Barriers to Mentoring (And How to Overcome Them)

June 02, 2015
In a poll taken in one of our recent webinars, 41% of attendees said a lack of participant understanding of what is entailed in a mentoring program was their biggest obstacle to implementing a mentor training program at their organization. Whether you have only recently considered starting your first mentoring program, or you’ve previously had a program in place that didn’t work out, getting your participants to understand what you need them do to can be a huge obstacle. And if your biggest obstacles are something else, don’t worry: you’re probably not an isolated case, and there are simple best-practice steps you can take towards a solution.

Barrier to Mentoring #1: Not Enough Resources

Anxiety around a lack of resources is mostly due to:

  • Needing to create a mentoring program
  • Not knowing how to do it
  • Being pushed to do it by an impossible date


A mentoring program is not something that you can just throw together in a short amount of time and expect to produce results. This common misconception often prevents a program from getting off the ground before it even has a chance to begin.

Solution: Make sure you have a solid plan in place to alleviate this initial anxiety. This plan should contain both a process that outlines how you intent to proceed, and a methodology that confirms not only what you are doing but also why you are doing it. Remember, failing to plan is planning to fail.

Barrier to Mentoring #2: Leadership Won’t Buy In

Another misconception about mentoring is that it is a waste of time and money. Leadership wants to be sure nothing takes away from the bottom line and mentoring is not always valued within this equation, often because of the way it’s presented – that is to say, as a “nice to have” program.

Solution: Pitch mentoring as an organizational strategy with built-in KPIs and measurements to prove your success.

  • Identify exactly what organizational objectives you can tie to mentoring
  • Tie your objectives to your strategy
  • Indicate your success metrics to prove mentor training as something that should be taken seriously


Barrier to Mentoring #3: Participants Won’t Know What to Do

What is a mentor? What is a mentee? What is mentoring overall? Don’t let the combination of no training or guidance and your participants’ misunderstanding of what their roles are result in an unsuccessful program and floundering mentors and mentees.

Solution: Communicate your expectations continuously throughout the mentoring program.

Make sure everyone is on the same page right when you begin to position mentoring within your organization. It is easier to start in the right place rather than to go back and make corrections when habits and patterns have already set in.

The job is not finished after you implement the program. Obstacles may arise that can throw your mentor training off-track, such as a new member with different ideas or problems within a mentor-mentee partnership. To avoid this, be sure to spot check throughout the program to ensure that everyone is still on the same page. The first spot check should be done at about 6-8 weeks into the program.

Barrier to Mentoring #4: Misconceptions about Mentoring


  • “I won’t be able to work it in to my schedule.” Time is a big issue that always comes up with potential mentors. While they may have interest, they often think that they do not have enough time. However, mentoring is not a life-long commitment. It requires a commitment of about 8-12 months and is a time-efficient program that is beneficial to every party involved.
  • “Mentoring has little of no value for career or personal life.” Mentoring is not just for long-term career development or promotion. It also helps participants’ understanding of their organizational culture from different perspectives.
  • "Mentoring is not an organizational strategy." If there is a choice between something directly business-related and something related to mentoring, the common choice would be to pick business. However, if you are in a mentor-mentee partnership, you are already working on business. It has a definitive value (if you’re being sure to measure and report) and ties into the organizational strategy (if you’ve planned correctly from the beginning).


Solution: Set expectations at the beginning by providing a strategic planning workshop and role profiles in order to set participants straight on the common misconceptions listed above, and further answer what the places and roles of mentors, mentees, and managers are in your mentoring program.

Both mentors and mentees need a clear job description to understand the skills needed and to make sure they are qualified for their position. Additionally, don’t forget to make sure the managers know how they fit in to the mentor-mentee partnership because their guidance is the key to its success.

Just giving a kick-off session is not enough to sustain the program. You would not ask anyone to go into a new role without training and guidance, and this is especially true in mentoring. Not just for the mentors and mentees, but also for the manager so that they can fully support the mentor-mentee partnership.

Barrier to Mentoring #5: External Pressures

Many times, external pressures such as the economy, budget cuts, and organizational issues negatively affect the process of getting your mentoring program started.

When these types of situations exist, that is when you need mentoring the most. External pressures call for development from your organization, which is normally sustained through mentoring. However, when it comes to budget cuts, usually the first thing to go is training and development.

Solution: Track, report and measure. This process is four-fold.

  • Ensure that leadership and management take the program seriously
  • Prove your success and ROI
  • Point to specific problem areas and where you can improve
  • Keep your program from being cut

      There are two kinds of measurement you should be sure to use:

      • Qualitative: This kind of measurement measures subjective experience. For example, if participants are asked to express through a survey whether they got something beneficial out of the program or whether they were happy in their mentor-mentee partnership, these are two qualitative measures.
      • Quantitative: Quantitative measurements show the direct effect of the program’s ROI on the organization’s strategy. For example, if an organization knows that it previously took 18 months for individuals in a certain job role to get up to speed, and that they were able to reduce that time to 13 months through mentoring, the money saved in that five months is very measurable. The other way that mentoring can be measured is by comparing training costs with mentoring costs. Substantial savings can often be seen with the organizations that choose use mentoring either instead of training, or to supplement or reinforce training.


      Whether you are beginning a new mentoring program or revamping an old one, don’t let your first obstacle be fear. Instead, determine what obstacles you are sure to face and put a plan and process in place to overcome them.

      Learn more about how mentor training can help you overcome the barriers to mentoring in your organization.

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