Academic journal article The Journal of Business Communication

"Only Connect": Transforming Ourselves and Our Discipline through Co-Mentoring

Academic journal article The Journal of Business Communication

"Only Connect": Transforming Ourselves and Our Discipline through Co-Mentoring

Article excerpt

When I met Debby Andrews at a conference almost 25 years ago and we ended up talking the night away, I thought I had stumbled upon a great idea for developing myself as a scholar-teacher in business communication: "Only connect," I thought--form friendships with colleagues in the field. Over time I connected with many stimulating colleagues in the Association for Business Communication (ABC) and elsewhere, people who became my friends and with whom I shared ideas about teaching, doing research, and publishing. A few became very close friends who conversed with me in depth about our various professional endeavors and our personal lives. In the process, we opened up new worlds for each other. We each gave the other feedback on ideas and manuscripts, asking tough questions and providing alternative perspectives on our individual efforts to publish. We consulted about our careers, helping each other confront unsettling changes at our universities and negotiate tenure/promotion processes. We laughed and enjoyed go od times together.

My story undoubtedly sounds familiar. I tell it because although many of us have been finding great rewards in "close collegial relationships," we have had no name for them, we have not discussed or realized their possibilities, and we have not celebrated them as we have "networking" and "collaboration."

After reflecting on my collegial friendships and reviewing some of the scholarship on developmental relationships over the past year, I believe that many of our close friendships with colleagues amount to peers mentoning each other or, in a word, "co-mentorships." Simply put, a co-mentorship is a mutual mentorship of a pair of close, collegial friends committed to facilitating each other's development. Covering both professional and personal concerns, they jointly mentor each other at the current stages of their careers/lives, whether they be early, midcareer, or late. Under ideal conditions, individuals can develop several co-mentorships by linking up with colleagues from anywhere in the world, thereby creating a personal co-mentoring network.

If we go about forming and nurturing such collegial relationships with greater awareness of their potential, I believe that co-mentoring can facilitate our individual development as scholars, teachers, and members of our profession, and in turn, contribute to the maturation of business communication as a discipline. Here, then, I would like to advocate that we develop "co-mentorships" with our colleagues in business communication, especially those at other academic institutions across the globe. I will begin my discussion of co-mentoring by recalling the relationship of trust that forms the basis for all successful mentoring. After reviewing the research that supports the idea of peer mentorships, I propose a model of co-mentoring, suggest its potential for individuals and for the disciplinary community, and note the benefits of some practical applications for us in business communication. I then describe how we can form and nurture co-mentorships, concluding with a brief look at co-mentoring and our profess ional community, the ABC.

Throughout this discussion, I use my personal experience with collegial friends to illustrate aspects of co-mentoring, telling the story from my own perspective. Just as the personal element is critical to the learning in a mentorship, so acknowledging the personal is essential to understanding the phenomenon of co-mentoring and appreciating its potential (see Bell, Golombisky, Singh, & Hirshmann, 2000; Mullen with Cox, Boettcher, & Adoue, 1997). A recent study of the transformative power of developmental relationships among women demonstrates that participants were little aware of the significant contribution of these friendships to their professional and personal lives until they narrated their experiences for the researcher (Carter, 2002). …

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