Mentor Mentor – Cure me!!

Tolerance towards mistakes and especially towards repeating the same mistakes is very less in the contemporary times. Companies can’t afford to have employees who don’t learn from the experiences of others. A steep learning curve calls for a good mentorship programme.

A mentor must ideally possess adequate experience in the domain(s) one is planning to move into or wishes to explore as a career option. The mentor must have the requisite domain expertise, industry exposure and industry contacts.

Mentoring is an intensive OD intervention. It focuses on the development of a high potential junior under the continuous auspices of a senior leader. Their relationship is voluntary and not from the same chain of command. It is a long programme – typically ranging from three months to a year.

The qualities of a good mentoring programme should be:

Discussion around the protégé’s goals – both professional and personal. Goal-setting leads to the mentor assessing the protégé’s developmental needs. Then the rigour of regular meetings, face-to-face discussions, home assignments. Action learning begins then and is mainly aimed at bridging the developmental gaps of the protégé. Documenting of the action plan is empirical to ensure tracking since the timeline is short and specified.

No personal Matters – The mentor should act like an advisor and not as a friend or boss and the communication between the mentor and the protégé should be informal but it should be kept in mind that personal matters should always be avoided unless they are harming the performance of the protégé.

Confidentiality is kept – Matters discussed in mentoring programmes, weaknesses and development areas of the participants should be kept confidential.

Managers are not made in class rooms, instead, the practical, on-the-job exposure coupled with a blend of the churn and rigour enforced by a mentor enhances the growth potential and shortens the time frame of transition of an executive into a manager.

What should mentors possess?

You do not necessarily need to have your supervisor as your mentor. Instead, you must look for a person who has richer experiences and exemplifies the qualities that you admire. Find the smartest person who can help you in your particular needs. It is the individual’s responsibility to work hard to not only find the right mentor, but also maintain an ongoing mentor-mentee relationship. The best way to find a mentor is to be a part of as many forums and attend as many industry events as possible. In such events, you can make contacts and explore possibilities.

Suggestions and counseling: Mentors help in exploring various career options so as to find the best suited path, as per one’s skills and interests. With an in-depth domain knowledge, experience and industry exposure, a mentor can help the mentee in deciding the career path best suited for him/her. For instance, if a professional needs mentoring, the mentor can enable the person to list out all options clearly and evaluate the same. A good mentor can suggest the pros and cons of all options, based on the individual’s interests, experience, education, attitude and the market trends, both current and future.

Mutual Learning: The contemporary mentoring style is different from the traditional in the sense that now it is a two way process.

Conventional Mentoring → Protégé

Contemporary Mentoring ↔ protégé

Through mentorship, one gets an exposure into the decision-making and leadership styles of the seniors. Additionally, it provides an access to organisational knowledge and networking opportunities, expansion of knowledge of skills and practices, an increased sense of safety while learning and a more focused development.

Feedback management: Mentors are an effective sounding board for venting emotions, views and feelings. Since it is on a one-to-one basis, there is a scope for personalized learning owing to an honest and constructive feedback. Overall, it leads to increased self-confidence and heightened career aspirations.

Listening Skills: Whenever we talk about listening skills, these lines of Ginny Barnes comes to my mind

I know you believe you understand what you think I said, but I’m not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant” Ginny Barnes.

One must ensure that they are reading the words but not missing out on the gestures, body language and reading between the lines is also important.

Art of problem solving: A mentor should explore what kind of problem a protégé is facing, is it more of ability –skill lacking related problem or motivational – where the mentee lacks willingness to do something. The solution then depends upon the kind of personality, behaviour and aptitude.

The concept of mentorship does not apply only to organisations as a whole, but to the micro units as well, the individual employees themselves. Hence, care must be taken to carefully select and approach the right person as your mentor, specific qualities must be looked into for a Mentor. All this will surely result into a successful mentoring program.

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