Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Mentoring Stages, Merits, Characteristics, Types, Myths and Truths

“We make a living by what we get; we make a life by what we give.”- Winston Churchill

Do you want to survive for a day or live for a life time or to be remembered for generations in the history of mankind? If your goal is to live longer and larger than life by becoming a priceless and timeless person then mentoring is the right option.

What is Mentoring?

“Mentoring is a brain to pick, an ear to listen, and a push in the right direction.”- John Crosby.

Mentoring is a powerful empowerment tool where both mentor and mentee grow personally and professionally. It is the process where the mentee’s investments are direct and mentor’s investments are indirect. Mentoring takes place in informal environment. It helps in transferring knowledge, skills, abilities and competencies from mentor to mentee. It requires good understanding and synergy between the both. It involves more of learning than teaching.

It is a type of partnership where sharing of experiences takes place. The relationship is confidential. The mentee should do lot of the leg work. Mentoring promotes transformational leadership.

Eric Parsloe of the Oxford School of Coaching and Mentoring defines mentoring as “To support and encourage people to manage their own learning in order that they may maximize their potential, develop their skills, improve their performance, and become the person they want to be”.

The origin of mentor can be ascribed to Greek mythology where Mentor was the close friend of Odysseus as well as the teacher for Telemakos who was the son of Odysseus. When Odysseus went on tour he handed over the responsibility of his son, Telemakos to his friend Mentor who took the guardianship. Mentor not only guarded the friend’s son but also guided, advised and counseled until Odysseus returned. (Author’s blog: http://profmsr.blogspot.com )

Examine several cases where it was applied in the past. Greek philosopher, Socrates mentored Plato. Plato mentored Aristotle and the latter in turn mentored Alexander.

Merits of Mentoring:

Mentoring is catching across the world. It helps new employees to get grooved and groomed within the system. Besides, there are several advantages:
• Sets developmental goals.
• Uncorks the hidden potential.
• Brings synergy.
• Aligns with company’s vision.
• Hones the leadership skills for the mentors.
• Helps in career advancement for the mentees.
• Plays a key role in knowledge management.
• Helps in increased productivity and financial performance.
• Helps in improving bottom line of the business.

Characteristics of Mentor:

The primary role of mentors is to encourage and motivate their mentees or protégés. They should provide inspiration and direction. They should be accessible and approachable. They must be able to stand out from the crowd. The mentees must accept them like their role models. Mentors should be excellent listeners and must be in a position to maintain confidentiality about their mentees. They should have both sympathy and empathy towards their mentees.

Mentors should enhance the self-confidence of mentee. They must be persons of principles. They must be specialized in their field. They would have attained good education, experience and expertise in their domains. In brief, mentor should be like a guide, facilitator, philosopher, counselor, psychologist, teacher, trainer, leader, adviser, motivator etc.,

Merits for Mentor:

Mentoring has merits for both mentors and mentees. When observed from the perspective of mentor, there are several advantages. It helps in sharing the knowledge, experience, competencies that have been acquired over many years. There is an element of great satisfaction when sharing success, expertise and experience with others. It offers wider scope for experimentation and visibility.

Mentoring takes the mentor to the next higher level thus fulfilling self-actualization needs. There is huge potential to generate new vibes. It enables more self-confidence, self-esteem and self-satisfaction. Leaving a legacy through your mentee and becoming a legend gives you immense pleasure. The mentor becomes the reservoir of more knowledge as the saying goes “Knowledge grows when shared”. It develops coaching and leadership skills. It is indeed an enriching experience to become a mentor.

Characteristics for Mentee:

Mentee must have lot of patience and perseverance. Passion to learn and grow should be the hallmark. It is essential to regard and respect mentor. Mentee should be proactive and initiator. Mentee should have ability to experiment and go extra mile. S/he should persevere whenever the mentor is busy. And s/he should be prepared mentally for leg work. Taking feedback is necessary for improvement. S/he must come out of his/her comfort zone and enter into effective zone. And s/he must be able to accept criticism gracefully without any false ego.

Merits for Mentee:

“The ripest peach is highest on the tree.”

• Helps in discovering hidden potential.
• Helps in learning the ropes.
• Equips with skills, abilities and competencies thus enhancing career advancement.
• Enhances effectiveness rather efficiency.
• Avoids any kind of dissatisfaction with work.
• Bridges the gap between expectations and realities.
• Acquires specialized expertise.
• Develops networking abilities.
• Builds self-confidence.
• Widens career opportunities.

Mentoring benefits to organizations:

Companies are realizing the importance of mentor training for their employees. The benefits are plenty. Mentoring enhances the productivity and performance of the employees. It ultimately strengthens the companies’ bottom line. It minimizes the misunderstandings among the employees thus enhancing effective communication and interpersonal skills. Mentoring brings the people closer in companies. It improves team building skills and enhances knowledge base. Overall it improves soft skills among the employees thus ensuring organizational growth and prosperity.

Types of Mentoring:

There are various types of mentoring. A few of them in brief are: Informal or natural mentoring, developmental mentoring, peer mentoring, student mentoring, youth mentoring, team mentoring, business mentoring, political mentoring, lateral mentoring, soft (skills) mentoring, facilitated mentoring, reverse mentoring, entrepreneurial mentoring etc., It is an evolving and emerging area where new concepts surface regularly.

Mentoring Stages:

Zachary (2000), in her book The Mentor's Guide, describes the mentoring process in four stages. These are preparing, negotiating, enabling, and coming to closure.

