"Beginner's mind...should be used whenever you are in the presence of someone who may be able to teach you something" - The Snark
Last time round, The Snark widened out the arena of education and personal development, and took up the mantle of self-ownership of education, based upon the principles of self-proclaimed ignorance, and curiosity.
These are fine routes to follow, but even the most risk aware of people will always need some guidance, even if they wish to learn by experience, action and adventure. Such guides are indeed available. They are not teachers, trainers or coaches, they are true mentors. Mentoring is a hugely powerful skill, developed by very few. For those keen to follow The Snark's advice, and I can think of no other that I can recommend so highly to follow, here is a bullet point guide to understanding what it is, what it can achieve, and how to make it happen within your organisation.
Mentoring is flourishing throughout UK companies. Often carrying different names, and definitions, mentoring is proving a powerful vehicle for personal development at all levels in a company, and across different organisations.
What is mentoring?
Mentoring is when one person (the mentor) helps another (the mentee) to transform their knowledge, work or overall thinking. This happens in one to one meetings, at which the mentor invites the mentee to talk, and the mentor asks relevant, searching, non-threatening questions to allow the mentee to discover the "answers" for themselves.
What are the qualities of a mentor?
A mentor is someone who is, above everything else, totally trustworthy. You can tell him or her things that you may not want others to know
- Someone you respect and feel at east with
- A mentor must be patient, real long term learning can take time
- They must be persistent in ensuring that you keep on track
- A mentor's status is irrelevant; it is the interpersonal qualities that count. The one exception to this is career mentors, who may be adopted for self-protection and advancement. In this case the relationship is unlikely to be a true mentor, and perhaps more a coach
- A mentor must be able to ask the right questions to address deep rooted issues
- Someone who is committed to making the relationship work on all levels
The benefits of a mentor - to the person being mentored
A mentor can assist you with personal development whether it is being more effective at meetings, having better time management or building self-esteem your mentor is there to help you with ideas. He can also be a sounding board while you talk the
- As a supporter, encouraging you in touch times
- To take a genuine interest in you and what you are trying to achieve. He or she will share in your hopes and fears, your achievements and disappointments.
- To dry run important reports and presentations - their objective will be the same as yours, to help you develop skills in these areas
The benefits of a mentor - to the person doing thementoring
Self discovery through helping others
- Sharing a learning and development experience which also enlightens the mentor
- Sense of achievement when mentee achieves, and meets objectives
- Self esteem - knowing that someone trusts and respects you
How to set up a scheme
Many companies are now appreciating the importance of mentoring in their staff development, and see it as an investment that will pay dividends with new skills, attitudes and behaviours.
Some organisations approach mentoring in a very loose, ad-hoc way, while others put in place rigid schemes, with strict rules and guidelines.
I favour the former, as the latter can be restrictive, and do not portray mentoring in a very positive light, defeating its very objective.
How does an organisation start?
Liase closely with your HR department. Mentoring schemas that are restricted to one department are not always successful, as it isolates one part of the company. Invite in an expert third party or organisation with experience in mentoring
- Allocate an internal owner, who will champion the establishment of a mentoring scheme, and oversee its operation as it moves from theory into practice
- Identify people in your organisation who may have the skills to be a mentor. Make sure they are willing to carry out this role
- Advertise and market the schemas - that it is now up and running
- Let people select a mentor for themselves, emphasising that it is a two- way decision. Indeed, many companies operate a partnership mentoring arrangement, whereby two people are mentors to each other, and change roles and approaches accordingly. This takes great skill, however, and should be approached with care.
When you select a mentor, ask yourself the following questions:
Who have I worked with in the past, and have admired?
Who would I like to work with, but have not had the opportunity?
Whose career would I like to emulate?
Who do I know who is respected by reputation?
Make a list of possible names, and then ASK the person you would like to be your mentor, explaining why you are doing so. Tell them what it is about them that persuaded you to approach them, and make it clear hat they can refuse.
Do not be out off by a refusal, it may be because if:
Lack of time
- The person is already a mentor, perhaps outside of the organisation
In these cases it is better not to progress, as you would not benefit. However, be persistent and ask another person
What do we do when we first meet?
Consider areas for personal development before the meeting - usually soft skills such as time management, presentations etc.
- Discuss what areas are of greatest concern and discuss these - focus on the most important
- Contract to carry out agreed actions before the next meeting
How often should we meet?
Formal meetings monthly, informal/ad-hoc whenever needed
The person being mentored drives successful mentoring and personal development. Long, effective change has to come from within.
A good mentor will ease out the real issues through listening and powerful questions. In this way, a successful mentoring relationship will prove an effective long-term investment, and extremely effective in realising human potential.