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    How to Maintain a Successful Mentoring

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    With the development of more organic and less formal organizational structures, the role of mentors has shifted with these changes. Unlike previously where mentors where seen as formal trainers who taught newcomers the processes and got them acquainted with the cultures and the systems within the organization. Which required good interpersonal skills and a good knowledge of the activity or tasks the mentee would have to undertake and be able to effectively relay or demonstrate the tasks or activities to the mentee.

    As opposed to more recently where a mentor would have to be more of an emotional counselor and demonstrate more skills than were traditionally required from mentors in the past, such as being emotionally sensitive and sometimes employing diversity mentoring and culture mentoring skills. The term Mentor is derived from Greece. Levinson et al defined the mentor as “someone who is ordinarily several years older, a person of greater experience seniority in the world the young man is entering”This shows that not all mentoring takes place on an organizational level and in many instances is less organic and more mechanic within organizations.

    Mentoring also differs depending on the organization the mentee is entering and the capacity that they are entering that organization, mentoring is extremely prevalent in the education and training of young people in this context Murray and Owen define it as “a supportive relationship between a youth or young adult and someone who offers support, guidance and concrete assistance” The is an interesting shift in emphasis when organizational mentoring takes the place educational mentoring the focus changes from the personal nature of the mentor and the mentee to the structure and the processes within that relationship. This really begs the question “which mentoring style brings about the best results?” but in order to answer that we must analyze what exactly we want to achieve from the mentoring?”.

    What facilitated mentoring does is set out to encapsulate the relationships and influence that develop in informal mentoring and transfer it to the organisational framework. One of the reasons organizations influence mentoring because it is a cost-effective way training and developing, mentors relive the line managers of the responsibility of training the new employees, rather than run induction course managers opt to assign new staff to a mentor which can assist them. Accompanied with the current shift towards more organic organisation structures and more emphasis on the learning organisation, mentoring provides a more all round experience to the mentees by getting them confident with their role with the organisation. It also improves communication throughout the organisation by allowing mentees to give feedback and learn in a not so formal fashion which helps people feel more relaxed and develops the formal and informal culture of the organisation.

    From the organisations standpoint mentoring is a cost effective way of training and developing new staff, and it helps retain existing staff by giving them more responsibility. It is argued that with the underlying causes behind facilitated mentoring lying in cost effectiveness, does this underlying tenet prevent a real chemistry existing between the mentor and the mentee. This is not necessarily the case in all organisations, the Metropolitan police force (a non-profit organisation) have recognised the need for mentoring and have incorporated it both internally and externally to assist them in their day to day work. The Metropolitan Police have started a mentoring scheme for young ethnic officers by pairing them with a mentor from the same background, to help them get prepared for the job and also to act as counselors and to deal with any reservations they may have about joining the force. This type of mentoring scheme is based more around relationship forming and offering more psycho-social support and is less process orientated.

    So as I have just highlighted there are some differences in the aims and the goals organisations have when they implement mentoring schemes. There is no clear cut idea as to what the most effective way of mentoring is, it depends on many surrounding factors primarily what do we want to achieve from this relationship. Mentoring schemes are implemented with different intentions in mind, we have talked candidly about mentoring being used to help the mentee fit in and become relaxed. But mentoring can also be used to promote careers, it really depends on the management culture of the organisation.

    Reginald Hamilton cites 5 different approaches to mentoring, each approach is best suited to a different desired outcome: Sponsorship System – Special projects, mentors have vested interest in outcome of the tutelage. Quite a paternalistic relationship best suited for those seeking to promote their career Peer Group – usually experienced well motivated staff, whose goal is to get the mentee acquainted with the culture of the organisation. Quite an informal relationship more designed towards networking.  Self Development – usually confidence builders to help young people realise the skills the corporate world requires of them.

