The mentor is an experienced person who is able, willing and available to teach, train or coach a person with less knowledge in a specific area – regardless of age, gender, or expertise in other unrelated areas. The mother with four children may be a mentor to young parents, the young computer champion to a senior staff, and the senior expert to the young professional. Mentoring aims at (1) skills development, (2) fostering the understanding of the organisation and its culture, and (3) career development.
Beside this traditional mentoring (with fixed roles), peer mentoring (with interchanging roles) and team mentoring (with a network structure) are practised, the latter two having common features with other approaches (peer assist / peer review).How to go about it?
Reflect on own past experiences as a mentor or mentee (beneficiary). What has been a great experience? What made it successful?
Check the mentoring concept (as a part of the knowledge management) of your organisation: What are accepted standards?
Determine the goals of the mentoring process. Define the beneficiary's expectations and preferred learning styles, and reveal the mentor's concept.
Choose the right mentor. Experience, knowledge and skills are one thing – a fine relationship between mentor and beneficiary the other. Your boss might not be the best mentor for you.
Develop a mentoring plan. Include moments for emergencies.
Define objectives for each meeting. Focus on the beneficiary's situation and questions, not on the mentor's experience.
Give up the mentoring when you feel strong enough.
Experience with Mentoring
“I take on a mentor’s role whenever a younger or new staff is asking for. There is more informal than formal activity as a mentor. What is most important to me as a mentor is to take people and their demand seriously and to take time for the mentoring process. Often I have to read quite some papers to understand the background and to find relevant questions to guide the mentoring. I often work with role plays, also with interchanging roles, in order to get in touch with the emotional dimension. Mentoring can be a kind of a provocation based on sound knowledge of the situation the mentored person is facing. A prospective imagination is a helpful basis for questioning the mentored person. What I try to avoid are lectures and lessons; usually a question is better than a talk.
I like mentoring situations. There is a satisfaction in helping other (young or new) professionals toget stronger in their professionalism, to be self-asserted without falling into the trap of arrogance.”
Anne Zwahlen, Deputy Head West Africa Division (2007)
“I experienced all mentor activities as enriching, getting exposed to the questions and realities of new staff in my organisation. For best results it is important that the hierarchical superior of the newcomer fully supports the mentoring situation. I estimated that well mentored new colleagues can have up to 50% higher productivity and much better job satisfaction then without mentoring in the first three years of his/her work in the institution.”
Willi Graf, Senior Advisor NRM Division (2007)
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