and how they spend their time. Mentors can bring awareness to these cues which are often subconscious for the mentee. Conversations have greater impact when they knowingly reflect what is most important to the mentee.


“With 1:1 mentoring initially it’s about rapport and trust. Mentees can be nervous and want to do everything right. As a mentor, I want to get them to a point where they are ready and able to open up and talk about what’s most important to them. They might not have thought much about it so it’s about skillful questioning, tuning in and reading the person. Then it’s about talking to them in a way that resonates, so you can have more meaningful conversations and make a positive impact,” said Kathy Wilton, Be.Bendigo mentor.


Shared values can help to build the chemistry in a mentoring relationship but it is not essential to successful outcomes. Understanding what is most important to each other is. Those who bring different value sets can enhance the two-way learning in a mentoring relationship.


Being aware of values in a mentoring relationship can help build trust, deepen conversations and improve understanding. Rather than just mentoring on ‘surface’ issues, a values-centred conversation might get results faster by uncovering blockers.


For example, a mentoring conversation might address improving a person’s presentation skills, whereas a deeper, values-centred discussion might uncover that a person does not enjoy public speaking because they greatly value humility, and this makes them reticent to step forward and draw attention to themselves. What on the surface may have looked like a skills deficit is actually a values infringement requiring a different approach or solution.


Beliefs are not Values


As illustrated by this example, beliefs are assumptions we hold to be true and they help us to interpret our reality. We tell ourselves stories and make decisions based on our beliefs, often without evidence of their veracity. A skilled mentor can uncover and challenge limiting beliefs that are no longer serving their mentee.


Similarly, making decisions based on an old and potentially flawed pre-COVID belief system is risky. In today’s volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) world, individuals and organisations need a more reliable compass. Values provide that compass because they allow us to demonstrate what we stand for through words and actions and to focus directly on what is most important.


Recognising the difference between beliefs and values provides valuable insights to mindset and behavioural patterns that may be impacting a mentee’s progress. Armed with these insights, mentors can test assumptions and encourage a values-centred mode of decision making that will enable their mentee to handle whatever challenges they are faced with an authentic and aligned way. This also applies to what values their organisation holds close and promotes.


Personal and organisational alignment


An organisation’s culture is a reflection of the values, beliefs and behaviours of previous and current leaders that are manifested in the organisation’s systems, policies, practices and so on. It’s “how we do things around here”. Whether a business owner or working in an organisation, mentees need to consider values from both a personal and organisation perspective.


Values come to life through demonstration of the right actions. How are you bringing your organisation’s values to life?


Achieving better outcomes for all


Values-centred mentoring is a deeper way of supporting and encouraging mentees to develop their skills, improve their performance and become the person they want to be.


Values-centred mentoring promotes a greater sense of wellbeing and fulfillment for both mentee and mentor. Through richer conversations, a mentor can help to develop profound insights that help their mentee to achieve better outcomes for themselves, their team and their organisation.