“The delicate balance of mentoring someone is not creating them in your own image, but giving them the opportunities to create themselves.” – Steven Spielberg
Mentoring has evolved as an important dimension of human capital growth in organizations. It is a critical development and engagement tool. With the recent emphasis given to the process of mentoring, its meaning has also changed over time. According to the old paradigm of the mentor-mentee relationship, the mentor was authoritarian with a more passive receiver as mentee.
According to the new paradigm, mentoring is a collaborative process wherein the mentor takes the role of the facilitator and with a goal-determined approach. In this new paradigm, mentor keeps the mentee as the focus and the process revolves around him or her.
In a corporate set-up, the new paradigm meaning of mentoring relationship can be largely applied. In those terms, mentoring is a mutually beneficial, relationship-oriented and goal-directed process shared between a mentor and a mentee. The relationship involves a skill transfer from a mentor, a subject-matter expert (SME) to a mentee, who is less experienced.
A mutually-beneficial relationship refers to the fact that not just the mentor helps the mentee to gain insight and enable growth, the mentee, too, helps the mentor in self-development by giving feedback.
By goal-directed we mean that the mentoring process in entirely based on setting goals and achieving it as a part of learning outcome. Mentor facilitates in the process of setting goals and achieving them by preparing a structure of action for the mentee. Although the structure of action is prepared and owned by the mentor, the learning process is owned by the mentee. Hence, in the mentoring relationship, mentee should be self-directed in achieving the learning outcomes.
This meaning of mentoring becomes clearer when we compare it with coaching. There lies a difference between these two processes. Although the underlying purpose for the two is similar, the medium of achieving it brings about the difference. In a mentoring process, a mentor is always an SME with more experience of business skills and knowledge than a coach who is merely trained in coaching and may not be an SME. A mentor is usually someone who is higher in the department hierarchy, someone more experienced and who can transfer the skills.
On the other hand, a coach can be anyone from another department or altogether from a different background. The coach may not transfer his skills to the coachee, as in the mentoring relationship, but takes a more holistic approach in helping the coachee with the problems and is successful in doing so because of the training.
However there are some key similarities between the two processes – both mentor and coach work within a solution–focused structure – providing a safe environment to their respective mentee or coachee. Both have a great level of commitment towards the overall development of the mentee/coachee while providing a futuristic view.
Keeping this perspective in place, mentoring is a useful process from the mentor, mentee and organization’s perspective. From the mentor’s perspective, the mentor gets an opportunity to establish a meaningful relationship, derives satisfaction from helping others, gets expanded
perspectives on the same issue, gets an opportunity to share personal experiences and during the process gets powerful personal insights through feedbacks and self-reflection. From the mentee’s perspective, he or she gets a safety net and an opportunity to test ideas during the mentoring process the feedback received is candid which can be very beneficial for him or her. Through this the learning process is accelerated with much needed support alongside. All of these, in turn, can help the mentee to have increased productivity.
Mentoring is not just useful to the mentee or mentor but the entire organization. The organization gets an opportunity to develop hi-potential individual and retain the next generation of leaders. Additionally, mentoring enhances career development, improves technical knowledge and helps manage knowledge within the organization.
Therefore, mentoring is a mutually beneficial process benefiting each employee specifically and the organization at large. There is an important need to train employees in mentoring and how to mentor in order to increase organizational development.