    In many cases the goal of this type of scheme are usually insight and self actualisation.  Role Model – Not planned, but the mentors attitudes and approach are generally passed down to the mentee. The role model is not planned and is a natural occurrence and is best suited for those looking to settle in and eventually promote their careers.  Manager As Mentors – this is basically an enhancement of the sponsorship approach, where managers check with mentors on how the mentee is progressing.

    Again best designed for career enhancement. With the ever increasing emphasis companies are putting on to lifelong learning and being learning organisation being a mentor develops peoples awareness of the situations that surround them. Organisations giving non-managerial staff the opportunity to become mentor also acts as a confidence builder. For example If management have acknowledged me as being a good member of staff that’s why they have asked me to be a mentor to help other members of staff become as good as me. Although mentoring, in its basic form is an informal process and completely homogenic, mentors require training.

    Mentoring is a one-one relationship which essentially develops into a confidential trusting relationship and transcends just a parent teacher relationship. Mentor and mentee relationships can be very fragile and easily determine the mentees future within the organisation, because of this mentors have to be trained in the necessary skills required. It has been debated to what level should mentors be trained, it has been argued that 1000hrs (the same amount of time to train counselors) is sufficient but this amount is rarely practiced. Ragins study showed that most organisations spend anywhere in between 2 – 6 days training staff to become mentors. This raises the question that if the training time is so small compared to that of counselors whose job roles are somewhat similar. What is the quality of the mentors being trained?To properly answer this question there must be a way of monitoring and evaluating the success of the scheme.

    Michael Zey following his research into mentoring practices said “program success is much dependant on the training given to mentors and proteges. The training given to mentors must attempt to familiarise them with both the techniques of mentoring and the overall goals of the mentoring program. ” When training monitors it must be made explicitly clear to them;#61623; The purpose of the programme ;#61623; The roles of Mentor and protege;#61623; Duration Of the Programme;#61623; Mentor/Protege relationship ground rules;#61623; Where to go if mentor/mentee is in trouble;#61623; Crucial importance of keeping agreed meetings;#61623; How to Most effectively get your point across(Brian Gay 1999)This need for training also creates a potential threat to in-house training, If 1000hrs is required to create an effective mentor then management will often not have the time to train themselves and others in mentoring. This could inturn have an effect on the amount of people that have the opportunity to be mentored or an influx of professional mentors who do mentoring for a living. However it is also questioned “How good does a mentor have to be?”.

    Like the idea of a good enough manager’ there is the idea of a good enough mentor’ which could explain the small amount of training mentors have to go through, under the premise when training is completed they are good enough to do the tasks I stated above. It could also be argued that the skills required for a mentor are widely dispersed throughout management enough to make sure the objectives of the schemes are met, on the other hand it is argued that what if these skills are not found in the organisation, and furthermore these skills are deemed as rare and have to be developed. Over the previous two decades there have been radical shifts in the way mentoring has been carried out these changes go hand in hand with the changes to how businesses are being run. For instance the rise of the paperless office’ where most tasks can be carried from behind a workstation and is not as reliant on face to face communication.

    People will have more to learn from people they have never seen, more impersonal terminal to terminal email based correspondence will emerge. If there is no-one in his or her immediate presence that has the knowledge someone requires, it is almost a certainty that it will be accessible by the internet or internet based communication. Whether this form of communication or information gathering can be defined as mentoring’ it does incorporate some aspects of the process. Also with globalisation becoming more apparent and the world getting smaller, mentoring different cultures becomes an important issue because different companies have different organisational cultures for example U. S. companies tend to be more performance related and goal orientated and be much more vertical and mechanic in structure, often very impersonal.

