The delicate balance of mentoring someone is not creating them in your own image, but giving them the opportunity to create themselves,” said celebrated film director Steven Spielberg.
One couldn’t agree more.
If we had to explain the meaning of mentoring, then we would call it the process where the mentor and the mentee work together to identify and enhance the latter’s ability to manage life situations.
When a fresher enters the corporate world for the first time, she has academic knowledge but no practical experience in dealing with workplace situations. Hence, companies often assign a mentor to help newcomers ease into the organization and its processes.
What is mentoring?
Let’s look at an example. Michael is the HR head of a leading infotech company. His team is facing a challenge in hiring new people while retaining existing talent. He decides to invite an expert for an executive mentoring session with his team. The expert has a long discussion with them and shares his input about enhancing the company’s hiring process and brand communication. Within a few weeks, the hiring process becomes more efficient and the desired results are achieved.
This is a classic example of specialist mentoring.
However, in large organizations, day-to-day mentoring is often carried out by senior employees who guide others through their professional knowledge and experience. Mentoring within organizations is usually a voluntary or honorary task. Typically, mentors are not paid any mentoring fee or salary. Usually, mentoring is an informal relationship, but some organizations earmark specific senior colleagues and add mentoring to their KRAs.
Formal mentoring relationships usually have a predefined time frame and objective associated with the process. Such a practice is, typically, common in customer relations, sales, and other public-facing job profiles.
The objectives of mentoring
An organization can achieve several goals by establishing mentoring relationships between employees:
- Aiding career progress of employees
- Ensuring optimal performance by employees
- Pushing personal development
- Enhancing employee skills, knowledge, and ability
- Motivating and empowering the mentees to solve problems
Mentors don’t just share tips or give career advice. They also understand a mentee’s skills and behavioral attributes to be able to show the mentee ways of resolving challenges or achieving goals. A mentor won’t always have answers to every problem. However, a great mentor will share insights and habits that can prepare mentees to deal with any personal or professional situation.
The attributes of a mentor
The onus of initiating the relationship and making the mentee comfortable is usually on the mentor. Periodic assessments are done to ensure that the desired growth and knowledge acquisition is taking place.
Depending on the goals, the mentor can be required to play various roles. Some of these are:
Being a coach:
If the mentor believes the learner is capable of solving problems and is willing to work on them, then it is best to take up a coach’s role. In this scenario, independent thinking is encouraged.
Being a counselor:
The mentor can use interpersonal skills to help the learner navigate situations. This approach is effective if the mentee is hesitant about making decisions.
Being a guide:
In organizations where mentoring is a formal and structured part of the induction process, mentors usually guide mentees through their initial orientation. Here, the mentor’s role is to help the mentees familiarize themselves with the company culture and processes and get them going.
Being a role model:
As a role model, there is little or no hands-on involvement of the mentor because they behave naturally. In such situations, the mentees usually observe their mentors handling different situations and learn from them.
Being a friend and critic:
This is one of the most challenging aspects of mentoring. As a friend, the mentor needs to listen to their mentees, understand their challenges, and encourage them to evolve by discussing their plans or providing critical feedback. However, a mentor should avoid being overbearing or getting into the coach mold in this case.
The benefits of mentoring
Mentoring is essential in today’s competitive world. Irrespective of one’s age or field of work, mentoring plays a crucial role in a person’s evolution and success.
It is a two-way process where both the mentor and mentee stand to gain from a successful relationship.
Benefits for mentees
Mentees can, of course, benefit from a mentoring relationship in several ways.
A mentee might be new and vulnerable at the time of joining the corporate world. But with the experience and expertise of the mentor, the mentee can overcome initial challenges. The mentee can also learn how to handle tough situations independently in the future.
A mentor helps a mentee accurately assess her strengths and set personal or professional goals commensurate with the individual’s skills. This process of realistic goal setting can make the difference between a person being successful or not. Let’s understand through an example.
Shaina wanted to become a tennis player and sought the advice of a mentor on the subject. The mentor had seen Shaina play and advised her to focus on cricket instead of tennis due to her height and stamina levels. “You will be a decent college-level player if you choose tennis and might even get a place on the university team, but you can play for the country if you choose cricket,” he told her.
A mentor can help mentees freely share ideas, foster a collaborative spirit, and complement each other’s strengths. Further, the mentor’s experience can be invaluable in trying out new work styles and more efficient processes.
A mentor usually has spent a considerable amount of time in his field and has ample experience. Hence, a mentor’s advice can be of great value for the mentee when they are determining their career trajectory and planning to acquire new skills.
Mentors commit themselves toward the growth of their mentees. Hence, one can expect mentors to provide unbiased real-time performance feedback and suggestions. Such inputs can help in improving the self-confidence and self-esteem of the mentee.
Professional mentors are likely to have multiple mentees who could be from diverse fields or different organizations. Hence, they can help their mentees develop a support network independent of the organization they work with. Such a network can also help mentees succeed in future endeavors.
Benefits for mentors
It is assumed that a mentoring relationship has more benefits for the mentee than the mentor. However, the experience of mentoring others contributes to the growth of the mentor as well. Here are some of the benefits:
Through regular interaction, mentors can enhance their communication and interpersonal skills.
Mentors also get to learn things from their mentees. For instance, a young and intelligent mentee might share an innovative way of working or approaching a particular problem that the mentor might not have been familiar with.
By working with mentees and contributing to their success, mentors are likely to gain recognition and added hands-on experience.
Since mentors could be interacting with mentees from diverse industries and companies simultaneously, the mentoring process can be of great help in expanding their own network. It could also expose mentors to sectors and job profiles that they might not be familiar with.
The 21st century is highly technology-oriented and dynamic. People need to learn and evolve on personal and professional levels constantly. Thus, at certain stages of your career and in some specific situations, mentoring relationships can be a great career booster.
For a fun history of the word ‘mentorship’ and to explore what experts have to say about it, listen to the fourth episode of Harappa’s habits matter podcast below:
Harappa Education understands the value of a good and productive mentoring relationship. This was one of the factors that it considered when designing its Navigating Workplaces course.
Whether you are at the start of your career or at an advanced stage, you can always gain valuable skills and inputs from the right mentor-mentee relationship. It will pave the way for your career growth. It is also likely to make you better at personal relationships and improve your interpersonal skills of communication and networking.
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