The value of Mentorship

Much has been written and discussed in the media about the value of “mentoring”: learning from someone who has already done what you want to know how to do. Like learning to adjust your car’s brakes by being shown how by an auto mechanic; or learning to play the violin by being taught by an accomplished violinist. (The following information comes from the “The Mentoring Tool Kit” developed by CareerLab.)

Mentoring is a developmental partnership between a Mentor, a leader with expertise in one or more areas, and a Mentee, an individual seeking learning and growth in those areas. It is a long-term, structured and mentee-driven process which focuses specifically on development.

This is accomplished through the advice, support and the voice of experience from a mentor, one who serves as a trusted counselor or teacher.

Mentoring is advocated as a method of professional development for both of those involved in the mentoring relationship. It is most effective as part of a personal developmental program, supplementing more formal training courses and complementing coaching. Mentoring facilitates the practice and application of newly acquired skills in a safe environment and with the benefit of someone else’s hard-won experience.

Why is Mentoring Important?

On a company-wide scale, mentoring is an effective method of developing leaders by leveraging diversity and fostering career development. It also creates a continuity of company culture, builds a stronger company connection and promotes knowledge-sharing.

At the individual level, mentoring enables employees to develop and hone new skills and capabilities as well as provides greater context, opportunities and exposure. According to a survey in ”War for Talent”, 6600 respondents in 77 companies ranked Mentoring, along with coaching and feedback, as the second most important aspect to their development.

Since most mentors start out as mentees – in order to learn how to perform the role as a mentor – it is helpful to measure your skills as mentor and mentee at various check-points during the mentoring partnership so as to increase your effectiveness.

Can I become an effective mentor?

Effective mentors have certain characteristics that make them successful as mentors. The table below is a mentor “self-assessment” tool to use throughout the mentor/mentee partnership at various check-points.

Use the following rating scale to rate yourself: 5-Strongly Agree; 4-Agree; 3- Neutral; 2- Disagree; 1- Strongly Disagree

__ I allow my mentee to take responsibility for driving the partnership.

__ I am an active listener and reiterate what I hear to ensure I understand what is being said.

__ I allow myself to be open and vulnerable to my mentee.

__ I am mindful of the impact of my own perceptions and biases.

__ I offer encouragement and support to my mentee while not avoiding honest conversations.

__ I realize I do not have all the answers and am willing to seek out others for advice.

__ I offer my knowledge and experience to my mentee without being patronizing.

__ I make an effort to solicit feedback on my mentoring style and adapt when needed.

__ I focus on asking open-ended and probing questions to allow my mentee to problem-solve.

__ I respect my mentee for being courageous enough to grow and develop.

__ I make a conscious effort to provide honest feedback that is supportive and not critical.

__ I encourage my mentee to explore a number of options and to take ownership of their decisions.

__ I offer my mentee challenging ideas.

__ I provide insight into our company’s/department’s organizational philosophy.

__ I look for opportunities where I can learn from my mentee. 

Can I become an effective mentee?

Effective mentees have certain characteristics that make them successful mentees. The table below is a mentee self-assessment tool to use throughout the partnership. Use this assessment tool throughout the mentoring process to increase your effectiveness.

Use the following rating scale: 5-Strongly Agree; 4-Agree; 3- Neutral; 2- Disagree; 1- Strongly Disagree 

 __ I take responsibility for driving the partnership.

__ I am an active listener and make a conscious effort to accept feedback.

__ I am open to different perspectives.

__ I am mindful of my own perceptions and biases.

__ I encourage honest and candid conversations.

__ I look to my mentor for guidance and suggestions, not answers.

__ I am conscientious to promote a trusting relationship in my words and my acts.

__ I proactively ask for feedback on my behaviors, perceptions and approach.

__ I provide honest and candid feedback about my mentor’s style and advice.

__ I acknowledge that my growth and development can be challenging.

__ I am committed to putting new learning into action.

__I am open to exploring a number of options and taking ownership of my decisions.

__I look for opportunities to stretch and take risks.

Hopefully, as you evaluate the level of your mentor/mentee skills during the mentorship process you will see your scores rise, not fall.

If you’re really brave, periodically have both partners in the mentor/mentee partnership provide the numbers they think the other deserves on their respective tests and rate each other!

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