Mentoring of the arts and skills needed for success in business is of very great importance. To improve oneself in business and become better at what you do, top-notch mentoring is necessary. Continuous monitoring of our advances in mentoring processes is also essential, and mobilizing everyone in these pursuits is very important.
The Society of Jesus, or the Jesuits as they are more commonly known, is a Catholic religious order that is highly regarded for its leadership and expertise in the field of education. Over its 400-year existence, the Jesuits have perfected a system of education or learning that revolves around three processes: experience, reflection and action. This system is founded on the principle that one of the best methods of learning is gained through an actual experience of the lesson.
For example, to learn to ride a bike, one must first get on the bike, pump the pedals, keep our balance, steer the bike and stop without falling over. Once we can do a task well, we often want to advance and progress. This is part of the ongoing learning experience.
Learning only progresses through the idea of reflection. It is in reflection or the re-examining of an experience and its effects, that learning is greatly aided and accelerated. Unaided by those who already know what a learner is trying to learn, one can progress, but such progress is greatly impeded and slowed by a lack of current understanding. We do learn forward, but we only understand backward. So, a mentor, a coach or a learning assistant who already possesses the knowledge or skills we seek can help us immensely in the reflection process.
It is the mentor’s job to get you to think about what went wrong or how you might have done something better. A mentor will ask, “Well, what happened? And, why do you think this effect occurred? And what might you have done differently?” or, “What do you now plan to do?” Our mentor stimulates the reflection that we might otherwise not have done. If the mentor can kindly offer some tips, such assistance can expand and accelerate the initial teaching and the reflective learning processes. For example, “Do you think that if you had put your foot down when you tried to stop your bike you might not have crashed to the ground?”
The objective of reflection is the recognition and the identification of the causes and effects of what has happened or can be caused to happen better or differently. In these processes, the mentee is aided to also learn the art of sophisticated analysis — thinking and doing so that the skills and sub-skills of each lesson can be repurposed and applied to other tasks and challenges.
As a mentor sees light bulbs in the learner’s eyes, he or she then might suggest step three, or the corrected action stage. These suggestions might also take the form of confirming questions, such as, “Do you think that would work?” and then, “Do you think you could do it?” Only after such confirming questions are positively answered might they make the encouraging suggestion, “Let’s try again. And, now let’s put your foot on the ground when you stop your bike.”
In more complex environments with even more complex lessons or skills to be learned, the optimum mentor facilitates further learning and choice of next action by aiding the student to see the lesson and the possibilities in multiple dimensions. The practiced mentor offers his questions and lessons in a way that entices the mentee to not only learn the skill but to love the understanding of subtlety and detail.
No one in business should go it alone, as they say, or if he or she does, the person often finds it harder to get to the top. Successful businesspeople realize that having someone else who has gone before them whom they can bounce ideas off of is an asset and necessity. The mentor will have insight into the challenges the mentee will face and can provide guidance and suggestion to help make their travels in the life of business easier or a hand to grab onto if they falter.
It’s about standing on the shoulders of others who have traveled the path before you. These people have made the mistakes that they don’t want you to make. Mentors in the business world reach out, share experiences, ideas and a helping hand to pull you up the mountain of learning and adversity.
Thomas M. Nies is the founder and CEO of Cincom Systems Inc. Since its founding in 1968, Cincom has matured into one of the largest international, independent software companies in the world. Cincom’s client base spans communications, financial services, education, government, manufacturing, retail, healthcare and insurance. http://tomnies.cincom.com/about/