Mentoring - A win/win relationship

Apr 03, 2018

What is mentoring?

The concept of mentoring is not a new one. The term mentoring comes from Greek mythology and Homer’s Odyssey. When Odysseus went travelling, he asked his trusted friend, Mentor, to care for and guide his son into adulthood.

Today the definition of mentoring on Wikipedia ‘is a personal developmental relationship in which a more experienced or more knowledgeable person helps to guide a less experienced or less knowledgeable person.’

Essentially mentoring is an open dialogue which facilitates the transfer of knowledge and wisdom. It is typically a voluntary arrangement and the mentor is usually, but not always more senior. In most cases mentoring takes the form of face to face conversations between two people and the discussions are shaped by the development needs of the mentee. The meetings allow not only the transfer of knowledge and experience but also of ideas, options and opportunities. Great possibilities can emerge from mentoring.

The levels of interest in mentoring have been increasing internationally. Companies and individuals alike have recognised that they can benefit from the valuable learning and insights of those who have life and career experiences behind them. The benefits to be gained from mentoring have been experienced and recognised not just in the world of business but also in academia and education, sport, politics, medicine and many other areas. In the world of film and literature mentoring is often a key theme. ‘Tuesdays with Morrie’ and ‘Dead Poet’s Society’ are just two films that come to mind.

What’s in it for you?

Mentoring is a two way learning process and there are immense benefits to be gained for both the mentee and the mentor.

‘If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants’ Isaac Newton.

Mentee Perspective

A mentor is someone whose hindsight can become your foresight.

  • Mentoring will help you see things that you may not have recognised in yourself. This will enable you to identify your strengths and weaknesses and generally improve self-awareness.
  • The quickest way to succeed is to learn from people who have been successful. Various studies have shown that being mentored is linked with achievement. The mentor can provide the mentee with valuable insights that they may otherwise not obtain.
  • Mentees can gain an unbiased opinion and overview. This can be enlightening and help them to see themselves and their careers from a completely new perspective and enable them to unveil new possibilities.
  • Mentoring provides the mentee with a forum in which to relax and open up whilst dealing with the real issues that are on their mind. These issues may not be addressed otherwise and major career ‘roadblocks’ can be removed.
  • Mentoring is a powerful intervention. Many mentees report a boost in their confidence levels following a meeting with a mentor. This can in turn lead to an improvement in motivation and performance levels. If sustained, these new levels of drive may result in career progression or promotion.
  • Mentees often gain an increased understanding of an area, sector or discipline. This new information allows them to consider new areas and explore other options, broadening their horizons and providing them with more possibilities.

Mentor Perspective

  • There is a huge amount of satisfaction to be gained from the mentoring process and from being able to ‘give something back’. This can prove motivational and can reinvigorate the mentor’s own enthusiasm, recognising the difference they can make and the value they can add.
  • The mentor too will learn from the process and it can often provide them with a new perspective on different areas, other generations or developments.
  • It affords the mentor the opportunity to build on their experience and to enhance their communication and leadership qualities.
  • The relationship often allows the mentor time to reflect on broader issues and to gain some perspective themselves.

Choosing a mentor

Choosing the right mentor is pivotal to the process. One option is to consider, ‘Who are the people in your life that could potentially act as your mentor?

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Who has managed to get the very best out of me?
  • Who has inspired and motivated me in my life?
  • Who do I look up to, respect and trust?

The other option is to consider using the structured Career Mentor Programme provided by Chartered Accountants Ireland.

The Chartered Accountants Ireland Career Mentoring Programme

The Career Mentor Programme was established by Chartered Accountants Ireland to provide members with access to a panel of carefully selected members. These members are a valuable resource due the experience, management skills and intellectual capital they have acquired throughout their varying careers.

The role of the Career Mentor is to provide advice and guidance to other members in relation to their career development. The mentor has no obligation to assist mentees in job searches.

The Career Mentoring Programme is a process for the informal transmission of knowledge, social capital, and the psychosocial support perceived by the recipient as relevant to career or professional development. It is an unofficial, voluntary, mutually-agreeable, and self-selected interaction between Chartered Accountants. It takes place when the mentee needs advice, guidance and support. The mentors are willing to freely share their own experiences and skills with the mentee.

It was a fantastic experience to speak to somebody with such knowledge, insight and passion for their role. He was extremely helpful and very generous with his time, giving me close to two hours. It really was very beneficial and something that I personally found very enlightening."

John Farrell

Qualities to look for in a mentor

The mentor you choose has to be right for you. Your choice of mentor can have a huge influence on how successful the relationship and process is for you and what benefit you obtain from it.

Critical mentoring competencies include:

  • Being a good listener and knowing how to give effective feedback.
  • High levels of self-awareness
  • Knowing how to help with goal setting and planning.
  • Helping you to test the reality of your goals
  • Knowing when to give and conversely when not to give advice.
  • Providing constructive feedback and insights
  • The ability to build trust, instil confidence and motivate people.
  • Strategic questioning abilities.
  • The ability to communicate professional experiences effectively.

An effective mentor will:

  • Offer challenging ideas and wise counsel
  • Help build your self-confidence
  • Offer inspiration
  • Listen to career problems and offer encouragement
  • Confront negative behaviours and attitudes
  • Trigger self-awareness
  • Provide knowledge of the career area sought

Mutual Reward

The most productive mentor/mentee relationships are those that result in a reciprocal exchange of knowledge. The mutual benefit results in a more equal and open relationship and this in turn can lead to a higher quality discussion, ideas and knowledge exchange.

Conclusion

Mentoring is a very positive process and experience which benefits mentors, mentees and organisations alike. It appeals to individuals and organisations alike. Mentoring is generally provided on a pro bono basis and provides the opportunity to give something back and create a legacy.

Having a good mentor can significantly boost your career prospects and growth potential. So what are you waiting for? Find that mentor now!