“Son… Listen to me. I’m telling you this for your own good. After all, I have more experience than you!” Doesn’t this statement reminds you of your adolescent age, or perhaps early 20s; where your parents or a senior member of the project would have said this to convey something to you, while (in your head) you were fuming with your own theories about how that thing should be done. At the time, you wouldn’t realise that they have been in similar situation or they have seen others, and they only wanted to guide you: mentor you. Any informal exchange of thoughts by a person: who has been in a difficult situation (life experience), or knows more about a specific work (professional experience), or is able to motivate people with his actions in general (role model), to another (less knowledgeable) person is Mentoring.
Mentoring could be well planned of or could arise based on a situation, but the purpose should be clear. Being there with you at every step and telling you what to do is a way of mentoring, putting you in a situation and let you deal with it, leading from the front and showcasing how to deal with a situation, and once the situation has passed then discussing about your learnings and sharing a feedback; all these are techniques which a mentor can use. This process need not necessarily mean transfer of knowledge from an older person to a younger person, it could be other way round as well. For instance, a business manager grooming an associate to become a successful (data) presenter, on the other hand a teenager helping his mother to learn to use a smartphone; both these situations are of mentoring.
Mentoring is a two-way street, it allows to mentee to learn technicalities, ways to deal with situations, and progress in career; while it allows the mentor to grow by imparting his knowledge and experience, and gaining a new perspective (from every mentee). A mentor should be able to offer (morale) support and invest (social) capital in this relation oriented process; as mentoring is a long term, and development driven. Mentoring is often confused with Coaching. Unlike mentoring, coaching can be initiated in an instance, without any plan, but on a specific topic. Coaching is generally short term and is goal oriented, measured by the performance of the mentee. Any form of learning or sharing of ideas, pertaining to a situation or task with an end result in mind, between a person and his immediate boss: falls under coaching.
In most of the organisation, respective teams have team leaders or managers coaching the associates for a specific type of work. Even if the team lead tries to best-pick an associate and grooms him, it’s because he (the lead) has to get a person ready to take his place, so he can move up the hierarchy. Thus, organisations should have a mentoring programme, open to all, to improve the productivity overall. Senior managers and above should make some time to mentor junior members within the organisation, of course in a carefully planned and organised manner. The involvement of human resource department becomes more important, as the size of the organisation increases, for making such program a success. And almost impossible as it may seem, every senior member should indulge in (unconditional) mentoring of others. Earn some goodwill while you are at it. After all, respect can never be demanded, but earned!
“Leaders… should influence others… in such a way that it builds people up, encourages and edifies them so they can duplicate this attitude in others.” ~ Bob Goshen
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