Mentoring and sponsorship programs
The ‘bifocal approach’ transforms mentoring programs from being a career boost for individuals to an organisational change strategy designed to benefit mentees, mentors and the organisation.
Mentoring places demands on 'time poor' senior and executive staff and the dividend to the organisation often remains unmeasured and uncertain. The 'bifocal approach' to mentoring places a premium on thinking beyond a focus on the mentee. It is this broader focus on ensuring benefits to the mentor and the organisation that’s sets Jen’s work apart from the majority of mentoring programs.
Bifocal mentoring places a premium on supporting mentors in their role. This approach emphasises facilitating and supporting the establishment of two-way developmental mentoring relationships where mentors become intended beneficiaries of the program. Senior mentors are brought together to 'zoom out' to the bigger picture systemic issues revealed through the collective stories of their mentees, and challenged to become advocates and change agents.
Importantly, mentoring programs that lack a framework and do not support and train their mentors are often inadvertently maintaining the status quo. The senior partner often relies heavily on proffering advice and teaching the junior mentee to succeed the way they succeeded. This can serve to further entrench rather than challenge (masculine) norms and practices, and works against organisational renewal, learning and innovation.
This can be experienced as harmful by the mentee, exacerbating any lack of fit with cultural norms that they may be experiencing (especially where programs are targeted at women or minority groups). In addition, what is lost is the opportunity to learn from this group of staff – what are the organisational barriers they are experiencing, how does the organisation appear from their perspective, what changes to the organisational culture would assist them to thrive and the organisation to gain their best contribution? Offering mentors training and an opportunity as colleagues to learn from their mentees and work together with other mentors for change takes mentoring into new territory, with benefits for the mentee, mentor and organisation.
Jen has covered all the mentoring bases over the last 20 years; from in-house program co-ordinator, through to evaluating, researching and publishing about mentoring; and as a consultant, designing programs and facilitating mentor and mentee training. She has experience with one to one (dyad), group and peer mentoring, and has worked with a number of target groups, from women only mentoring programs to those for early career researchers, mentoring programs that are part of leadership programs through to more generic mixed gender programs, and for all levels of staff. This depth and breadth of experience is appreciated by her clients, and allows her to engage at all levels, from big picture design through to assisting with matching.
Jen continues to lead a comprehensive mentoring program based on the 'bifocal approach', now entering its seventh year, as part of her role with the Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences at the University of Melbourne. see Reports and evaluations Other comprehensive programs include an early to mid-career program with the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute and the roll out of Faculty based early career programs with the University of Auckland.
Jen's expert knowledge and innovative approach to mentoring have been popular with organisations. She has delivered conference papers, keynotes, workshops and masterclasses in Australia, New Zealand and Europe (UK, Sweden, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, the Czech Republic and The Netherlands).
Leaders as mentors and sponsors
The bifocal approach frames mentoring and sponsorship as critical leadership behaviours. Organisations often plug mentoring and sponsorship gaps with formal programs - targeting groups of employees who may be missing out on informal mentoring or sponsorship, or who could gain from more developmental support. However a closer look at the experience of mentees suggests that some of these gaps need to be plugged closer to home. Leaders and managers who are inexpert in the development of their staff, who may have unconscious bias that results in development opportunities for some and not others, or who don't see this as an important part of their role, may be part of the problem.
Examining the mentoring and sponsorship practices of an organisation, both formal and informal, provides important insights into organisational culture - who thrives and is rewarded and who misses out. Supporting the development of senior leaders; in their mentoring practices, their capacity to identify systemic issues, and to intervene within their spheres of influence, ensures much improved outcomes for the organisation.
We don't have to wait for someone to take up a mentor role within a formal program as the catalyst for this work with leaders and managers. Jen increasingly works with management teams to strengthen informal mentoring and sponsorship practices, as an integral part of building more enabling cultures.
Examples of Programs, Workshops and Public Speaking
|Institution||Target group||Format & duration||Title|
|Art Faculty, University of Melbourne||Academic & professional staff as mentees, Male and female mentors||Program, Year long, 5 workshops for the mentees and 3 for the mentors||Faculty Mentoring program|
|University of Auckland, NZ||Senior Women's Network||Invited speaker, 2 hr networking event||Sponsorship in Higher Education careers|
|University of Auckland, NZ||Heads of School||Half day workshop||Enabling Cultures: Mentorting and sponsorship|
|University of Auckland, NZ||Senior professional leadership across institution||Address and workshop||Leadership Conversations: Mentoring and sponsorship to support career development|
|Consortium of Universities in Vienna, Austria||Equity practitioners from universities & research institutes in Austria||Keynote address||Advances in Mentoring: Strategic approaches to mentoring and sponsorship for diverse target groups|
|Melbourne Children's Institute, Melbourne||Early career researchers||Comprehensive year long program with 5 workshops for mentees and 3 for mentors||Mentoring Program based on the bifocal approach|
|Victoria University, Melbourne||Mentors||Half day workshop||The 'bifocal approach' Mentoring for development & change|
"I thought the workshop was very valuable.It gave me a chance to outline the strategy, to see what we already have in place and the work we have to do to develop our ecosystem of support"
Paul Donaldson, Head of School of Medical Sciences University of Auckland
"Her expertise in organisational change meant that she understood our strategic focus on distributive leadership and the importance of building an engaging culture. Her 'bifocal' approach to mentoring weaves perfectly into our other OD initiatives."
- Melanie Moorcroft
University of Auckland
"In working with Jen, I appreciated her collaboration and flexibility in developing a program that meets our contextual needs."
- Professor Marilys Guillemin
University of Melbourne
Related Program Evaluations
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