What constitutes Mentoring another team?

Many times teams are asked who or how many teams they mentor. We always struggle to answer this. We hold many workshops, training, etc. During build season we get a steady stream of phone calls and visits from other teams. So are we “mentoring” all those teams? Does the other team have to realize it as mentoring?

What is your team’s definition of "mentoring’? And please be specific.

I’ve always believed that if a team actively seeks out your help, then you are mentoring them. This includes teams who continue to seek help from you after you have made the initial invite to them.

I think the real question is… where does coopertition end and mentoring start?

A team can call you up and ask if you have a part they need but can’t get from the manufacturer in time. That’s a team actively seeking your help… but you aren’t really mentoring them. A team might give you a call because they can’t get their radio working after a competition, so you give them some pointers. How is that different from posting the question on CD? Again, it’s mostly coopertition, and not mentoring.

When you get into mentoring, in my opinion, is with more drawn out involvement with a team. Just answering a random question or a quick request doesn’t count. But if the team comes to you with questions repeatedly over the build season, it might be mentoring. if you help the team through an entire project, it’s probably mentoring. If you help a team get started, it’s probably mentoring.

As you have mentioned, mentoring is a broad stroke term.

Now, if someone asks my team how many mentors we have, I consider all adults who are affiliated to only our team and are actively involved in the build season.

  • Sunny G.

There’s a difference between “mentoring” and “providing assistance to”.

In Ontario, rookie teams are set up with an official veteran mentor team for their first year. If a partnership doesn’t start up on its own, the regional director asks veteran teams to take on a rookie team. Veteran teams help find sponsors and mentors and introduce them to the FIRST culture. Rookie teams can hit the ground running. During the build season mentors and senior team members visit the rookie team as often as possible, include them in events, provide parts and expertise, critique designs, help out with fa brication etc. I’ve seen too many regionals where all the rookie teams are clustered in numerical order at one end of the pits and don’t have much a clue as to what is going on. For the past couple of years at Ontario regionals the veteran and rookie are side by side in the pit area. The success of the arrangement varies but is somewhat dependent on the distance between the two teams. We’ve officially mentored rookie teams for the past three years and it works really well. Last year we were an hour’s drive from our rookie. The had a great season and are really enthused for this year. The relationships built with all our official rookies continue.

Suggest it to your regional director.

In your definition, how do you draw distinctions between teams and individuals, on both sides of the discussion?

(i.e. a single individual mentors another team than the one their on, or a team mentors a single person from another team, or an individual from one team mentors an individual from another team).

I think it would be when multiple members of team leadership and students are interacting with each other. If an individual alone works with another team (going in and working with them, not just a question here or there) then I wouldn’t consider that individual’s team as a mentor team. As an example of what John is asking - I mentored 2495 this past summer (actively going in and working with mentors and students), but I could not say that 3929 mentored 2495. I also think it is important for the mentored team to acknowledge who “mentored” them as opposed to just who lent a part here or there or answered a question here or there.

You might even pose the question of when do you start feeling like part of another team?

It’s a tricky question I suppose, but most teams really should be able to tell when they are stretching the truth in Chairman’s essays or other literature. (I’m presuming that’s why this question was posed).

*-You’re right here, thanks for stating in more detail. By definition of the word “mentoring,” any type of advisement is considered within the definition, but I guess for FIRST purposes one might suggest there should be a deeper definition.
Quick google search also brought me to this, which I thought fit into FIRST pretty well.

What does a mentor do?](http://www.management-mentors.com/resources/corporate-mentoring-programs-faqs/#Q1)

The following are among the mentor’s functions:

  • Teaches the mentoree about a specific issue
  • Coaches the mentoree on a particular skill
  • Facilitates the mentoree’s growth by sharing resources and networks
  • Challenges the mentoree to move beyond his or her comfort zone
  • Creates a safe learning environment for taking risks
  • Focuses on the mentoree’s total development

**-Was going to comment, but Wendy posted another thread about this. http://www.chiefdelphi.com/forums/showthread.php?threadid=107995

Good topics for discussion!

So in your mind where is that line? 2 people? 5 people?
What if 3929 said at a team meeting “We’re mentoring 2495!” and only 1 person went to help 2495 – would that count? What if 5 people went?

