Blog Archive

Friday, 28 October 2016

Mentoring

I have learnt and practiced the skills of mentorship over two decades in both my formal and freelance work roles. Mentorship shares many skills with good facilitation, coaching and practice education. The mentor will facilitate and guide the mentee to find their way forward to acheive their aspirations, meet their goals, and develop their practice.

Mentoring brings to mind a relationship between a senior colleague with a junior in the workplace who uses his or her greater knowledge and experience to support the development of that junior. In my career that form of mentoring would describe my role with established colleagues, new staff and students on placement.

Mentoring
Image by Alejandro Escamilla
Mentors who act in a developmental role, as I do now, must take care not to cross into training or tutoring, something that may happen on occasions within the workplace. Developmental mentoring helps the mentee develop new skills and abilities. The mentor acts as a resource for the mentee's growth. Mentoring also tends to take place over a longer duration than coaching arrangements.

The mentor will first build trust and openness with the mentee with affective communication skills based upon a set of values that demonstrate unconditional positive regard, curiosity, respect, rigour, honesty and reciprocity.

In essence you could say the mentor becomes a critical friend to the mentee. Through out the course of their work together the mentor will witness the mentee's success's and failures as they develop their skills and build their strengths. The mentor must relinquish the tendency to rescue the mentee as they will, at times, stumble forward and make mistakes.

The mentor, in this role, must respect the journey, or the process, of learning that the mentee will gain as they attempt to meet their goals. Ultimately, the mentee will take on the skills the mentor has offered. By doing so the mentee becomes a more capable and resilent character as a consequence. This part of the role often goes unstated as a aim or outcome by the mentor but it marks the difference between excellent mentoring practice versus the mediocre.

The mentor ought to abide by a credo that the needs and wishes of the mentee come first and forthmost in the relationship.

Mentors draw upon a range of models, skills and tools of questioning, listening, clarifying and reframing to meet the needs of the mentee. It can never become a prescriptive exercise. Each mentee brings the totality of themselves to the relationship. The skilled mentor must recognise the unique qualities of character they bring and work from that point.

Mentoring, like coaching, begins with an agreement about how the mentor and mentee will work together. Often with a simple contract with a focus on the stated aim and needs of the mentee. Together, they will agree dates and times when they will meet, decide the expected duration of the mentoring relationship, the length of time for each session, and agree other mediums of contact such as email, phone or video calls.

In the end, mentoring requires both the mentor and mentee to commit to the task that unites them, namely the developmental goals of the mentee.

All the best

Philip

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