Mentoring, coaching, developing resourceful people, and improving performance is a complex activity combining skill, knowledge, patience, values, and engagement. It is not one trait but the combination together with commitment and intent, which builds successful mentoring relationships.
I have learnt [and still do] from many kind and wonderful people who have given their time and knowledge to help me.
My first true mentor was my Dad. My Dad was raised in the country; served with the air force; worked in the steel industry; was a skilled and thoughtful wood worker; gardener; and loved our national parks. My DNA is imbued with his values, approach and life observations.
In my early working life an exuberant and deeply compassionate Bruce Daff challenged, coached, and supported me through a very methodical process to build my skills for a role which was a stepping stone in my life. Bruce set clear development expectations with me, provided a series of assignments to widen my skills and competency, and ensured continuous feedback. The most valuable part of this experience was the ability to work closely with him, observing his approach; and values in decision making and problem solving.
Years later it was my wonderful experience to work with the late Professor Oscar Mink of the University of Texas. Oscar was the great synthesizer. With insight, wit and love, he shared his extraordinary knowledge, values, contacts, stories, and lifetime of experience across industries, disciplines, and countries. He taught me how to apply and combine his and others distilled knowledge with my own experiences and skills. I know many who shared his association and who were enriched by both his generosity of knowledge and his spirit.
It is not one trait but the combination together with commitment and intent, which builds successful mentoring relationships.
Both Bruce and Oscar demonstrated the benefits from learning with the experience of the mentor. They include:
- exposure to different ideas and perspectives
- insight into your own performance
- support in development
- avoiding mistakes
- intellectual stimulation from interaction with a trusted and knowledgeable person, and often
- increased visibility and an extension of influence within the organisation
Mentoring can occur throughout our working lives from induction, returning to work, in career or professional development, and particularly in leadership, management development, and managing change.
Where can you find a mentor?
Mentors can be found both in the workplace and outside it. But first you must be clear about the reason you want or need a mentor, and then you can better identify who might help.
If you’re already working for a company, ask your company to place you with a mentor as part of a formal program.
If you are just starting a business, wanting to do a business plan or marketing plan, you could start by using the mentoring services available through the various state governments.
If you are in your own business and want advice on how to get to the next stage and access new networks and channels, join an industry association and network. Search online for an association or go to an industry conference and find out who the main players are. Take the initiative yourself and just ask.
Alternatively, try the informal type of mentoring, and think about your family and friends networks. Networking organisations and university alumni’s are other good places to look for mentoring programs.
Read the press. Identify an entrepreneur or senior business person and call them up. Is it possible to pick their brains for half an hour on a specific topic? Ask them how they did it and for other examples. Then ask them could you call now and again for advice? Maybe when they are commuting home from work they could talk to you for half an hour. So don’t be shy and don’t limit yourself.
Mentoring is also good if you are facing difficult times. But maybe in this situation you could look at employing a business coach, management consultant to re-engineer processes, or an innovation coach to help with opportunity identification.
Finally, it’s important to observe the major ingredients in establishing successful Mentor/Mentee relationships, which are clarity of:
- Mentor/Mentee development relationship goals, roles, and responsibilities
- Expectations and limits of relationship for all involved
- Mentor key areas of experience, competence, and attitude both professionally and personally that contribute to Mentee development needs
- Amount and length of time for development relationship
- Measurement of development outcomes
I am deeply grateful for the many men and women who have given me the benefits of their experience and skill, and that I in turn am able to repay their investment by mentoring others.
Authored by Brian Bassham a Principle Consultant of Zenworkz