Book Review: Managers as Mentors

Managers as Mentors: Building Partnerships for Learning is a practical guide for any leader who wants to pour into the people he or she leads.

The book appeals to that part of a manager that wants to do more than make an organization or department run smoothly. It’s the part of a manager that considers it a privilege  to foster learning and growth:

“Mentoring is an honor. Except for love, there is no greater gift one can give another than the gift of growth. It is a rare privilege to help another learn, have the relevant wisdom to be useful to another, and partner with someone who can benefit from that wisdom.”

The authors walk their readers through a mentoring process built on the acronym ‘SAGE’: Surrendering, Accepting, Gifting, and Extending. This process takes the mentor and protege from initial contact to encouraging greater and greater independence.

Authors Chip Bell and Marshall Goldsmith state as the single goal of their book: “to help you exercise that honor and privilege [of being a mentor] in a manner that benefits you and all those you influence” (p. 34).

Do the authors achieve this single goal?

When I read a business book, I evaluate three things:

  1. Is the book readable (well-written)?

  2. Is the book credible (well-researched)?

  3. Is the book actionable (useful)?

Managers as Mentors delivers on all three counts.

Readable, even Inspirational

The writing is clear, with enough humor to make it enjoyable. As a former pastor, I also appreciate the fact that the book deals with matters of heart, not just the head.

The language acknowledges that when a leader mentors, that leader is engaging in something that isn’t purely transactional. The style highlights that we’re dealing with person to person relationships. These aren’t always clean and clear, but they are always worth it. The book encourages and even inspires a ‘mentoring bug’ in the reader.


Case studies, psychology, and even biology are all used to help clarify the prescriptive pieces of the book. Even though mentoring is hardly a scientific pursuit, Bell and Goldsmith do what they can to ground their suggestions in anecdotal and other proof.

This isn’t an academic monograph, so the volume might not stand up to academic scrutiny, but I, as a leader, don’t so much care. The stories and other proof are enough. What’s more is that I’ve even attempted to implement a few ideas as I’ve been reading. It has turned mere communication into opportunities for learning.


Finally, the book delivers wildly actionable content. The book is structured to introduce the topic of mentoring in the first three chapters while encouraging more of a ‘handbook’ use for the remainder of the chapters. If you need a chapter, flip to it and act on the information.

I actually think going through the book as a whole really offers a great, practical process to implement, either formally or informally, with those you might happen to lead. If you have a formal mentor-protege relationship, then all the better.

My Assessment

Managers as Mentors marries the heart with the head and hand very effectively. In other words, it uncovers the internal motivations of mentors (the heart) while offering credible (head) suggestions to put into place right now (hand).

To me, there are few people who want to be mentors. And this book speaks a language that resonates with those people.

I recommend it for individuals who want to move beyond managing and even coaching. It’s for leaders who want to see those they lead excel, grow and learn.