Posted by Sherry Wright-Gully
What is mentoring? Traditionally defined, it is an interpersonal relationship between two individuals known as the mentor and mentee or protégé. In organizations mentoring is a vehicle used to cultivate and grow employees. Simply put, it is a higher ranking employee who has advanced in organizational experiences and knowledge and is committed to providing guidance and support to protégés. Mentoring can be a formal or informal attribute. At an organizational level, some companies have formal mentoring programs, which means they have organizational or managerial mentors. On a more personal level mentoring is considered informal, which means it is a peer relationship that happens spontaneously.
Mentoring relationships fall into one of four categories or stages that include orientation and initiation, cultivation, separation, and redefinition. In order for mentoring to be successful, a mental contract for learning must be in place between the mentor and dependent party. This is known as the orientation and initiation stage where the mentor and protégé select each other and begin relationships that will last 6 to 12 months. The cultivation stage is a rewarding 1-5 year relationship for both the mentor and protégé. The third stage is the separation stage, which can be caused by a variety of reasons, such as retirement, relocation, or different interests to name a few. The fourth stage is the redefinition stage and depends on the nature of the separation.
Mentors are like teachers who demonstrate and explain situations and/or topics to protégés who are looking to learn more about a particular topic, task, or interest. For an organization to have a solid mentoring foundation it should have five components: deliberate learning (as the cornerstone), the essence of both failure and success (powerful teachers), a leader’s need to disclose stories, active development that matures over time, and the acknowledgement that mentoring is a joint venture. In detail, these components are necessary to employ a successful outcome.
As mentioned above, deliberate learning is comprised of the mentor’s ability to promote knowledge through learning. This is done through experiences that impart knowledge and promote direction and advice. Mentoring comes with benefits and limitations. Just like any other relationship, a mentoring relationship, too, can become dysfunctional. For example, mentors can become threatened by their protégés and feel that their protégé has become a competitor. When the mentor feels that the protégé threatens one’s job or personal image, it can cause the separation stage of the relationship especially in competitive fields and industries.
As a writer of theatrical productions I found myself faced with a situation that caused a separation after several years of advice and direction from a mentor on a personal level. He responded to my success with accusations that I befriended him for all of the wrong reasons – mainly to meet his musician, who, by the way, is for hire. Failures and success stories are noted as being powerful teachers because they include experience – experience that is proven to be either effective or ineffective. Whether good or bad, experience offers results that will determine direction. Bad experiences teach us that this is not something that we should continue. Good experiences motivate us to cultivate and continue that practice and allow us to have the ability to analyze realities.
Mentors are more effective when personal stories are shared. Not only will these stories offer priceless information, they also offer memorable insight. Likewise, they increase credibility by demonstrating how the mentor reached a particular level of expertise. Further, these stories show how experience can be an ongoing process that matures over time. Mentors who share their wisdom and experiences on an ongoing basis usually serve as trusted confidantes. When done on a personal level, mentoring is often done for FREE. This is rewarding for mentors because they have a desire to “give back” to society in some way with no hidden motives. For them it is risk-free with nothing to gain other than the sense of giving back. A good mentor is genuinely interested in someone else’s growth and can be found in all types of organizations especially education.
Now that you know what a mentor is and how mentoring operates, you may realize that you have mentors at the School for Professional Studies. Faculty are genuinely interested in the growth of their students. They are experts in their field and have no hidden motives. They sometimes offer personal stories to help students learn. Because they have a desire to “give back,” they use deliberate learning as they promote knowledge through learning.
They demonstrate and explain topics to students who are looking to learn, and they fit into all four categories of mentoring relationships (orientation and initiation, cultivation, separation, and redefinition), but in order for mentoring to be successful, a mental contract for learning must be in place between the mentor (Professor) and dependent party (student). SPS has is all, great programs and outstanding mentors offers a great learning experience to all of its students. SPS rocks!
Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/simplesolutiontech/4430991227/