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Friday, June 29, 2012

Positive Leadership: Great Mentors

Most of us can identify at least one person, sometimes more, who has served us as a valued mentor.  This is or was an individual whose fundamental function was to help us–the newcomer–into an organisation, a profession or the world.  Mentors are traditionally accomplished individuals with extensive knowledge and experience in their field who play a supportive role in overseeing and encouraging the development of less experienced, knowledgeable individuals with the expressed purpose of facilitating a mentee’s personal and professional development.

There are several mentor characteristics that form the foundation for establishing and exercising an effective mentoring relationship.  Rather than behaviours displayed, these qualities are personal traits and intentions possessed and displayed by the mentor.  Because a mentor becomes much more that a ‘career coach’–something more akin to a trusted friend and confidant–the quality of the mentor’s character becomes a primary issue as does their purposes for choosing to mentor.

Before one can enter the role of a mentor, this person must be someone with a very high degree of credibility. A mentee is not likely going to pay much heed to someone who lacks credibility in the areas for which they seek mentoring.  Credibility may come from a significant amount of experience, a reputation for achieving outstanding results, having extensive and current knowledge of the field, and being known as an active learner as demonstrated by reading, attendance at seminars, continued coursework, professional memberships, and the like.

A second critical characteristic is integrity.  For a mentee to form a bond of trust and respect, a mentor must adhere to codes of both personal and professional ethics.  Honesty and accuracy of information are hallmarks of a relationship that serves a mentee well.  A mentor is often required to inform a mentee of things the mentee may not want to hear.  But if the mentee believes the mentor has their best interest at heart and is a person of integrity, the information will be received as it was intended.

A third quality shared by effective mentors is the perspectives they hold of their roles as mentors.  Effective mentors see the primary purpose of a mentoring relationship as assisting mentees in becoming competent, contributing members of a society or profession.  Therefore, effective mentors interact with mentees in ways intended to inspire mentees to want to become better–both as people and professionals.To this end, effective mentors offer support and guidance to their mentees’ attempts to set stretch goals.   This may require the mentor to make the mentee feel secure enough to take appropriate risks in order to achieve goals, gain needed experience, or develop important professional skills.  In many cases, this means giving mentees the confidence to rise above their inner doubts and fears.

Finally, effect mentors will often present opportunities and challenges for mentees that they may not have had on their own.  In doing so, mentors provide the means for mentees to take action toward achieving their goals, gain necessary experience to understand the significance of the role demands of a professional, and begin to build a resume of skills and accomplishments that will serve the mentee as they build their professional career.

Research provides strong evidence that there are a myriad of benefits accrued, not only by the mentee, but the mentor as well. Potential benefits derived by a mentor from an effective mentoring relationship include: a) increased social status in the organisation, b) improved job performance c) significant personal learning, and d) quality social interaction and satisfaction.  But to achieve the benefits of an effective mentoring relationship, one must first possess the requisite traits and qualities that will serve as the foundation for good mentoring. 

Do you have what it takes?


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