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The facilitation of learning towards long term goals. Explanation of Mentoring.

Contributed by: Guy Bloom


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mentoringWhat is Mentoring? Description

Mentoring could be described as the facilitation of learning towards long term goals. Dr Beverly Kaye (2003) pronounced that ‘behind every successful person, there is one elementary truth: somewhere, somehow, someone cared about their growth and development, this person was a mentor’. In researching mentors one finds that the name of a mentor appears in the history of many successful people with an almost expectant frequency:

  • Freddie Laker mentored Richard Branson (Business).
  • Aristotle mentored Alexander the Great (Historic Politics).
  • Mel Gibson mentored Heath Ledger (Acting).
  • Eddy Merckx mentored Lance Armstrong (Cycle Racing).
  • Haydn mentored Beethoven and Mozart (Music).
  • Merlin was the mentor of Arthur (Legend).

To many people ‘informal mentoring is part of everyday life through friends, relatives, acquaintances and strangers, as helping is a common human experience’ (Pegg, 1999).

Cultural Aspects of Mentoring

Cultural aspects are highly relevant in the definition of mentoring, the traditional American 'career orientated' mentoring, termed 'sponsorship' has been unpalatable to the European market, the concept of a ‘father figure’ doesn’t sit well with the greater need for self-direction. The European 'developmental mentoring', with the focus on 'personal growth and learning' (Clutterbuck, 1998) has centered on ‘mutual support’, to European sensibilities this ‘feels’ a healthier option. Though whatever the point of reference one approaches defining the term, at its core mentoring encompasses a ‘strong learning theme’ (Egan, 2002) and acts as a ‘change catalyst’ (Johnson et al, 1999).

Professional Mentoring

The professional coach can have specific views that ‘mentoring invents a future based on the expertise and wisdom of another…mentors freely give advice and opinions regarding strategies and policies’ (Zeus and Skiffington, 2005). The primary differential for Mentoring is that it has ‘overtones of implying that the older and wiser mentors will be passing on their advice and also that they may be able to act as a patron to the mentee’ (Rogers, 2004), which can be directly linked to the etymology of the word itself, to the practitioner/academic mentoring is positioned much more around the ‘whole person and the big picture’ (Cranwell-Ward et al, 2004). Mentoring is the more strategic, organic and holistic process. ‘Mentors talk about their own personal experience. With experience, any leader can act as a mentor and offer advice and a hand up’ (Rosinski, 2003). Though as recently as the 1990’s leading writers in the field were stating that ‘it is necessary to dazzle the protégé with knowledge and experience’ (Clutterbuck, 1991). And that a mentor is a ‘professional person who is a wise’ (Caruso, 1992). A ‘career friend’ (Rolfe-Flett, 1996).

Recent view towards Mentoring

The approach of a new millennium engendered a more commercial viewpoint around the validity of mentoring and coaching. We see a shift to a focus on the mentor being ‘an experienced, objective sounding-board with the power to influence events’ (Conway, 1995) and the application of a learning organization alignment. ‘To help and support people to manage their own learning in order to maximize their potential, develop their skills, improve their performance and become the person they want to be’ (Parsloe, 1999). The move to 2000 identifies a shift to a more rounded and inclusive approach, with the mentor as a person who, ‘embodies a whole spectrum of roles’ (Connor et al, 2000). A person who ‘provides guidance and support, facilitates, enables’ (Henley Management College, 2000). Most recently this has been extended to the mentors role being ‘holistic’, based on ‘reflective learning’, being ‘akin to pastoral care’ (Clutterbuck, 2004) and being ‘big picture’ (Cranwell et al, 2004).

Company definitions of Mentoring

Interestingly within each business that identifies itself as operating a mentor program, there appears the need to define for a niche internal audience. So different companies have subtlety different descriptions of mentoring.

  • For Avaya, 'Mentoring is a term used to help, advise and guide employees through the complexities of business'.
  • At EDS, 'Mentoring is a mutual learning partnership in which individuals assist each other with personal and career development through coaching, role modeling, counseling, sharing knowledge and providing emotional support'.
  • Within Abbey, 'Mentoring is a relationship, not just a procedure or activity, where one person professionally assists the development of another outside of the normal manager/subordinate relationship'.
  • For Bennetts, 'A mentor is a person who achieves a one-to-one developmental relationship with a learner and one whom the learner identifies as having enabled personal growth to take place'. (Cranwell-ward et al, 2004).

