June 27, 2022

Jumping to the head of your leadership knowledge and skill development “know and do list” is your commitment to advancing mentoring in the workplace.

At the speed at which work is shifting, the entrance of less experienced staff with a different learning approach not satisfied by training and the exiting of experienced staff through retirement, you’re encouraged to value and use mentoring for engagement and retention, and performance improvement and personal development.

In the years leading up to 2020… this generational wave will gain momentum. Will you be competent in why and how to mentor your staff and the staff from other departments in your organization?

On any given day, the staff – especially the less experienced next-gen staff – will present themselves at your office door and in meetings seeking answers to their questions. Most have developed an approach to dealing with issues whereby they search for answers from many sources, frame an approach that potentially works, use the approach with the help of others in their network and share that learning with others through wider social networks.

This “pulling” of insights is the cornerstone of next-gen relationships. No longer will “pushing” reference material in an assigned mentoring arrangement be the norm.

While assigning a mentor for career development is still valuable to some employees, the shift is to younger staff pulling what they need to know and do from all resources available. They will especially tap into the lived experiences of other staff and especially manager-leaders, and thereafter, create new reference material. Sometimes, they’ll engage multiple mentors for short and long-term relationships.

Therefore, it’s important to debunk and erase three myths about mentoring in the workplace to set the stage for your personal development and performance improvement as a “manager-leader as mentor.”

Myth 1: Coaching and mentoring are basically the same thing. Since both of them are considered educating techniques, it gets overlooked that the approaches, purposes and expected outcomes vary between them.

Mentoring is meant to guide mentees (learners) to gain understanding of the lived experience of mentors as a result of questions mentees ask. The questions and answers shape a dialogue where insights flow through the conversations. Often, the mentees questions APL help the mentors frame their own experience through the lens of the mentees’ questions. Mentors are wise enough to learn from mentees as well. The time together is causal as it is casual, where the mentors speak their truth when the participants are most likely ready to listen. Mentees have a particular interest in gaining self-reflected insights from the experience of the mentors.

On the other hand, coaching is meant to encourage the most from those being coached to meet their accountabilities and responsibilities without the coach actually doing whatever needs to be done. Coaches guide participants (learners) to fulfill their commitments. They ask relevant questions to highlight a path for participants to journey. The relationship is more causal than casual. It’s participants who must step up into the work and get it done. Insights coaches suggest are insights the participants know yet cannot see at the time. The participants have coaches as travelling companions who encourage the participants to pick up the trowel to mud the bricks to construct the building.

Myth 2: Anyone can be a mentor or a mentee. While this statement is true in the broadest sense, there is a limit to its practicality in the workplace. Based on the mentor’s experience, their guidance has particular application value for the mentee. Therefore, the mentee has to be positioned to benefit from the mentor’s experience. There are examples of where a mentor can be younger than a mentee. That is, retirees returning to the workplace as consultants ask younger staff to guide them in the use of internal and external social network platforms.

Myth 3: You don’t need a plan to participate in mentoring meetings. On the surface the engagement of mentor and mentee has casualness to it. A picture of sitting and sharing a coffee and chat arises. While often the case, it’s more important for mentees to recognize the relationship is strategic and they frame an agenda for each meeting no matter where the conversation occurs. Therefore, based on the agenda, mentees learn key insights and practices from the mentors. Then mentees decide on what actions are important. Mentees take the appropriate actions to achieve the required outcome they reason as correct.

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