Mentoring is an enormously effective and an irreplaceable way to grow people, teams, and organizational health. If done poorly, it can be a waste of time. But if done properly, it can be one of your organization’s most effective and least expensive training tools.
The key to an effective mentoring undertaking is to understand the lifecycle of mentoring.
Mentoring: The Big Picture
The lifecycle of a mentor/mentee relationship is this: Reaching a state when both the parties are ‘mentors’ in a mutually beneficial mentorship bond.
men·tor·ing [ méntəring ]
According to Wikipedia:
“Mentoring is a process for the informal transmission of knowledge, social capital, and the psychosocial support perceived by the recipient as relevant to work, career, or professional development; mentoring entails informal communication, usually face-to-face and during a sustained period of time, between a person who is perceived to have greater relevant knowledge, wisdom, or experience (the mentor) and a person who is perceived to have less (the protégé)”.
I am a big believer of the well-known quote from Benjamin Franklin:
“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.”
In my opinion, mentorship is among the best ways to groom the talent where mentor identifies the strengths of the mentee and provides guidance, support & motivation and also works as a critic appropriately.
I have been part of some very successful mentor-mentee relationships where I have played the role of mentor in some cases and of mentee in some other cases. These experiences have helped me to learn a lot about mentor-mentee relationship and to become a better professional.
From two of the very successful mentor-mentee relationships, one is going on for over six years and other for over four years; I have observed a sequence in interactions and activities that looks like the lifecycle of a successful mentor-mentee relationship.
Lifecycle of Mentoring Relationship
This stage is generally led by the mentor and lot many questions are asked for assessing the professional background of mentee, skills, aspirations, any known strengths and improvement areas related to professional experience area or related to human behavior.
Mentor shares his/her experience and expertise summary, also talks about couple of success stories where ‘someone’ similar to the mentee was primary contributor.
This continues for couple of more sessions. Focus is on ‘knowing each other.’
Mentor shares more information (e.g. URLs, documents, books), connects the mentee with relevant people. Mentor also uncovers unknown (i.e. not stated by the mentee) strengths and improvement areas and shares with mentee.
Guidance is limited to specific areas mentee wants to know about. Focus is on ‘knowledge’ or ‘building the knowledge of the mentee.’
At this stage, mentor also discovers the interest areas of the mentee. Mentee seeks guidance from mentor for aligning interest areas, strengths and professional career. Long term goals get discussed and planned. Scope of discussion is much larger that the limited scope of assignment mentee is working on.
One of the examples I am quoting, where my mentee was working in a role without direct customer interaction.
- She was doing quite well in her role, but was interested in playing a role requiring direct customer interaction and she had the capability.
- I recommended her to move to a new role that was in ‘consulting’ area and required the candidate to work directly with customers but also required her to learn some ‘niche’ skills.
- I shared some documents with her to understand what is needed in ‘consulting’ role and provided some guidance on how to switch into the new role.
- She took up the role as a challenge and was very successful.
Mentee takes over the communication and starts asking questions related to completeness, quality and effectiveness of the plan made during last stage. Planning moves from tactical to strategic points.
Both of them learn number of new things by researching and continuous interactions. Scope of discussion is beyond defined subjects. Mentor is confident in involving the mentee to strategic and larger goals of the organization and aspirations of mentee and self.
I want to share one of the experiences where I had involved my mentee in working on a business plan for a strategic unit.
- I spent a couple of hours over 2-3 days to guide her and explain what is needed, what are sources for inputs, process etc.
- I was surprised to see the first output after a week. It was of great quality.
- Output got better and better over next few weeks and finally became the essential part of the business plan.
This was her first experience of working on a business plan and she did an outstanding job. Sometime later I asked her the question – what made her come up with such a wonderful plan?
She told me that she got a new perspective while understanding the alignment of our business plan with the strategy of the organization. She was highly motivated to do a great job.
She contributed to my business plan for next 3 years and every time she surprised me with the output.
Time comes when mentor learns more from mentee. Mentor learns from how mentee is performing the activities because mentee is primarily executing the plan and faces new situations and challenges every day.
Mentee shares experiences and mentor questions both for self-learning as well as to guide the mentee further.
Mentee is prepared to play the role of mentor for others as well as for the mentor. Mentor starts recommending mentee as mentor for other people.
This is the stage when mentor and mentee graduate to a level where they start discussing and discovering lot of new areas that result into innovation. They come up with new ideas and theories and experiment. There is a lot of learning for both the parties at this stage.
Engaging is a continuous process. Focus is on ‘innovation.’
This lifecycle is not like a waterfall, but mentor and mentee keep on jumping into different stages based on the context and the expected outcome.
I like to call this model as ‘ASPIRE’ that stands for Awareness, Sharing, Planning, Interaction, Role-reversal & Engaging.
Aspire means directing one’s hopes or ambitions toward achieving something difficult and higher. Since mentoring requires mentor to help mentee be successful in achieving challenging goals, ‘ASPIRE’ as the name of model fits quite well here.
I am keen to explore this model further with the help of inputs coming from other leaders. Have you experienced similar or different lifecycle in other successful mentor-mentee relationships? Please do share your thoughts and experiences.
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Image Sources: digitalmarketingmentor.co.uk
- Building a Mentor-Mentee Relationship (realworldmentors.wordpress.com)
- Mentoring Best Practices (luminadvantage.wordpress.com)