At IBIE 2010, which took place Sept. 26-29 in Las Vegas, I was asked to speak in the educational seminars on “Successful Mentoring Programs.”
“It’s not what you take when you leave this world behind you. It’s what you leave behind you when you’re gone,” says philosopher, story teller and award-winning country music recording artist, Randy Travis.
The idea behind these words is simple: The important thing is that since you won’t need anything when you do go, you have an obligation to leave something behind. That’s how mentoring can make a positive mark on others.
Mentoring is the interaction between two individuals where sharing, teaching and learning is the core. It’s about growth and confidence building in the one being mentored. It’s more than just a work relationship; mentoring goes much deeper. It’s a mentor/mentee thing!
How about what mentoring isn’t? It’s not about training.
Training tends to be the delivery of a particular set of parameters that need to be followed in order to complete a given task. In training, the student is in total control of whether knowledge is gained or not.
It’s not coaching. Although close to mentoring, coaching works better when trying to get a group of people aimed at a certain goal. Sports teams need coaching, individuals need mentoring. It’s not about a one-way relationship. Mentoring requires both parties to be fully engaged.
Finally, it’s not for everybody. Not everyone can be a mentor and not everyone can openly receive mentoring. It definitely takes a special mentality to be in this game on either side of the ball.
So what are the keys to successful mentoring? There are many ways to successfully mentor, but here are some top-of-the-list items:
The first key is desire. Whether you are the mentor or the mentee, you must want to take part in the effort. The mentor goes into the relationship knowing that it could be difficult, but they desire to succeed in bringing their mentee to a place where they too can be successful. If the mentee goes into this with less than a desiring attitude, they could both be wasting their time. The mentee could be a little apprehensive simply because they don’t quite know what they are signing up for, but their own desire to better themselves allows them to dive in and overcome any fears they might have.
Mutual respect is a big one. The mentor needs to respect the mentee as someone who wants to better themselves and the mentee has chosen to jump into this relationship so they need to respect that the experiences and life lessons that are about to be shared by the mentor are a special gift. If respect is not there, the results will not be there.
Openness is a tough one for many of us, but critical to a good mentoring relationship. The parties need to be comfortable enough with each other that they can approach one another when there are difficulties in the relationship, which allow for adjustment and continued growth.
Clarity is critical because the best results of sharing and receiving come when the facts and the method in which they are delivered are clear, concise and on point. Every person has a certain capacity for absorbing new information and the mentor must be conscientious to the abilities of their mentee. Beating around the bush or insinuating will not send the right message or deliver the best results.
The mentoring relationship will also benefit from having some common ground between the parties. That common ground could be as objective as career similarity or as subjective as their individual morality or their views of life in general. Whatever it is, it will be the place that either party can bring the relationship back to a center point if something goes astray. Uncommon ground is also important as it can be the vehicle that allows for different perspectives when either is trying to tackle a critical point being shared.
As you can see, this is a very short list of requirements to get into this mentoring thing from either side, but remember that you can’t even get started without most of these in place, especially the top four.
It can be difficult discussing this topic from the mentor’s perspective. If you are fortunate to become someone’s mentor, and you do it for all the right reasons, it’s not something you go around boasting about. The mentee is the one who has to be satisfied with your performance as a mentor and you and your mentee can let your bond speak for itself.
There are no trophies at the end of this game called mentoring. The real benefits come to the mentor when he or she can sit back and watch the mentee in action. Mentors are the winners when they see their mentee handling difficult situations and solving problems, but more importantly, when they see their mentee becoming the mentor to the next generation. That’s when it really matters.
If you would like to receive the PowerPoint slides from my presentation at IBIE, don’t hesitate to contact me.