So when a recruit walks into the office for the first time, or when a person starts a new venture, they start it with dreams, aspirations, and excitement.
They want to learn, they want to perform and they want to prove.
At this time, a helpful hand to hold on to can prove to be such a boon.
An experienced person who has walked the same path as they have set out on, an experienced person who has knowledge and understanding of the areas that they are working on, the problems they can face, and the ways to find solutions for those problems, – such a person can guide them, and help them perform better.
In any organization, where they have developed and implemented a mentoring program, the transition of a new employee into the organization happens in a seamless manner.
Any new entrepreneur who has identified a mentor and has periodic discussions with the mentor regarding his plans and strategies can achieve faster and better results than someone who has not.
Thus, the art of mentoring enables a seamless and faster growth process.
The art of mentoring is the transfer of knowledge from an experienced and successful individual to a novice who will benefit from that knowledge and experience.
The knowledge could be technical, operational, plan and strategy-related, or people-related. It is something that can immensely benefit the person and save him time and energy trying to gain that knowledge.
Every successful person in any field will have a handful of people whom they have recognized as their mentors.
They need not have had a face-to-face conversation or dialogue with that mentor. The wisdom of their mentors’ guides and inspires them throughout their journey. Hence the art of mentoring is not always dependent on face-to-face dialogue or communication.
A person can be guided and mentored even by the work and wisdom of someone who has lived long ago. For instance, the words of wisdom of Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi, and others, guide and mentor many young minds even today.
What Is Mentorship / Mentorship Meaning
Mentorship, in simple terms, is the practice of a more experienced person guiding, teaching, and inspiring a less experienced person on areas of which he has more knowledge.
There are at least two people involved and the two of them are at different levels in terms of knowledge or experience in a particular area. One of them is eager to share that knowledge and the other is keen on learning something new.
As it turns out, the relationship between a mentor and his mentee is often not limited to the transfer of knowledge. The mentor, through the process of sharing knowledge, inspires and motivates the mentee to achieve his goals. It also involves support, guidance, and communication to ensure the person tries his best.
Oftentimes, the mentor is a role model for the mentee and his success becomes a huge inspiration for the mentee to succeed.
There are so many examples of mentorship around us. A teacher can be a mentor, guiding her student about the college courses. A parent can be a mentor, teaching the child his life lessons. An older child can mentor his or her younger siblings on matters of job and career.
Mentorship in organizations is goal-based and has a defined set of objectives to be met. The mentor acts as a guide who helps his junior make decisions regarding his projects and career moves.
The mentor also acts as a liaison between the mentee and the management. The organization’s vision, culture, and practices are communicated and engraved into the mentee’s psyche by the mentor.
The mentee’s ideas, concerns, etc., that he cannot share with his manager are communicated to the management by the mentor.
Thus mentorship becomes a parallel means of communication between the management and the employees, via the mentors.
In spite of fixed goals and objectives, mentorship often becomes an informal relationship based on trust, common ideologies, and visions.
Types Of Mentoring
We can use guidance, knowledge, and support from all walks of our life. This guidance and support can be received in a formal, objective-based setting, or during an informal conversation.
Based on how we seek this information, we can broadly classify mentoring as:
Formal Mentoring and Informal Mentoring
Formal Mentoring: In this process, meteors and mentees are chosen based on their skills and knowledge levels. Considering the areas that the mentee can benefit from, the mentor has a timeline and methodology to follow.
The transfer of knowledge happens at a pre-decided pace and the feedback from the mentee and the mentee’s performance becomes a yardstick for measuring the success of this program.
This works best at a workplace where the transfer of knowledge is purely technical and is measurable. The focus is on the mentee’s development so that his goals align with the goals of the organization. Mentor’s role is to ensure this alignment.
Informal Mentoring: This is a gradual process that evolves over time. This could be between two people who randomly start exchanging ideas and thoughts.
The transfer of knowledge and expertise happens as a part of informal communication. One of them assumes the role of the mentor and the other, that of the mentee.
The informal atmosphere leads to more personal interaction and what the mentee learns could be much more than just technical, measurable knowledge.
This can be between friends, acquaintances, relatives, or colleagues. The goal here can be both career and personal. The overall development of the individual becomes the priority.
The other types of mentoring include:
Peer Mentoring: In this type of mentoring, colleagues in the same rank assume the role of mentors to help each other and have a sense of community and facilitate each other’s learning and development.
Reverse Mentoring: In this type of mentoring, the mentee ends up mentoring the mentor on areas that he has a better understanding than the mentor. For instance, a junior colleague could educate a senior colleague on social media marketing and its trends.
Virtual Mentoring: In this type of mentoring, the mentor and mentee do not meet each other face to face. They communicate via emails, phone calls, or video calls.