The question whether Coaching is a subset of mentoring indicates that appropriate roles may change as the mentoring relationship develops…. coach, facilitator, sounding board, critical friend, networker, role model. (Connor et al, 2000), giving the impression that mentoring sits in the lead position with a subset of aligned roles; with non academic writers also suggesting that mentoring is the model for coaching and that mentoring as a working title is too formal, thus they utilize the word coach as it is a more readily palatable (Hudson, 1999).

Origin of Mentoring. HistoryOrigin of Mentoring. History

The concept of a mentor stretches back through recorded time, the term Mentor first appears in Homer’s Odyssey (875BC:Conjecture) where Mentor is charged by King Odysseus to watch over his son Telemachus and his palace while he was fighting in the Trojan War. Telemachus was Athena's favorite (Rieu, 1946) stating that she would 'always stand by Telemachus's side and guard him throughout all his adventures'. Athena, the goddess of 'War & Wisdom', took Mentor's form so as to guide counsel and empower both Odysseus and his son at various points in the Odyssey.

On studying the etymology of the word ‘mentor’ we find it originates from the Greek: Men-'one who thinks', 'tor' masculine suffix (Klein, 1967). Linking this to the actual guidance coming from a woman, we can deduce that the creation of the word relates directly to the time in history when men were a dominant power, by hierarchical rather than intellectual capacity. This use of the word mentor as a ‘trusted guide’ has proliferated to this day.

The first recorded modern usage of the term can be traced to a 1699 book entitled Les Adventures de Telemaque, by the French writer Francois Fenelon (Roberts, 1999). In this book the lead character is that of Mentor, ‘Telemaque’ itself was an imitation of Homer’s classic The Odyssey. The word mentor did not seem to appear in the English language before 1750 (Anderson and Shannon, 1995), the Oxford English Dictionary stating that the word was first used in 1750 by Chestere in ‘Letters to Son, 8th March’. It is this timeline that would lead some to believe that mentoring disappeared and re-emerged, when in actuality, regardless of its title, the process has been consistent throughout European history. Starting with the ongoing monastic mentoring as written about by Saint Bede, editor of the critical edition of De Corpore. The monastic mentor continues throughout history to this day. It is recorded in 1511 that Luther and his monastic mentor, Johann von Staupitz sat and discussed multiple themes (Christianity today, 2006). The ‘apprentice to the craftsman’ was also a prevalent phenomenon throughout the industrial age. In 1640 apprenticeship actually meant to be ‘indentured’, which was akin to ownership. An apprentice served up to 12 years or until the age of 21.

Today in comparison the focus is on competence as opposed to time served. Generally ‘little consideration is given to the British apprentice system doubtless owing to the lack of evidence’ (Thomas, 1929). Though instruction of sons by fathers is admittedly ancient, there was also a formal method by which a young person would be taught by the master craftsman, though interestingly the young apprentice was considered a chattel; which would indicate a less than equal relationship, which years later is demonstrated in the ‘developmental vs. sponsored’ forms of mentoring. Mentoring made its preview via Levinson’s (1978) work ‘The Season's of a man’s life’, with its reference to a 'life cycle', it acted as a catalyst for the 1990’s in mentoring on a wider forum. This work argued ‘the need for mentors to improve the transition from 'young adulthood' to 'authoritive maturity'. Levinson’s developmental theory consists of universal stages or phases that extends from the infancy state to the elderly state. During the last decade there has been a distinct parallel between the perceived validity of mentoring and coaching, with writers reporting a 'paucity' of information on the theory of the mentoring role (Wynch, 1986) and cautioning against the abundant 'pragmatic' activity around mentoring is at odds to the scarcity of 'empirical' activity (Little, 1990). The defining of Mentoring as a term does little to increase the confidence of the potential client in this regard.

Usage of Mentoring. Applications

  • Developmental mentoring.
  • Sponsored mentoring.
  • Workplace mentoring.
  • Life mentoring.
  • Peer mentoring.

Steps in the Mentoring. Process

A Mentoring process could have the following typical steps (phases):

  1. Confirm developmental need Stage.
  2. Facilitate self-management of learning Stage.
  3. Support learning Stage.
  4. Assist in evaluation.

Strengths of Mentoring. Benefits

  • Enables the long term patronage/development of an individual.
  • Demonstrates personal/corporate commitment.
  • High ROI (Return On Investment) in relation to attracting and maintaining talent.

Limitations of Mentoring. Disadvantages

  • When perceived as being controlled by the a Head Office function or highly monitored, the process can become highly mechanical and false, thus losing its inherent value.
  • Can allow the reinforcement of 'face fitting', if mentors are able to cherry pick who they mentor.
  • Try telling your boss she is a lousy mentor!

