The art of mentoring

Mentoring is a continuous process of sharing relevant information with selected people that can maximize the success of an institution, while guiding and supporting each person toward individual and collective achievement opportunities.

Mentoring is a developmental, caring, sharing and helping relationship where the mentor helps the mentee.

A mentor can be a person who offers knowledge, insight, perspective or wisdom that is helpful to another person in a relationship that goes beyond duty or obligation. A mentor creates opportunities for exposure, provides challenging and educational assignments, and serves as a role model and adviser to the mentee. Such relationships often evolve informally, but managers can encourage and formalize them.

Effective mentoring requires listening, caring and other forms of involvement between mentors and mentees. According to experts, mentoring is often used to achieve the interests of special groups and populations, conserve and transfer special know-how, encourage mentee contributions, bring employees together in a new social environment, help people reach their full potential, enhance the competitive position of a person or department and develop better relationships around the globe.

Mentoring is a collaborative effort on the part of the mentor and the mentee. Effective mentoring is a relationship built on trust, in which the mentee confides personal information and characteristics to the mentor and the mentor guides the mentee toward growth and learning opportunities. A good mentoring program is usually focused on specific learning objectives, in which both the mentor and mentee receive training.

There are many deliverables originating from a mentoring program, including easier recruitment of the best talent, more rapid induction of new recruits, improved staff retention, improved opportunities, performance and diversity management, increased effectiveness of formal training, reinforcement of cultural change, improved networking and communication, and reinforcement of other learning initiatives.

Successful organizations recognize the value of mentoring programs as an effective way to address diversity, manage organizational knowledge, retain stellar performers and prepare for succession. Many organizations have found benefits in mentoring individuals from underrepresented groups, specifically women, Asians, Hispanics, Native Americans and African Americans, in the fields of business and education.

According to experts, there are many roles that professional mentors play, including teacher or tutor, coach, friend, counselor, information source, nurturer, adviser, networker, advocate and role model.

Regardless of the mentoring location, highly effective mentors and leaders share some of the same characteristics. They:

  • Are experienced and respected in the field
  • Have current knowledge
  • Are trustworthy, confident and show high self-efficacy
  • Use transformational leadership skills
  • Willingly share their knowledge and guide others
  • Remain approachable
  • Have great passion for their work
  • Know what to communicate, how to communicate, when to communicate and how to help improve the mentee
  • Connect well and challenge mentees to reach their full potential
  • Get extraordinary results using a variety of skills to get their points across and to bring about the needed behavioral changes in their mentees

The goal of a mentoring program should be to help leaders, managers, coaches and senior employees in a firm become highly skilled, self-aware, inclusive, energetic and creative, and to carry a zest for mentoring into the organization every day. Mentoring is not an easy task, but such is the obligation bestowed on the lucky ones.

Highly effective mentors and leaders understand that developing others requires self-reflection, sensitivity, risk-taking, interdependency and teamwork among all parties (mentors, mentees, managers, peers and senior officers). They also understand that such a synergy requires forging a partnership, inspiring commitment, growing both the mentor’s and mentee’s skills, promoting persistency and shaping the environment so all parties can achieve their goals.

Bahaudin Mujtaba, D.B.A., is an assistant professor for Nova Southeastern University at the School of Business. He is a former senior training specialist and manager of Publix Super Markets. Bahaudin recently authored a 2005 book entitled “The Art of Mentoring Diverse Professionals” published by Aglob Publishing. Reach him at (954) 262-5045 or Mujtaba@nova.edu.

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