In Homer’s Odyssey, the king, Odysseus, had a loyal adviser named Mentor, who cared for and educated Telemachus, the king’s son. The word “MENTOR” has lived on to mean wise counsel and trustworthy guidance. Mentors help an individual grow and develop. They see issues from different points of view and offer candor, nonjudgmental, supportive advice. Mentoring programs have become popular within organizations over the years and they’ve changed. The charismatic leaders who were tapped as Mentors are too few, retiring in droves, spread too thin, burned out, or too busy to take on additional mentees.
To meet that need, new forms of mentoring emerged with many payoffs. They make business sense, produce escalated results, create self confidence, increase commitment to teams and organizations, and heighten job satisfaction. Because there have been so many layoffs, restructurings, downsizings, rightsizings, reengineering, etc. people end up far more stressed with increased spans of control and too much on their professional plate. Its only logical that traditional 1 to 1 mentoring needed to change, too.
Here’s a sampling of diverse mentoring relationships that permeate the workplace.
As you scan these mentoring relationships, think about you, what you need to learn, what you can teach and which relationships might work best in your current environment and with you personally.
One-to-One Mentoring…two learning partners engaged in a mutual learning relationship around topics of interest and concern.
Peer Mentoring…two people in similar jobs work with each other on developing skills and interests where one excels and the other doesn’t.
Generational Mentoring…diverse ages work together to explore and understand differing approaches to similar problems and how they can learn from each other “vs.” drive each other crazy.
Supervisory Mentoring… since these two individuals usually see each other daily, they find “teachable moments” to upgrade skills, take on commitments beyond their current comfort zone, try out needed behaviors such as public speaking, creating an internal website, etc.
Group Mentoring…When there aren’t enough Mentors to go around, one Mentor takes on an entire group. Topics are raised of mutual concern, discussed within the group and individual projects follow up the initial discussion to try it on for size. Debrief and discussion follows.
Distance Mentoring…Telephones and email and morphing into digital, mobile and virtual technologies which bridge the gap that miles create. This is a great way to span cross cultural boundaries and learn new ways of thinking, conversing and working together.
Cross cultural Mentoring…As we become a more diverse and global workforce, this is a wonderful opportunity to become more inclusive and globally sensitive. Set ground rules first as the cultural differences are bound to emerge. Also, make sure you both have similar expectations around what you want to explore and learn.
Multiple Mentoring… You want to explore a number of topics in limited time. Watch people work in or outside of your area. When you find someone who excels in a skill that you want to learn, approach that individual, acknowledge their talent and ASK if they will mentor you on that topic. Tell them that you respect their time and you may only need one or more sessions. Let them know that you’ll take responsibility for your learning and that you’ll contact them as questions emerge.
Many volumes are written about Mentoring in today’s workplace. One of my favorites is Lois Zachary’series Creating A Mentoring Culture and The Mentor’s Guide. They clear, concise and thorough with many examples for your use in specific environments.
Ask yourself three questions as you consider mentoring from both Mentor and Mentee perspectives:
(1) What type of Mentoring could I provide and which skills would I enhance?
(2) What type of Mentoring could I benefit from? (Ex: strong techie, networker, public speaker).
(3) How would I go about finding the “right” Mentor for me in this organization?
“I choose to risk my significance
To live so that which came to me as seed
Goes to the next as blossom
And that which came to me as blossom,
Goes on as fruit.”
-Dawna Markova 2000
From Creating A Mentoring Culture by Lois Zachary