Assumptions of Mentoring. Conditions

  • Mentoring is a hugely complex arena, of which this information scratches the surface.
  • By its own definition mentoring is a process rather then a model. As such models enable mentoring activity.
  • Mentoring is a complex activity, with the potential for great reward or devastation to a business and or individual. If this is being considered within a business context, utilize the help of professionals.

Book: David Clutterbuck - Everyone needs a mentor -

Mentoring Forum (21 topics) Help
  Do Organizations Know what it Takes to MENTOR New Personnel?  - Companies should exercise an unyielding commitment to increasing the availability of on-the-job developmental experiences through mentoring. Uncompromising support for the advancement of knowledge and skills should be demonstrated through all ...      
  The Effect of Values of Society Upon Mentoring  - It is true that we are naturally responsive to the values of the society where we grow up.
Different communities may have different cultural values. We do not see the same value system all over the world:
1. In some cultures, the values of ...
  Mentoring of MBA Students  - We have recently started a mentoring process for our MBA students.
It definitely helps them to share their concerns regarding various issues agitating their mind.
A mentor, through his experiences, can definitely build self confidence in ...
  Creating a Mentoring Matrix  - Can anybody suggest me how to make mentoring matrix for an organisation? Thanks....      
  Can One Combine Networking for a Job with Mentoring?  - Can one approach an individual and ask this person to mentor you, within an organization that you hope to be employed with?...      
  Mentor Traits and Requirements  - In the workplace, FEAR often stops good mentoring; holding on to information, they may want my job.
A good mentor has to have the following attributes / traits (the culture of a company can influence this and should):
- Openne...
  Mentoring in Various Cultures  - In African culture especially in our region, mentoring is very important for the growth of a child. It is carried out at an early stage or let me say unconsciously by the parents, aunties or uncles of the child.
Mentoring brings about goo...
  Mentoring ≠ Monitoring!  - I have recently been mentored by a variety of people and found that their skills in this role varied greatly. The perception of the role of mentor differs dependent on the person doing the mentoring. Mentors need to take into account the needs of the...      
  Mentoring Hinders Innovation  - Where mentoring helps a new member of the organization a lot in knowing the established practices and processes, it closes the doors of innovation. A free thinking mind can come with new approaches and ideas, so that the existing practices and...      
  What is Mentoring? Mentoring is ...  - You cannot mentor unless you love... Mentoring is a passion for humanity. So Mentoring is Loving....      
  Formalise, Connect, Invest and Reinforce  - In organisations where knowledge sharing is not a culture, mentorship can become a challenge. One might need to assist the process by formalising, connecting, investing and reinforcing:
1. Formalise through KPIs and contracts
2. C...
  'Silent' Mentoring...  - Sometimes it is better to become a mentor for someone without even telling them...
Create opportunities for empowerment, enablement and engagement for your mentee in your organisation through yourself and other trusted and well positioned...
  Leaders are Likely to Be Good Mentors  - Mentoring needs some basic qualities of leadership and hence to be successful as a mentor, (s)he should have been a leader for some time and have acquired the experience to mentor. He should take a role more of an advisor than a manager, and empower ...      
  Pass on the Knowledge  - What has been learned by the older generation must be passed on to the younger one for the the survival of the race. At the our university, we use mentoring as a key component in the learning process....      
  Formalized versus Instinctive Mentoring  - Successful mentoring is always instinctive. Mentoring cannot be a kind of duty only. It needs strong commitment. As for quality there is a great difference between the performance of an appointed mentor (who's just doing a job) and a natural m...      
  Mentoring is Giving a Person a Passion of Following his own Way  - If we say that each great person has had a great teacher (mentor), than mentorship is not about training to technical skills; it is about Dao (way), about passionateness. A great mentor should give to the person understanding, feeling of its w...      
  The Ultimate Mentor...  - The best mentor is one's own father or mother....      
  Why is Mentoring Under-utilized?  - Mentoring can be one of the most effective training and empowering tools available. I am concerned as to why the mentoring process is so underutilized.
Most mentoring in companies takes place on an informal basis. More experienced ...
  Mentoring for Students  - How can mentoring help a person during his/her education?...      
  Mentoring Names from Indian History (mythology)  - How is it that Krishna's name does not figure any where as a historical evidence on mentoring? Anyone who knows about the Mahabharata or The Bhagavat Gita would probably assign Lord Krishna as one of the best suited names of a Mentor....      

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