In its simplest form, mentoring is basically a transfer of knowledge.
It takes place in a variety of settings ranging from one’s home to the workplace. Typically, in a corporate setting, a seasoned individual (a mentor) is assigned to a newer or up-and-coming protégé (a mentee) with the relationship focused on skills, career, and personal development. These pairings can be extremely important in the transfer of knowledge. According to research, mentoring is a successful arrangement for the mentee creating job satisfaction, career mobility, opportunity, recognition, and a higher promotion rate than nonmentored individuals.
I recently had the opportunity to observe the selection process of a small company located in the Midwest. During round two of their five stage hiring process, I was intrigued by the response of a prominent applicant when asked, “who was the most influential person in your life and why?”
This individual explained at great length that he accomplished all of his personal and career successes on his own, virtually without the help of anyone. He stated he had a great desire and personal need to have a mentor, but the situation just never materialized for him. Hearing that statement led me to examine my own success and how people formally and informally influence others.
Personally, I endured many challenges throughout my life at a very young age. I made the decision to leave home at about age 10. The next few years were spent being shuffled in and out of foster care and children centers.
Once I became a teenager, the state allowed me to live on my own based on my unique situation. Consequently, as I entered the workplace, I found myself struggling in business and personal relationships and feeling frustrated because of a lack of social skills and knowledge.
The feeling of frustration soon evolved into intense curiosity and I began consuming information and observing people that were living, doing, and being what I wanted in my life. Eventually, this curiosity led me to become very passionate about learning and challenging myself spiritually. By the third decade of my life, my learning curve closely resembled a steep mountain trek.
Today, I am in the final stages of completing my Ph.D. and am committed to helping others with their personal and professional development. I realize that although I may have felt somewhat alone during my struggles, the fact is, many people influenced my life formally and informally.
So back to the question at hand…is it possible to go through life and not have been influenced by anyone? Not hardly. There are many perspectives on mentoring as was demonstrated by the promising applicant in the selection interview that believed his success was of his own doing and my own personal experience of recognizing mentoring was all around me.
Mentoring can be delivered in a variety of ways. A more passive or indirect way of influencing people would be through books, tapes, videos, observation, T.V., sports, seminars, idols, and heroes which is how I received mentoring and I suspect the promising applicant did too. Whereas, a more intentional or structured process would include setting up a formal mentoring program with a specific agenda, outcomes, and ways of measuring and monitoring success.
Let’s face it: People become mentors in our life based on a variety of reasons and situations, such as providing a role model, a friendship, extra support, guidance, career and personal development. In the workplace, mentoring has been studied and proven to be effective if implemented properly. If you are interested in establishing a mentoring program or becoming a mentor, consider these four options:
• Informal. Informal mentoring takes place when someone more experienced takes someone less experienced under his/her wing, giving advice. This could also include a more passive approach to mentoring.
• Positional. Positional mentoring occurs when the mentor is the mentee’s line manager.
• Formal. Formal mentoring is a strategic pairing that spells out established goals and has measurable outcomes. This type of mentoring usually lasts about a year and involves expert training and support that directly benefits the organization.
• Situational. Situational mentoring provides advice for a specific circumstance such as, a foreign posting, emotional intelligence, new computer system, etc.
Although research shows that mentoring can have positive outcomes, artificially creating such relationships when they do not occur naturally can be fraught with difficulties. Not all mentoring situations experience successful outcomes. Some individuals may need to be trained to become effective mentors. Consider hiring a coach with the transition.
A coach understands each person’s optimal learning approach has its own unique fingerprint and can be an asset to the arrangement. Similar to a personal athletic trainer, a coach works with individuals to set goals that stretch them toward the limits of their potential by incorporating a regimen of practice, motivation, goal setting, feedback, and support.