energizing breakthrough performance

The Mentoring Persona

Author: ; Published: Nov 20, 2012; Category: Mentoring, Workforce Planning, Workforce Succession Planning; Tags: None; No Comments»

I am sometimes asked the question, “If someone is a great manager, does it also follow that they will be a great mentor?” The answer is….it all depends. There is no question that core managerial skills, e.g., communication, problem-solving, effective feedback, challenging and confronting, motivating, etc., are at the heart of effective mentoring. However, my experience is that effective mentors give expression to these management-relevant skills using a different persona – a persona which has a relaxed and reflective flavor, an almost Zen-like presence whereby the mentor has mastered the art of answering a mentee’s question with a well-chosen question, designed to challenge assumptions and stimulate new thinking, if not prompt a meaningful metamorphosis. Naturally, there’s more to it than that, but I abbreviate today. 

Many organizations use “machine-mediated” mentoring relying upon electronic protocols, prompts, and interactions rather than necessarily using a face-to-face approach.  To be sure, use of the computer for mentoring purposes need not preclude development and use of the mentoring persona, but it does heighten risk of near-mechanical or “transactional” advice-dispensing interactions between mentor and mentee, delivering “economy” mentoring if you will, rather than “premier” or “concierge”-level mentoring.  Training mentors in how to develop and express the mentoring persona ahead of their deployment as mentors can go a long way towards lifting the quality of your mentoring program right from the start. 

There are several reasons why higher-order mentoring matters to the mentor, the mentee, and the employing organization. The mentor both provides and derives greater satisfaction.  Part of the persona is to slow down and reflect rather than rely upon “quick-draw” manager-like responses. This is good for mentor and mentee alike. The mentee becomes more self-reliant as his or her leverage over the mentoring relationship increases. Thoughtful, comprehensive and reflective interactions define quality mentoring relationship and the mentoring program begins to institutionalize as you hoped it would, permitting the setting and attainment of more aggressive professional development goals and objectives. 

To the extent that such high-quality mentoring relationships are in abundance – be they in-person or virtual – the mentoring program momentum can be built and sustained.  Mentoring programs are sometimes launched and then collapse of their own weight, degenerating into “we tried that once,” or “mentoring: yeah, there’s an app for that.”  There are numerous reasons why fizzles happen but inadequate or incomplete preparation of the mentors is usually among the root causes of disappointment. With the passing of the baton to a new generation now fully underway, failures in mentoring are not an option.  Time’s a-wasting.

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