Friday, April 24, 2009

More Thoughts on Mentoring

Someone sent me a snippet list (I don’t know where it came from or I’d credit it). It made me think… (don’t laugh)… and I reworked it for myself. I’m sure I’ll be adding to it in the months ahead.

• Think of mentoring as series of dates rather than an "arranged marriage".

I get asked a lot about ‘what if I don’t like my mentee/mentor?’. Well, don’t agree to the relationship. Forced partnerships are difficult at best. Instead of assuming you must progress straight to ‘bonding’, approach the first meeting as a date. Give each other a chance. Offer openings. All you have to decide is ‘yes, I’ll do a second coffee.’

• Think of a mentor as a wilderness guide who facilitates a learning process (helps you blaze a trail), rather than as a guru who passes down "the word" to a favored individual.

I shudder at the old-world apprentice view. That’s where ‘clubs’ and ‘ceilings’ come in. We’re a community sharing knowledge across, up and down with many folks at different times. And when someone figures out a new/cool way through the trees, we applaud and we learn.

• Think of personal growth as acquiring new ways of thinking and capabilities - and a few skills and behaviors - with the focus being on an over all approach and attitude.

This is a tricky one to do. School teaches us to follow a list. Work teaches us process. And here’s me saying it’s about attitude. If building a community and mentoring had a 10-step process, there wouldn’t be all of us stumbling about trying to get there.

View development as coming through open dialogue and free-form thinking, rather than a set agenda.

See above. I bet there’s a few HR departments that would disagree and I get that. Large companies require process. But ideas come from free-association thinking and the permission to do things differently. Look at how parenting books have changed in the last 25 years.

• Think of assignments, rather than promotions, as a way of creating next steps for yourself and your mentee.

Let’s go back to my earlier dating metaphor… Marriage doesn’t have to be the next development from a dating situation. Friendship. Work association. Finding a lead on a project. A chance to try something and find it not to your taste. If you don’t leave room for experimenting, you can’t be sure your end result is as fulsome as it could be. You also don’t have a breadth of experience from which to gauge new situations.

Remember - mentoring isn’t a process - it’s an evolution.

No comments: