Mentoring Resources

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Any system of mentoring has unique advantages: In addition to the obvious benefit of direct coaching and instruction, mentoring encourages role-modeling-emulation of the mentor, in terms of the mentors skills, values and goals. Moreover, it stimulates and tests the mentor, while encouraging the mentor to stay at the top of his or her game. This is why mentoring was a key educational model in the U.S. prior to the introduction of universal compulsory education in teacher-dominated school systems.

What mentoring taught children, apart from their "curriculum", was that one of the best ways to learn is to teach. The same applies in the domain of employment mentoring, whether it be in the form of guild apprenticeships or the modern office.

Business mentoring can either be the formal coaching by a career counselor or corporate employee or the informal relationship with professional colleagues and friends. Finding a mentor is a great way to succeed professionally and develop your career. Acknowledging this, many leading employers have incorporated mentoring into their on-boarding and professional development programs.

Mentoring leads to personal and professional development and inspiration of the mentoree/ employee/worker. Because a mentor is as much a role model as a teacher, his or her influence can be very significant at all levels-cognitive, practical, emotional, etc.

The main precondition, apart from a good mentor-mentoree match, is to have mutual understanding, respect, accountability and smooth communication between the two parties or more that are involved in the project. The prime benefit of mentoring is to develop bench strength, smooth segue-strategies and a sense of continuity of business values, structure, and practices.

Employers also find mentoring to be a good investment because a business mentor-ship program fosters enhanced employee engagement. Moreover, it helps the company to identify future supervisors, develop an executive bench pipeline, and help prepare employees for diverse roles. Mentoring is an effective way to instill the company mission among the employees, since mentors transmit values as well as expertise. That is why companies of all sizes put money into mentoring to boost staff-morale and develop the talent of their workforce.

Of course, mentoring programs and systems are not without pitfalls. Chief among them is the phenomenon of the "reluctant mentor" (or the "resistant protege)-someone too busy, stressed, resentful or otherwise resistant to being assigned the role of mentor (or protege), rather than volunteering for it. Ideally, a mentor (and protege) will volunteer. But in the case of mentoring by decree from above, the organization should take great care to ensure that whatever gains that are expected from the mentoring will not be offset or nullified by serious organizational costs, e.g., a mentor who may bolt the company-or a resistant protege who may do the same.

In particular, extreme care-indeed abstinence-is advisable in the case in which one employee is told to mentor his replacement after being notified of termination. In addition to that worst-case scenario, there is also the problematic situation in which a mentor perceives the groomed employee as a rival-in-the-making and therefore a grave threat. This can lead to conscious or unconscious sabotage of the mentored employee, with attendant risks for whatever tasks or projects that are involved.

To avoid such mentoring traps, there are checklist questions that can be asked about, before and during the mentoring process:

1. If you are mentoring someone, are you giving them enough of your time and interesting work?
2. Are the personality and work habits of your protege similar to yours, and if not, are you able to make sure that doesn't get in the way of working together?
3. Have you and your protege clearly outlined his or her professional-development goals?
4. If you are being mentored, is the work interesting, and does your mentor give you credit for any projects you complete for him or her?
5. Do you feel like part of a team, and are you treated in an open, respectful manner?

If you answered no to any of these questions, your mentoring partnership may be heading for, or already in, rough waters. Discuss potential conflicts with each other, and get help from human resources to arbitrate any disagreements. (Source: Wall Street Journal, "When Mentoring Goes Bad", June 12, 2012.)
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