Tuesday, June 19, 2012

“Book Review – The Mentor's Guide: Facilitating Effective Learning Relationships” - Professor M.S.Rao

I have read Lois J. Zachary’s book titled, "The Mentor's Guide: Facilitating Effective Learning Relationships" (second edition) with great interest.   It contains 9 chapters, and is divided into two parts with part one exploring the components of support, challenge, and vision, and the second dealing with engaging in feedback and working with obstacles.  Here are the takeaways from this book:


Today mentoring has become collaborative; it is now a mutual discovery process in which both the mentor and mentee have something to bring to the relationship (“the give”) and something to gain that broadens each of their perspectives (“the get”).  Wisdom is not passed down but discovered and nurtured.  This shift frees both partners to learn together.

Mentor and mentee work together to achieve specific, mutually defined goals that focus on developing the mentee’s skills, abilities, knowledge, and thinking; it is in every way a learning partnership.

The mentor nurtures and develops the mentee’s capacity for self-direction (from dependence to independence to interdependence) over the course of the relationship.

Today’s mentoring relationships are usually short term: when the learning goals have been accomplished, the relationship comes to closure.  If goals have not been achieved by a prearranged deadline or the partners agree on more goals, the mentoring partners are free to review, assess, and renegotiate their relationship.

The learning-centered mentoring paradigm has seven critical elements: reciprocity, learning, relationship, partnership, collaboration, mutually defined goals, and development.

Emotional intelligence is the ability to recognize and understand our own emotions (self-awareness) and the emotions of others (social awareness) and then to use this ability to guide our behavior (self-management) and manage our relationships (relationship management)

She unveils that for any mentor it is important to create a learning partnership; help mentees identify goals for learning; negotiate a learning contract; help learners discover what objectives they should set; use multiple modalities and resources to achieve the objectives; manage the learning experience; help mentees stay focused on the goals, objectives, and learning strategies; and periodically revisit goals to stay on track.

She elaborates four levels of competence and the mentor’s role in learning.

She reveals that if your mentee is a logical person who is data driven and fact oriented and you operate more intuitively, you will need to remember that your mentee approaches learning in a more structured, specific way than you are normally comfortable with.  Adjusting the learning in a way that meets your mentee’s needs rather than your own is a good rule of thumb in creating an environment that facilitates learning.

She writes that William Perry offers four frameworks: dualism, multiplicity, relativism, and commitment.  Especially these are lenses through which individuals may view the world.  Knowing which lenses your mentee is wearing is fundamental to your success in facilitating an effective learning relationship.

She explains stretch goals and rolls out blueprint as follows: for each goal, define clear-cut objectives, outline activities that will help you achieve them, identify the resources you need (and where you can find them), lay out a time frame for accomplishing the objective, and identify the first step you will take toward achieving that stretch goal. 

She reveals that partnerships that fail frequently fall victim to one of the following difficulties: role collusion, role diffusion, role confusion and role protrusion.

She outlines tips for successful journaling:

           Schedule it. Engaging in reflection regularly is more important than the time spent on this activity.
           Personalize the format; for example, use bulleted items.
           Don’t get bogged down in detail. Capture a brief description or note some specifics.  Make sure you have written enough so that when you review your entry later, you will be able to recall the mentoring experience clearly.
           Note your feelings at the time.  Remember that whatever it is that you experience or that stimulates your thinking will help you better understand your own behavior.
           Describe particularly meaningful mentoring that you have observed or experienced.
           If you find yourself grasping at straws, sit down and write anything, even if it is that you have no thoughts. Reflect on why that is so.  You may find that all you needed was a starting point. Once you have begun, it is easier to continue the process. 

She created several beautiful stories in this book.  She narrates a story of Chad and Nate where Chad is a mentor who is an extrovert and Nate is a mentee who is an introvert.  Initially they had several challenges to gel well but subsequently they mould themselves and create compatibility and chemistry to ensure effective mentoring outcomes.

