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Title: The Art of Informal Mentoring - Part 1   Send to a Friend
Date: 11/23/2011    

[This article is the first in a series on Mentoring]

It was once said, give a person a fish and feed him for a day, but teach a person to fish and feed him for a lifetime.” Thus could be said for the concept of Mentorship. The concept has been around for centuries, although no one knew early on that it was to be called Mentorship. Would Plato have become a philosopher without Socrates? Well… who knows the answers to those thought provoking questions, but there is one thing we do know. Mentorship is a good thing, especially in business. The mere act of mentorship helps us transcend selfishness. We can learn humility and patience by allowing people time and space to make mistakes, to suffer and to learn, as we did. We can let people develop in their own time and we can offer our support.

The most important lesson here: It''s not about a mentoring relationship
. It''s about a mentoring mentality. You don''t need a single mentor who you keep throughout your career.
You should have many, but for newer leaders, one mentor can make all the difference in the world. What you need is a mind-set that allows you to learn from those around you, no matter who they are and no matter where you are in the process. Studies have shown that in business, a well-planned orientation can effectively contribute to the length of employment.

 The Importance of Mentoring  

It is almost inevitable. When you are at a dinner honoring someone in your profession, or if you have watched any awards presentation such as the Oscars, when the honoree is presented his or her award, in the ensuing speech they will thank not only their agent, and their family, they will often name one or more individuals without whom they would not have achieved this honor. Although they may be mentioned by a different name or title – it could be trusted advisor, boss, professor, or colleague, typically the people that are mentioned are actually mentors.

 Research in both educational settings and in the workplace indicates that students and employees alike are more likely to succeed if they have had a mentor. Although mentors are useful for everyone, sometimes organizations implement mentoring programs to support particular parts of their populations, often new managers. And while mentoring programs are always set up with the best of intentions, their results are often mixed.

 One of the biggest surprises to any young person entering a profession for the first time is the issue of politics in the office. Having had successful careers as students, where criteria for success are supposedly “objective,” the politics of reporting to different people, understanding organizational culture, and dealing with fiefdoms and alliances can be strange and disconcerting to any young professional.

The Difficulties

Many employers set up mentoring programs but achieve mixed or limited success. Because of the nature of mentoring relationships there are some difficulties inherent in establishing success programs.  

Mentoring programs that are strictly voluntary in nature may not have the opportunity to take into account the personalities and commitment levels of those involved. What sounds like a good idea at the sign-up stage may require a greater commitment level than originally anticipated once the program begins. Many voluntary programs sponsored by organizations are based upon matching the experience of the mentor with the announced interests of the mentee. But a busy executive and an over-committed manager may find that they don’t have the time necessary to cement this relationship. And, if there is not an immediate chemistry at the first meeting, the relationship may never truly begin.  

The power differential also plays into the difficulty of the mentoring relationship. Although the mentor would like the mentee to take the initiative, it is often difficult for the younger and less experienced person to take the lead. This is not to say that the mentee should have no responsibility for the relationship. Once there have been several meetings and a chance to lay the groundwork, the mentor can set ground rules for the continued interaction – including the need for the more junior person to take initiative. But at the beginning, the mentor must set the stage.

Stay tuned....

Until next time, make it a WOW day!

Warm wishes,

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Mary E. Banks, a leadership, life coach and speaker, is the author of The Multi-Faced Woman, Living by Faith 9 to 5 and her soon to be released, Hope for Troubled Times.

Please feel free to forward this newsletter to friends and colleagues, but please forward in its entirety. The W.O.W. Leadership E-Newsletter is written and distributed by W.O.W. Consulting Group Copyright (c) 2011 Mary E. Banks. All rights reserved.

W.O.W. Consulting Group | P.O. Box 73268 | Houston, TX 77273

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The Art of Informal Mento ...     11/23/11
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