    On the other hand European companies are very staff orientated and there is much more of a tendency for staff to emerse themselves into the organisational dynamic, this is transparent through the amount of voluntary work staff put in and there is less job switching. How do you successfully prepare to mentor for these changes in culture? Clutterbuck and Megginson feature a model highlighting characteristic approaches to executive mentoring by country. As I highlighted earlier goals of the USA companies mentoring schemes were to gain sponsorship and promote their careers, a common feature of this scheme was a senior director taking up the cause of young high flyer to better his career. While adversely Frances mentoring schemes characterised more staff orientated goals. Their goals of the mentoring schemes were insight and analysis of life purpose, a common feature was to send staff to external schemes and courses. The differences in corporate national cultures are evident enough for there to be some deviation in the way mentors are trained and the way mentors train trainees.

    In order to eliminate the cultural divide, aside from selecting a mentor based on the objectives that you want to achieve, some emphasis can be put on to the compatibility of the mentoring relationship. By this I mean exploring the teaching style of the mentor compared with the learning style of the mentee. Hale carried out research pairing similar styles and pairing opposing styles and found that the issue was more complex than just learning styles. One complexity could be is how the difference in nationality of mentor and mentee. This can be seen as an advantage in that it could help the mentee grasp the concepts the mentor professes even though they may clash with his or her status quo, Or when members of contrasting national cultures are put together it could clash with the mentor and the mentees idea of the mentoring relationship.

    Throughout the 1990’s in Britain the phenomenon of equal opportunities and managing diversity were introduced and really implemented, for the purpose of raising the ethnic and sexual diversity of the organisations at every level of he organisation. In turn there was much less homogenous mentoring. Traditionally mentors have tended to be someone of the same race and ethnicity. These homogenous relationships will soon be replaced with more heterogeneous relationships. As there are more non-white members of staff coming in at nearly every level compared to ten years ago, the emergence of these types of relationships are expected.

    Although there must be some level of sensitivity when forming the mentor/mentee relationship. In some instances people from ethnic minorities feared entering some organisations because they feared they would have to deny their own culture as a means to fit in with that of the organisation they were joining. Mentoring in the past was generally characterised by an older person mentoring a younger person. Presently with the increasing amount of technical innovation and the wider range of skills people have and the shorter life cycles of service standards and industries.

    Many older members of the work force are not as ready to accept change and tend to be more reinforced in their ways. This day and age has lead to the emergence of younger mentors who are comfortable with the idea of change and constant adaptation. This shift could be hazardous in that mentors could not be completely comfortable with their position within the organisation and still be on somewhat of a learning curve themselves, This could transcend into mentors not being fully confident in what they are teaching the mentee. With staff benefiting from increased levels of specialisation I aspect there to be less of a divide between mentor and mentee and their relationships to become more reciprocal and eventually become somewhat of a partnership. This notion will be reinforced by the constant technological breakthrough that makes face to face tutelage less relevant. I see mentoring as becoming more and more relationship driven with people becoming more performance and career driven and having less time on their hands.

    Coupled with the accessibility of information from other sources people will use mentoring as an opportunity to create social relationships and try to make them developmental relationships extending outside of the workplace. Less exposure to face to face situations and the exchanging of information over the internet will lead to the emergence of more personal relationships being formed on a work related basis. Mentors and mentoring have been part of organisational culture in some capacity since humans started to organise things. It has survived several shifts in the context it was viewed in and how it was and is applied in the organisation. The challenge for organisations of the day be mindful of these constant changes and aim to be responsive not reactive for them.

    To diagnose exactly what, when and how mentoring should take place and challenge more staff to aspire to be mentors of the future. ReferencingBrian Gay – What is Mentoring?Education + Training Vol. 36 No. 5 1994 pp 4 -7Linda Holbeche – Peer Mentoring: the challenges and opportunitiesCareer Development International Vol. 1 No.

    7 pp 24 – 27Leonora Kane – Mentoring For Black StudentsEducation + Training Vol.36 No.8 1994 pp 18 -24Clutterbuck and Megginson – Mentoring Executive and DirectorsButterworth-Heinemann, OxfordRagins B.R.- Mentor functions and outcomes: a comparison of men and women in formal and informal mentoring relationshipsJournal of Applied Psychology Vol.84 No.4 pp529 550

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