“If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”
— Isaac Newton
Although this column generally speaks to coaching, it is important to also recognize that mentoring in organizations is a valuable resource. In coaching we assume that the person being coached is the expert and knows their role. In mentoring, however, the person being mentored, the mentee, is an individual who may be “learning the ropes.” They may be more junior in the organization and gaining experience. Mentors provide support because they have the knowledge, experience, and expertise to share with their mentee.
“Mentoring is a brain to pick, an ear to listen, and a push in the right direction.”
— John C. Crosby, American politician
While both coaching and mentoring have a valuable place in the development of individuals in organizations, it is the intention of this article to share five attributes of mentoring which may assist you in working with specific members of your staff.
- Carl Rogers, a prominent psychologist of the 20th Century, talks about “unconditional positive regard” as one of the primary conditions for growth of individuals. Mentors need to exhibit this quality of non-judgemental acceptance by being warm, caring and supportive.
- Affirmation and acknowledgement is another important part to mentoring. Mentors share observations by acknowledging their mentee’s achievements and successes. Mentors need to also push for excellence and not perfectionism.
- Whether positive or negative, a mentor needs to give honest and constructive feedback to the mentee in order for growth to occur. By stating observations about behaviours, the mentor can help guide the mentee to higher levels of achievement.
- Being a role model is also a great part of a mentor’s place in the relationship. Sharing experiences, both good and bad, will build a confidence and trust between mentor and mentee. Relevant self-disclosure at certain times is valuable.
- Conversations between mentor and mentee include active listening and asking open questions. These are key to achieving success in this important relationship.
“The delicate balance of mentoring someone is not creating them in your own image, but giving them the opportunity to create themselves.”
— Steven Spielberg
The role of mentorship is an important part of staff development. It is often not given the necessary time and support from upper management. By taking on this crucial role, both mentors and mentees benefit as does the overall organization.