Dogfaces are just normal, everyday people -- they are the "everyman" that makes the world operate. Click on the image for more info.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Do You Have A Mentor?

What do I mean by "mentor"? Well, the definition of a mentor is: a trusted friend, counselor, or teacher, usually a more experienced person. Back in July, I wrote a post called "No Leader Is Perfect" where I touched on the need for a mentor (you can read that post through this link). I'd like to expand on the whole idea of a mentor today.

I believe we all should have a mentor figure in our lives, someone who we can count on us to give good solid advice and be there when we need them. Here are a few questions and my thoughts regarding each:

1. What are the main duties of the mentor toward the person being mentored (let's call that person the "mentee")?

  • TRUST (if this isn't present, the relationship should not exist)
  • Honesty
  • Empathy
  • Strong, active listening
  • Guidance
  • Coaching

2. What are NOT duties of mentors?

  • Fixing problems
  • Inserting themselves in the mentee's chain of command
  • Being a spy for the mentee's boss

3. Is it possible for two individuals to positively mentor each other? I think so, especially if each of the individual's strengths are a little different. In fact, there are some distinct advantages to two people mentoring each other in that they can build a strong bond of trust and really understand how each other ticks.

4. Should a boss be a mentor? No, no, no. Was I clear enough? NO. I know there are people who would disagree with me here and I've had bosses who thought they should be my mentor. It's just that bosses are supposed to help fix problems whereas mentors should help their mentees see how to fix problems themselves. Plus, there may be times when the mentee needs advice on a conflict or issue with the boss. That can't really happen when the boss is the mentor. Additionally, when you have a great boss and a great mentor, then you have two really good sources of guidance instead of the one.

5. Should a subordinate ever mentor a boss? What? Are you kidding me? This is a real question, though. Team members can definitely give their bosses their opinions and their advice, but it is totally inappropriate and unprofessional for team members to mentor their bosses.

6. Can I have more than one mentor? I believe individuals can have several advisers especially if the individuals are managers or leaders, because they probably have varying responsibilities that different experienced people could help with. Mentors are different than advisers, though. Mentors build deeper relationships with their mentees. There's an element of openness, trust, and honesty that mentors should garner and that advisers probably cannot. So I think, that individuals should limit the number of mentors they have to one or two, as a rule of thumb. There's no problem at all with mentors having more than one person who they mentor, though.

7. Should the mentor be older than the mentee? The mentor should be more experienced and, in most cases, that makes the mentor an older person, but not necessarily.

What other questions are there regarding the mentor relationship? Is there anything to add? Do you have a mentor? Do you think having a mentor is valuable?

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.