In today’s world, all mentoring practices are moving into a virtual mode and the biggest advantage of this is that demography does not restrict a person from transferring knowledge or inspiring another person. The world is the limit and any mentor is just a click away from us.
Questions To Ask A Mentor
When you do question a mentor, the answers you receive depend on the questions one asks. Therefore, it is important to plan ahead, research to ask the mentor the right questions.
Getting the technical queries answered is the more straightforward part of the mentoring process. There is a systematic process to be followed when it comes to technical questions.
Understanding a concept, trying out a new strategy, learning a new algorithm, etc., from the mentor can happen with direct questions about the concept, strategy, or the algorithm.
When it comes to understanding the journey or the process, and handling the various situations that can arise during the path, the right questions can give a lot of valuable inputs from the mentor.
Hence even in an informal mentoring process, it is necessary to have a definite set of questions for the mentor.
It is important to frame questions about the journey of the mentor, like:
- What made the mentor choose a certain business or career path?
- How did he get his first business proposal or client?
- What did he do to stay afloat during difficult times?
- Where did he invest his money and why?
- What were the key factors that helped him make a decision?
- How did he choose his partners or project members?
- How did he prepare for change?
It is also important to ask the mentor about the mentee’s situation. Questions like:
- What do you think about the current economic condition?
- What would you do differently if you were to start your career today?
- How would you handle a situation like the one we are in?
- What technology would you invest in today?
- What do you think of today’s college pass-outs?
Questions should be specific and direct. Questions like:
- How can I prepare myself for a client meeting?
- How can I make my presentation skills better?
- Which career choice do you think has better prospects?
- Where can I market my products better?
It is important to ask questions regarding work-life balance. Questions like:
- How did you manage to make time for your family?
- How did your kids react to your travel and time away from family?
- How did you draw a fine line between family and work?
- Did you feel guilty about missing a promotion because of the family?
- Did you feel guilty about being away from your family?
- Is it possible to have a balance between work and life?
Benefits Of Mentorship / Importance Of Mentoring
The benefits of mentorship are many.
A mentor is assigned to recruits in an organization so he can be guided through his journey in office.
The mentor helps the new employee be aware of the organization’s objectives, the career path in the organization, the training to be undertaken, etc. The mentor helps the employee gel in with the organization and also works on his personal goals and objectives.
The importance of mentoring when a person sets out on a new venture is beyond words. A mentor becomes his beacon of light.
Learning from the mentor’s experience and expertise, the mentee feels motivated to do better. The tips and tricks of the trade that the mentee learns from his mentor can save him from making mistakes.
In an organizational environment, a mentor helps the mentee plan his career path. The transfer of knowledge that happened between the mentor and mentee is a valuable asset for the mentee as well as for the organization.
It helps in succession planning and ensuring continuity in the organization.
The bond that forms between a mentor and a mentee is beneficial for both parties. One learns from the other and the other also learn by sharing his knowledge. It gives him a different perspective on the whole thing.
This mutually beneficial relationship has helped many successful people become and remain successful.
Mentoring Vs Coaching
Both mentoring and coaching are processes that involve two people intending to help a person to improve his performance and meet his personal or professional goals.
Coaching is a formal interaction between a coach and a coachee performed with a specific objective in mind. Each coaching session has set objectives and the coach uses a pre-defined methodology to help the coachee. Each coaching session is documented and accounted for feedback.
Mentoring can be a formal or informal interaction between a mentor and a mentee where the mentee benefits in various ways. It may or may not be concerning a fixed set of objectives.
It can take place anywhere and may not always be documented. Mentoring could be done for a long period of time and the relationship grows and matures with time. Some people define mentoring as a more holistic approach to a person’s development.
Coaching is a process where, by asking relevant questions, the coach tries to get answers to the problems that the coachee is facing from the coachee himself.
The idea here is that the person already knows the answers, and by asking the right questions, the person will figure out the answers himself. In the process of coaching, the focus is on enabling and empowering the coachee to make decisions and solve problems.
Mentoring however is a process where the mentee asks questions to the mentor, and the mentor, from his experience and expertise, answers the questions put forth. The mentor advises the mentee on the courses of action that can be taken.
The focus, in both mentoring and coaching, is on asking the right questions to get the desired results.
Both mentoring and coaching motivate the person to do better in life. A coach does this by listening, supporting, and enabling. A mentor may also do it by leading by example.
Experience and expertise is a mentor’s strength. A coach relies on his methodologies and practices to make the coachee self-reliant.
While choosing to accept a mentoring service or a coaching service, it is important to know the similarities and differences between the two.
Contributors: Kazim Abasali & Deepa Kadavakat