Mentoring is both an opportunity and a risk. It is largely a teaching process beginning with parental nurturing of children and continuing through the lifecycle of organizational and personal interrelationships. A key principle considered in this article is that mentoring is both an obligation and responsibility of leadership. Through mentoring, the wisdom and experience of the senior is passed to the junior. This includes passing on and discussing principles, traditions, shared values, quality, and lessons learned. Mentoring provides a framework to bring about a cultural change in the way we view the professional development of competent future leaders. The road to the top in most organizations today is an uphill and bumpy ride--you simply can't float to the top. Mentoring is a key way to help us get to our destination.
Mentoring is perhaps the most powerful method by which we can shape the future. The term has become a buzzword, often carelessly shot into the air along with a dust-cloud of other jargon from the unofficial, unwritten dictionary of those who consider themselves the cutting edge of modern leadership and management. But real mentoring, properly understood, is much more than just another clipping from last week's Dilbert cartoon. Without an in-depth study of mentoring, the capacity of an individual to mentor is limited to the horizons of their own experience. Thus, mentoring is literally a time machine that allows us to have a profound influence many years beyond today's hubbub and humdrum. And, it is safe to say that, just as sure as you are related to your grandfather, mentoring can make a significant difference in the lives of people.
A mentor is a trusted advisor, teacher, counselor, friend, and/or parent, older and more senior than the person he or she helps. A mentor is there when you need them. Mentoring is an ongoing process. In organizations, it can apply to all leaders and supervisors who are responsible for getting their work done through other people. The individual who is assisted by a mentor is usually called a protege--in essence, a student or pupil who learns from the mentor. The process by which one person aids another in this type of relationship is known as "mentoring." Regardless of how we choose to define it, mentoring--if properly conducted--can have a most positive change in the life, attitudes, and behavior of the protege But what does this really mean? Does mentoring differ in any way from teaching, parenting, or being a friend?
This article attempts to answer these important questions in a practical way that will enable people to implement the principles of mentoring in everyday life. If we comprehend the principles essential to mentoring, we will have in our grasp the tool kit that can make our time machine work. On balance, this article attempts to demystify the phenomenon of mentoring by cutting through buzzwords and misconceptions to communicate a workable understanding of mentoring and its practical implementation.
The Mentoring Process
It may be a useful mnemonic and analytical device to treat the term mentoring as if it were an acronym. The various aspects of effective mentoring, expressed as verbs, can be understood as corresponding to the letters in the word as follows:
We will discuss each of the components in turn and, in so doing, will develop a working understanding of what it means to be a mentor.
An effective mentor must lead by example. When the mentor serves as a real-world role model for the protege, the cliche that "actions speak louder than words" comes to life. Mentoring requires significant amounts of time for mentor and protege to be in close proximity. The protege …