She mentions pointers for mentoring various cohorts/generations such as boomers, Gen Xers and Gen Yers. She outlines generational dos and don’ts for boomers, Gen Xers, Gen Yers.  She unfolds that today’s learning has become more differentiated.  She outlines five-step work plan for achieving learning goals such as identifying the learning goals and success criteria; lay out the objectives; identify the learning tasks; list potential resources; and set a target date.

She provides a list to identify ways through which to demonstrate trust-building behaviors:

           Listen in ways that show you respect your mentee and that you value his or her ideas.
           Practice openness when sharing information.
           Speak authentically about your feelings.
           Explain what you understand and admit what you do not understand.
           Explain why you shift the level of your support according to the situation.
           Follow through.  Do what you say you will do.
           Continuously work at safeguarding confidentiality.
           Be open to feedback.
           Be truthful.
           Be consistent.
           Be supportive publicly and privately.

She outlines strategies to promote successful time management in a mentoring relationship: schedule time in advance; monitor your time; spend quality time; pay attention to personal time zones; and take care of yourself.

She says some mentees present unique obstacles and particularly challenging situations for mentors.  She provides some strategies for overcoming obstacles with particularly challenging mentees: user mentees; jealous mentees; unfocused mentees; manipulative mentees; submissive mentees; apathetic mentees; and saboteur mentees. And also for mentors such as: impostership; burnout; stress; lack of disclosure; ethical dilemmas; Crossing boundaries; Prejudice and bias; procrastination; jealousy; chain of command; and mentee neglect.

She outlines some suggestions for incorporating celebration into the closure of a mentoring relationship: collaborate on the planning, elevate and expand knowledge, leverage learning, expand your thinking, brag about accomplishments, rekindle memory, appreciate, talk about transitions and espouse the vision.

Learn to turn situations into learning opportunities.

Summarizing what you’ve learned during a session reinforces the learning.

Silence provides an opportunity for learning.  Some individuals need time to think quietly.  Silence can also indicate confusion, boredom, or even physical discomfort:

  • Don’t be afraid of silence.
  • Encourage silence.
  • Use the silence as an opportunity for reflection-for example: “I notice that whenever we started to talk about  ..  you get kind of quiet.  I’m wondering what that is about.”

Mentoring in a cross-cultural context requires preparation and flexibility.  Cross-cultural expert, Gloria Sandvik identifies four action strategies for maintaining a flexible cultural lens: prepare, remember, observe and show. For each she offers specific recommendations.

In 1999 Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric, initiated the concept of reverse mentoring by asking a group of senior executives to tap into the technical expertise from within the rank and file of his company.

Distance mentoring - “A geographically diverse mentoring relationship that takes place when it is not feasible, desirable, or convenient for mentoring partners to meet on a regular face-to-face basis.”

Social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, Ning, and Linked-In offer opportunities to create mentoring communities and many have created online group mentoring sites.

Brookfield coined the term “assumption hunting.” Assumption hunting is one of the most formidable ethical and caring tasks that mentors carry out.  He writes, “In many ways we are our assumptions.  Assumptions give meaning and purpose to who we are and what we do.  Becoming aware of the implicit assumptions that frame how we think and act is one the most challenging intellectual puzzles we face in our lives.” He breaks the process into three interrelated phases: identifying assumptions, checking them out of for accuracy, and acting in a more inclusive and integrative way.  Assumption hunting is a three step process:

Step 1: List your assumptions.
Step 2: Check their validity with others.
Step 3: Keep checking!

A good mentoring negotiation process will result in:

           Well defined goals
           Success criteria and measurement
           Delineation of mutual responsibilities
           Accountability assurances
           A consensual mentoring agreement
           A work plan for achieving learning goals

A thoughtful negotiating conversation firmly sets boundaries.  It also anticipates pitfalls, fosters the exploration of emerging possibilities and alternate pathways, and is flexible enough to accommodate renegotiations and closure.

