As today is National Mentoring Day, so it’s a great time to look at what mentoring is and to consider some of the factors, which can make for a great mentoring relationship.
Finding yourself a mentor isn’t always easy. You need to feel confident that the person you are working with understands you and the challenges you are facing. You need to know that they can strike the right balance between sharing information, knowledge and opportunities with you and also leaving you the space to absorb what has been shared during the mentoring session.
A skilled mentor recognises the importance of a reflective learning practice. This means allowing time to assimilate information, making it your own and understanding how new skills and information can be put to good use. These are the keys to a successful mentoring relationship. When you find yourself a mentor, then you may find it helpful to keep a diary and to capture ideas and self-observations – this will be a great resource to reflect on your journey.
There are 6 commonly recognised factors which, when well managed, contribute to the success of the mentoring relationship. They are well worth bearing in mind before, during and after the mentoring relationship has ended.
The purpose of the mentoring arrangement needs to be clarified so that the mentor brings the right skills, experience and opportunities to the relationship. The purpose may subtly change over time, so checking that both parties are still happy with the relationship is an important step in the process. One of the purposes of mentoring is to bring to the person being mentored (the mentee) access to contacts, who may be influential in supportingtheir development. This important aspect of mentoring needs to be discussed early in the relationship.
The way the mentoring session works will need to be tailored to suit the preferences of the person being mentored. Some people prefer a face-to-face relationship while others may feel more comfortable in groups. Some mentoring can take place online or by telephone. If the purpose of the mentoring exercise is to induct and encourage a new group of recruits into an organisation, for example, group mentoring can be a powerful way of bringing new recruits on board and maintaining their enthusiasm for the organisation after the initial excitement of the new job has started to diminish. In the early stages of the relationship the mentee will spend much of the time listening and questioning to clearly ascertain needs and support the formulation of goals.
A good match between the mentor and the menteee will enable the relationship to start well. The presentation of the mentor, the way they use their voice and their gestures all have an impact. The mentor must be trustworthy, maintain confidentiality and have integrity if the relationship is to work. Successful mentoring happens when the relationship between the mentor and the mentee is well founded and a good rapport has been developed. Unlike coaching, mentors bring their own experience into the relationship, which makes it a more personal contract. Confidence must be respected on both sides.
The pace and frequency of the sessions need to be agreed and moderated as needed. Time to explore goals and needs should be set aside at the start of therelationship to allow for the development of goals and for clarification about the way they will be achieved. Th eperson being mentored may choose to have a number of different mentors and the process of working with other mentors may give rise to complexity in terms of goal setting and achievement of milestones.
An honest way of discussing progress against goals and providing feedback needs to be in place. A mentoring plan with regular reviews in place is a good way of setting this up. Milestones need to be celebrated and a time will come when the mentor has learned as much as they feel they can from their mentor. The mentoring process needs to allow for this to happen in a planned and non-threatening way.
And finally ...
If you keep these things in mind you will soon discover the benefits of mentoring. And remember – mentors can get just as much out of the relationship as the people they are supporting. Reflecting on your own successes and failures and how you faced up to your challenges will reveal much about your own progress through life and can strengthen your own sense of self.
If you are interested in establishing mentoring in your organisation then get in touch with us. We’re here to help.
Director and Principal Consultant
Blue Pebble Coaching Ltd