This figure illustrates some of the key differences between the roles of a mentor, trainer and advisor. Despite differences, these roles are also interconnected.
Advisors will primarily operate at the strategic level, offering advice that can contribute to the development of policies and procedures. Their target audience would, therefore, be the decision makers, or those who influence the decision makers. The relationship between advisors and their local counterpart or principal would often be that of equals, since they both have something to offer, and gain, from each other.
Mentors and trainers, on the other hand, work at the operational level. They assist in the implementation of various decisions, policies, procedures, and legal frameworks.
Once a specific policy or procedure has been adopted,trainers will contribute to increasing the capacity of those concerned, so that they are able to effectively implement the policy or procedure. The target audience of trainers will be those who will be implementing specific policies or procedures. The trainers’ relationship to these individuals will be more unidirectional, since trainers will be imparting their knowledge, and drawing out the knowledge of the participants, on a given issue.
Mentors also work with those who will be implementing various policies and procedures. Their relationship to their counterpart is, however, less unidirectional, although not entirely equal. Mentors will be more experienced on the relevant issues than the principal, and will use their experience and expertise to act as a guide to a principal. They will also provide assistance in performing the required tasks effectively.
Although it is difficult for a single individual to perform the tasks of an advisor, a mentor and a trainer simultaneously, he or she could, while in one of these functions, draw on various techniques used in one of the other functions. There are also other important links between the functions of advising, mentoring and training. For example, decisions made at the strategic level will influence personnel and activities at the operational level. Conversely, the implementation of strategic policies and procedures at the operational level will influence future decisions at the strategic level. This creates the need for a continuous cycle of learning and adaption for all.
This figure summarises the roles and functions of the advisor, the trainer and the mentor. It also highlights the links between these roles, and how they build on each other. You need to keep in mind that you will not be able to take on all three roles simultaneously, nor should you be expected to do so. From the onset, you need to clearly define your roles and responsibilities as an advisor, with both your host and your deploying country or institution. You should also be aware of the cyclical nature of the advising, mentoring and training process, and be able to seek feedback and support from current—or past—advisors, trainers and mentors, who have worked on similar issues.