The mentoring partnership agreement is in essence a “learning contract.”

There is nothing quite as important as having well-defined learning goals in a mentoring relationship.  A clear, compelling goal inspires action and is indispensable to the work of mentoring in enabling growth and evaluating the ongoing success of the relationship.  That’s why it’s important for mentoring partners to pay attention to the goals they agree on and regularly revisit them throughout the mentoring relationship.

For new mentors and those who have mentored without formal guidance, the knowledge that mentoring relationships have a predictable structure can be liberating:

Phase 1: Preparing (getting ready)
Phase 2: Negotiating (establishing agreements)
Phase 3: Enabling Growth (facilitating learning)
Phase 4: Coming to Closure (looking back, moving forward)

It is an opportunity to harvest the learning and apply what you have learned to other relationships and situations.

Coaching and mentoring are kindred spirits.  Although the terms are sometimes used interchangeably, they are not the same thing. Coaching focuses on enhancing performance by helping an individual close his or her knowledge and skill gaps.

Despite the best of intentions, mentoring partners do cross boundaries and limits are tested or exceeded.  This can harm the mentoring relationship and negatively affect the learning taking place within it.

It provides guidelines between the mentor and mentee for successful mentoring and outlines a summary of accountability assurance such as ground rules; confidentiality; boundary setting; and hot buttons.

Respect helps individuals engage effectively and learn from one another.  Taking respect for granted eventually hampers the partners’ ability to build rapport and earn each other’s trust.

Trust can grow, but it cannot be maintained automatically, and once it is lost, it is not easily regained. 

Every relationship faces obstacles, and the mentoring relationship is no exception.  The challenge is to overcome them and learn from the experience.  A mentor who understands how to support, challenge, and provide vision can facilitate mentee growth and development despite obstacles that present themselves.

It is important to remember that mistakes, failures, and missteps offer rich experience for learning.

Celebrate the mini-miles, mile markers, and finish lines.  Here are some ideas you can use to get started: gift giving, written expressions, face-to-face conversations.

After closure of the relationship, mentors should take time to focus on their own learning and consider how they can apply what they have learned to their advantage in future mentoring relationships.

Dr Zachary concludes with final dos and don’ts for facilitating your mentees’ learning and for nurturing your own growth and development.  They are: heighten awareness; stay in the conversation; capture the learning and partner.  At the end, she provides resources that serve as references for the readers who are keen to learn mentoring.

Great Quotes from this Book

“Everything that happens to you is your teacher.  The secret is to learn to sit at the feet of your own life and be taught by it.” - Polly Berends

“In the mentoring process reflection enables us to slow down, rest, and observe our journey and the process of self-knowledge that is so important along the way.” - Huang and Lynch

“Facilitators of learning see themselves as resources for learning, rather than as didactic instructors who have all the answers.” - Brookfield

“Good mentors help to anchor the promise of the future.” - Sharon Daloz Parks

“You can’t hold people accountable for things that aren’t clear.” - Patrick Lencioni in The Five Temptations of a CEO


Dr. Zachary is an expert in adult learning and she effectively integrated her adult background with mentoring and added value to this book.  She writes cross-cultural issues involved in mentoring. She authored this book keeping the global audience in view. She substantiates the content with a lot of references which indicates the amount of efforts she has put it to author this book.   She authored this book based on her experiences.  Hence, nobody can write better than her on mentoring.  She is a genius in mentoring and precisely, mother of mentoring.

The book contains interesting case studies that make it easy to understand the essences and relate the content with real live events.  It provides several tables, templates, checklists, activities, and exercises.  The book provides A to Z of mentoring.  Anyone who wants to learn about the length and breadth of mentoring this is the best book under the sun in the earth.

The book is worth investing your time.  Those who are passionate about mentoring must read Zachary’s book. You can gift this book to your friends and relatives and, of course, to your mentees who will remember you forever for your kind gesture.


Where Knowledge is Wealth

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