Fifty Shades of Mentoring and 4 Ways to Succeed

It was a dark and stormy night. Secretly, she wanted to cancel their mentoring meeting. She was scared. Scared about driving during the storm and also that if she didn’t meet with her mentor this evening she would miss the opportunity to get timely feedback and support regarding a strategic assignment she had been given by the CEO. It had taken weeks to agree on a date for this meeting. Her mentor’s time was precious. She pushed her chair back from the desk, stood up, looked around and took three deep cleansing breaths. Suddenly…

Do I have your attention? I hope so because I want to discuss the various shades of mentoring. By that, I mean the variation and differences when it comes to defining the term itself.

The fact is that there are not just 50 shades of mentoring but over 500 shades of mentoring (and still counting). These definitions are based on assumptions about the purpose and outcomes of mentoring, and the role of the mentor and mentee.

The term “mentoring” covers the panoply of development activities that go on in the workplace. It is often overused, misused, and underutilized. There is sometimes resistance to label any new mentoring program when previous mentoring initiatives have been unsuccessful. So, mentoring is presented under the banner of “coaching” or “advising” or “learning.”

The result might be a very low-level of mentoring where mentoring becomes a series of transactions rather than a dynamic continuum of conversation. The mentee, having never been in a mentoring relationship, comes to it looking for advice about how to solve day-to-day problems. The mentor, who has little time to spare, sees the need and looks to fill it quickly by giving the right answers. Both mentor and mentee are participating in the relationship with differing assumptions driving their interaction.

Clarify Assumptions

Since we all act on our assumptions it is important to clarify and check them out to make sure they are valid. If they are not, they will compromise the trust in a relationship, erode communication and upend it.

For example, suppose I come to a mentoring relationship assuming that my mentor will “take me under his wing,” get me more exposure in my company, and pave the way up the corporate ladder by giving me coveted special assignments, and make sure I am successful. My mentor may come into our relationship with a whole different set of assumptions about the ends and means of the relationship. He might be assuming that I am going to drive the relationship, bring issues to the table, and ask for what I need. This scenario is a recipe for disaster unless my mentor and I take the time to talk about what mentoring is and is not.

This is a blogpost from Lois Zachary and written in the blog «Center for mentoring excellence» and she is the President of Leadership Development Services, LLC. and an international expert on mentoring and leadership development. She has written several books on mentoring. The newest one is The Mentor’s Guide: Facilitating Effective Learning Relationships .
Other books include Creating a Mentoring Culture: The Organization’s Guide, and The Mentee’s Guide: Making Mentoring Work for You.

So where are the 4 ways to succeed you may ask, well this blogpost has a «part 2», and there it will be, stay tuned.

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