Mentoring for Organizational Success
Retaining hard-earned experience and wisdom within the organization means that the management of information and interpersonal knowledge is more crucial than ever.
Forward-thinking organizations use mentoring to nurture and grow their employees' skills, preparing both the employees and organization for the future. This is especially important for leadership skills.
As one of the oldest forms of influence and knowledge sharing, mentoring is easy to incorporate into everyday work. In fact, most people - whether friends, relatives, co-workers, teachers, bosses, store clerks, etc. - provide mentorship without even knowing that they are doing so.
In Greek mythology, Mentor was a friend and trusted advisor of Odysseus. The name was adopted in English to mean someone who imparts wisdom to and shares knowledge with a less experienced colleague. The term's popularity can be traced to the 1699 book, Les Aventures de Telemaque.
Mentors provide mentees (or protégés) with appropriate guidance by demonstrating, explaining, and modeling desired behaviours. However, for mentoring to be successful, both mentors and mentees must be able to participate effectively in the relationship.
It takes more than experience to be a good mentor. Good mentors must be willing to reflect and share one's own experience, including one's failures.
And great mentors? Great mentors never stop learning.
Here are the essential qualities for effective mentors:
- Desire and willingness to help and develop others. Good mentors genuinely are interested in enabling others to be successful.
- Commitment to the mentoring relationship. Like any relationship, time and energy are important to ensuring that knowledge is successfully shared.
- Relevant knowledge, skills and expertise. Mentors that are learning continuously are able to impart relevant skills to mentees.
- Willingness to share personal experiences and failures. Sometimes the best learning comes from understanding how others overcame failures or why they failed in the first place.
- An attitude that is open to learning. Those that are always interested and open to learning are the best mentors and mentees.
- Ability to listen in order to develop others. Mentors that are able to listen are also able to ask powerful questions and share relevant stories to enhance the mentee's experience.
To enhance the mentor-mentee relationship, mentees should enter the relationship with the following characteristics:
- Commitment to learn from the mentoring relationship.
- Willingness to ask questions and to ask for help.
- Open to learning new ideas, trying new things.
- Able to receive and act upon constructive feedback.
- Willingness to apply new learning on the job.
- Be personally responsible and accountable for their learning and performance.
Mentoring programs are additional and supplemental development tools for successful organizations. Unlike managers who fulfill a day-to-day overview of employee performance, mentors provide a broader and longer view of employee performance, building a path for future sustainability of knowledge and skills.