Interesting discussion, in my mind with only one possible (and unsatisfying) resolution.


Nah, I don’t think this would be a legitimate claim, or at least I would not allow my team, 3929, to include this as part of an award essay. I think one whole team (or most of 1 team) should all want to see another whole team succeed and do better, rather than 1 person from either side.

That’s an interesting point though, I’ve never thought about it in a quantitative way (how many people on each side), I always felt this was something driven more by qualitative evaluation by the mentee.

The best example of true mentorship I’ve seen is 1114 and 2056’s relationship.

IMO, even if one person from the team repeatedly helps another team, I think the team can take credit for mentoring the team. My reasoning is that when the individual is off helping the other team, his team is reduced by one mentor and has to make up for it.

Now define “helps another team.”
What if someone answers a series of questions about gearbox math on Chief Delphi, does that count?

What if someone answers a series of questions about gearbox math via email, does that count?


Our team has had our control systems mentor spend an entire day(s) during build season at other schools, the last several years.
Or our machinist make simple parts for other teams, due to the lack of resources of the other school, while they observe and learn the process of making them.
I’d constitute that as mentoring and not just providing advise on what the team should do.
If at some point, the team cannot be successful without the assistance of the team offering its assistance while teaching them something, I’d call that mentoring. If its reciprocating, then perhaps the term partnership or collaboration might be more appropriate.

I think this is going to be one of those threads that turns into a hundred posts. It has given me real pause.

I am realizing that what I have been doing the past few years is probably not mentoring, but rather just trying to be helpful.

I am grasping at a “label.”

I’m not answering the questions about gearbox math, but could swap in various other topics. :wink:

NEHO anyone?

I think email is valid, but repeatedly answering the same questions isn’t necessarily mentorship. Repeatedly answering the questions of the same team in a way that creates a bond between the two teams is closer to mentorship.

When I said “same” I meant – the same questions previously mentioned as being answered on CD.
I edited my original post to clarify.


Or what if somebody makes a presentation at Championship about the Engineering Design Process… just how many teams have you mentored John?

I would count a team as mentored if my repeated help was directed at that team, and it doesn’t matter if it is the same question answered repeatedly.

I’m getting the idea there is not a black/white definition of mentoring but it is more of a continuum. At one end are teams that you definitely mentored, at the other end are teams you definitely have not mentored and somewhere in between is a fuzzy area where it is really hard to categorize if your help constitutes mentoring.

My questions in this thread aren’t designed to create a cohesive definition for mentorship, but rather to make people think.

The original poster is asking for help from people in drawing a line in what appears to be a very grey area. Everyone seems to have their own “line” for this sort of thing.

I would encourage everyone to think about their personal responses to the original post. While they’re doing that, I’m trying to make sure they have as much trouble as possible drawing that line. :slight_smile: Thinking is good for us.


I think asking a series of questions over email is valid as well. If a team is helpful and I repeatedly come back to them for help, I would consider them a mentor.

I think a simple way to test mentorship is to ask “What would it take for me to call a team a mentor?”

edit: A question for anyone in the thead: who does your team consider a mentor and why?

My thoughts: Mentoring is a personal relationship. To mentor someone requires immediacy and continuity. Teachers are not automatically mentors. Taking responsibility for a bureaucratic task does not automatically make one a mentor. Giving a lecture, showing a process, explaining rules…none of those are what being a mentor is about.

Helping someone to grow and learn, providing a consistent model for behavior, giving someone the opportunity to develop and practice new skills…that’s what a mentor does.

I think mentoring another team requires becoming a partner with that team and getting them to the point where the partnership is no longer necessary.

My litmus test for individual-to-individual mentorship might be relevant here:
I am mentoring iff my prospective mentee believes I have helped them grow in ways they wouldn’t have achieved as well alone.
Concentrating on the mentee’s perspective helps me remember that the value proposition is in what the mentee believes. Of course this isn’t perfect, both false negatives and false positives are still possible. I do try to help mentees realistically appreciate their areas of growth (and non-growth), however. I the concentration on growth also helps me distinguish long-term, individualized relationships from (still very valuable) cooperition and general helpfulness.