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For me, life is somewhat of a relay race. Growing through the stages of childhood, through adulthood, and finally to leading others I have always thought about succession plans and making sure there was someone in place to replace me. I’ve also always tried to have one or many mentors and one or many mentees and the rewards for both are tremendous. While living in a small town I was the computer guy, so as I became more known and busier I found a mentee to grow as a replacement for me. Like a relay race, I passed the baton to my mentee and tried to make that person better than I had been, or at least make it easier for them to travel a path I had been down.
Most always the approach I use includes coaching, mentoring, and now, apprentice. These are similar but the way I explain the difference is:
- Coaching is providing immediate feedback to a unique and self-contained scenario. Consider a scenario where you have a junior person or peer join you in a meeting and they say or do something that throws the meeting off. A coach would speak to the other person in private, providing feedback specific to that unique instance. The feedback would ideally include encouragement, analysis on what happened, and corrective guidance or guidance on how things could have been done differently.
- Mentoring is working with a person in an area you have expertise in. This typically includes a request for mentorship by a mentee, initial analysis, setting goals, and helping the person grow to the goal level set. The mentor may or may not be an expert in the area they are mentoring someone in, but will be able to help the mentee accelerate their trajectory towards the goal. For instance, my human dynamics skills may be better than that of my peers and one of them may be better at building models that are understandable. I can mentor them by discussing why they feel they need growth and create a plan to help them grow. While I won’t provide specific answers to questions, I will ask question to make them think differently about something and send them pointers to books and articles that may provide insight. I may even introduce them to someone that can provide insight in a specific area.
- Apprenticeship is more of a master taking on an apprentice and helping them grow into a person that resembles what they are or have been in the past. For instance, one of my mentees is on their way to becoming a great writer. While I may not be a great writer I do write, have written many books and am a professional writer. In some professions, apprenticeship is still the preferred (or only way) to enter the field. For SEI we are setting up apprenticeship to help people entering the workforce or shifting careers to be successful.
There are several great resources to help start you on your journey to becoming a great mentor. Learning to mentor others and by being mentored is a first step and you will quickly find what you like and dislike. Then you can use the information to craft your own mentoring style. I strongly suggest finding someone local to mentor you but if not consider visiting http://www.mentspot.com/ to find a mentor or mentee.
A great place to start researching mentoring steps is Mentor: National Mentoring Partnership at http://www.mentoring.org/. Specifically, start by looking under About Mentor/The Value of Mentoring. Next, visit http://www.businessballs.com and search for mentoring. There is a lot of great insight and tools provided including approaches to setting up mentoring programs. Finally, from my experience:
o Invest the time to understand why and what the mentee is trying to accomplish.
o Have several face-to-face meetings over a short period of time to determine if the relationship is a good fit for you both and there is a rapport. Start with an assessment of where they are and where they want to get, then set a timeline.
o Provide pointers to information that will help your mentee grow and open your network to them as needed to give them exposure and maximize their growth velocity.
· Do Not:
o Enter a relationship without setting expectations for what you will provide and what you expect from the mentee.
o Start a relationship in a virtual environment (if possible) and do not start without a series of tightly-scheduled meetings.
o Give your mentee the answer - rather ask them questions that make them think about things in a different manner. As you recommend they read or research an area, tell them why and what they should be looking for, and if you can, give specific chapters or topic areas to read rather than just suggesting a book, website or paper to read.
Mentoring others has always been very rewarding to me personally and has also helped me grow in ways and at speeds I could not imagine. Try it!