Interview With 2014 Conference Speaker Dr. Ann Rolfe

July 31, 2014

This interview originally appeared in our August issue of Mentoring & Coaching Monthly.

Dr. Ann Rolfe has thirty years experience in learning and development and a background in career counseling, and is Australia’s most published author on mentoring. For two decades, she has specialized in mentoring, setting up programs and training people in fields as diverse as health, construction, energy, communications, education, law and government. Internationally respected as a trainer, consultant and presenter, her training programs and resources are used in many countries to develop and support mentoring. Ann Rolfe’s contributions to mentoring have been recognized with the 2011 LearnX Asia Pacific Platinum Award for Best Coaching/Mentoring Training Program and in 2013 

Could you tell us a bit about Mentoring Works!? 

I’ve been running my consultancy business since 1987. My background in career counseling and adult learning drew me to mentoring as a strategy for career development. The Mentoring Works brand identity was launched in 2005 when mentoring became the sole focus of the business. We now provide a suite of products and services to help plan, implement and evaluate mentoring. What we do is tailored to the needs and budget of the client and a much of it is delivered online via video, webinar, e-mailed courses and tips and the mentoring portal and customized resource centers. Last year I presented live, online into conferences in China and Texas from my office in Australia! 


You are one of Australia’s leading experts on mentoring. Are there any differences between mentoring in Australia and mentoring in the United States? 

Australians see themselves as egalitarian, so mentoring models that emphasis partnership and collaboration rather than authority or status, are welcomed. There’s less expectation of sponsorship in the mentor’s role. The mentoree is encouraged to drive the relationship, set the agenda and choose the direction. 

I find more and more acceptance of the idea that mentoring is a two-way street. Mentors facilitate the process and the relationship provides development for them as well as the mentoree. The relationship is dynamic and although the mentor may begin by leading, autonomy is important. 


What is your best piece of advice for companies or organizations that are wanting to start mentoring programs? 

Don’t rush into it. Time invested in planning makes a huge difference if you want an effective mentoring strategy that is well implemented and produces important outcomes. 

You need a well thought-out blueprint that clearly ties mentoring to important outcomes and maps out how they will be achieved and evaluated. You need a communication plan so that mentoring is recognized and welcomed by stakeholders. You need to ensure mentors and mentorees are recruited, selected, trained and properly equipped to succeed; and a structured support program that includes ongoing assistance, follow-up and feedback. 


Are there any common misconceptions when it comes to creating a mentoring program? 

Unfortunately, mentoring may be a victim of its own success! Mentoring has become a buzz-word and some people see it as the solution to any problem. Among the misconceptions are that it: 

• Costs nothing - mentoring is cost-effective but it is not free, it requires resources; 

• Replaces training – mentoring develops people and increases knowledge and skills it complements and increases return on investment in training but it is not a substitute. 

• Is a quick-fix - mentoring produces short-term results for some people but most of the organizational outcomes are longer term. That’s why clear objectives and evaluation criteria should be identified in the planning phase. 

You need to be realistic about what mentoring can and can’t deliver. 


You will be hosting a workshop session and a plenary session at the 2014 Mentoring Conference. Could you give us a brief preview of your presentations? 

My presentations will expand on the themes mentioned above. I’m very concerned that organizations jump on the mentoring bandwagon without thinking about why. My plenary session is called: Mentoring (alone) Is Not The Answer: take a strategic approach and achieve much more! I’m going to step people through a strategic process that will enable them to identify measurable objective and benefits for all concerned but also explores the barriers and enablers that impact on their goals. Mentoring becomes part of an integrated strategy to achieve desired outcomes. 

The pre-conference workshop is a hands-on exercise that takes participants right through the design of their own mentoring program. The design model shared in this workshop was used to develop the mentoring program that was awarded the LearnX Asia Pacific Platinum Award for Best Coaching/Mentor Training Program 2011.