During the preparing stage, the mentee prepares the ground for meeting the mentor who suits his/her goals. Mentee searches for several mentors through various ways and means and finally selects the mentor. Mentee looks at the competency of the mentor, matching his/her goal requirements, time availability, accessibility, affordability and convenience.

It is rightly said, “If a drop of water falls in a lake there is no identity. But if it falls on a leaf of lotus it shines like a pearl. So choose the best place where you can shine”. Therefore, choosing the right mentor is the first step towards successful mentoring.

Once s/he selects the right mentor then s/he approaches the mentor for services. S/he negotiates and creates a common ground for launching. If both mentor and mentee feel comfortable with the domain and other parameters and formalities then they proceed to the third stage of mentoring process.

Enabling is the most critical and crucial stage where the real mentoring takes place. There may be practical problems and bottlenecks that have to be sorted out for smooth execution of enabling. There could be differences of opinions and perceptions. Efforts are to be made to bridge the gap, if any. However, it is always easier said than done.

After the successful completion of this stage, the final stage of closure comes where in both relationship between mentor and mentee comes to an end. The entire process can be compared with that of a research guide and research scholar for doing PhD work.

Yet another four stages of mentoring relationship outlined by Linda Watt are: Initiation, Cultivation, Separation and Re-definition. (By Linda Watt for ACERRA)

It is essential to conduct SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) analysis for both mentor and mentee to check whether chemistry and synergy exists between the interests of both. Thorough analysis also helps to leverage benefits. Besides, it eliminates, any fiasco during the process.

During the mentoring, all efforts should be made to make mentee independent. The feedback about the process has to be objective and specific. It should not be aimed at personal criticism but at the behavior for bringing necessary improvements. Mentoring should not deviate from the desired goals. It should be focused clearly.

During the process of mentoring the mentor must encourage the mentee by calling ‘You can do it’, ‘I believe in you’, ‘I like your mesmerizing speech’, ‘You are progressing well’, ‘You are unique’, ‘I am learning certain things from you’, ‘As a mentor I have discovered my own strengths’, ‘Your smile is magical’, ‘Do you need any assistance?’ etc. All these things are to be applied according to the strengths of each mentee and also depending on the cultural backgrounds. (Author’s Blog: http://profmsr.blogspot.com )

Mentoring is not a spoon feeding. It is a type of fine-tuning the mentee. Mentor is not expected to answer all queries of the mentee. Mentor is not a dumping ground to put in everything. The mentor and the process of mentoring have to be respected. The relation goes on mutual trust and respect. Mentoring is not an affair but marriage like scenario where permanent relations are involved.

Myths and truths about mentoring:

The first myth is that age of mentor should be more than mentee. It is a mistaken belief. The truth is that it is the experience and expertise in the professional front, not the age that counts. At times, the domain expertise makes a younger person to mentor the older person.

The second myth is that the relationship benefits only either mentor or mentee. On the other hand, mentoring is beneficial for both mentor and mentee. The truth is that the mentor also learns while teaching and the mentee learns from the experiences of the mentor.

The third myth is that once the mentoring is over, the relationship ends between both. Although the formal relation ends once the mentoring process is completed, the truth is that it may lead to long lasting relations between the both.

Blend of inside and outside mentors:

For effective leadership mentoring, it is necessary to have both inside mentors and outside mentors.

The inside mentors are those mentors who are domain experts and seniors with in the organization. Where as, the outside mentors are the domain experts without any organizational affinity. The inside mentors are very much aware of the organizational problems practically as they have been working within the system for some time. If the mentors feel that the mentee has more capability than the mentor other than the organizational expertise, they may develop a kind of insecurity resulting into jealousy and organizational politics. There is also a possibility of not revealing the trade secrets about the organization and the practical problems involved to the mentee. The inside mentors may not reveal the smart work they adopt while execution of tasks with apprehensions of mentee outsmarting or overtaking them. Above all, ego problems may crop up during mentoring thus complicating and worsening the mentoring process.

In the case of outside mentors, they do not have to think of organizational politics as they are outside the organization. They just believe in providing basic inputs, competencies, skills of the domain to make the mentee capable of delivering the goods. These people do not have to worry about their mentee superseding or surpassing them as they will not work with them.

In a nutshell, the inside mentors stress on hard work and the outside mentors on smart work. The inside mentors highlight on practices and outside mentors on theory. The former focuses on survival and the latter on success. Inside mentoring teaches about soft skills and outside mentoring teaches about hard skills. Therefore, it is essential to focus on blending both inside and outside mentors for attaining organizational effectiveness.


“What we have done for ourselves alone dies with us. What we have done for others and the world remains and is immortal.”- Albert Pine

Mentoring is not new. It is existing since time immemorial. Right from stone age to space age and from Industrial age to Information age mentoring has been existing. It will exist as long as the human civilization exists.

Having mentor is essential. You lose nothing but gain a lot. It is cost-effective and in few cases no money is involved. Mentoring offers risk free returns. Every individual owes something towards society. Keeping knowledge within themselves does not bring any results to the mankind. All individuals must learn to give their best for the benefit of mankind. Let us leave the world better than what we found.

The End


Author’s Blog: http://profmsr.blogspot.com,
Zachary, L. J. (2000). The mentor's guide: Facilitating effective learning relationships. San Francisco: Jossey Bass,
Zachary, L. J. What leaders must do to ensure mentoring success,
Eric Parsloe of the Oxford School of Coaching and Mentoring,
By Linda Watt for ACERRA,
‘A Life That Counts’ by Dr.John C. Maxwell.

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