Many organizations have well defined and structured mentoring program where senior / qualified mentors take responsibility of managing relatively junior people or new hires. The primary objective of this mentoring program is to shape mentee’s career and help them grow in the organization. Depending upon organization culture, need, mentee’s seniority, etc the relationship between mentor and mentees is almost 1-to-1. It is expected that this mentoring relationship work and mentee get benefited with mentor’s experience, subject matter expertise, knowledge of the organization, etc. In most of the cases mentee’s current capabilities, desired capabilities, assigned mentor’s capabilities and available bandwidth to meet the gaps is overlooked.
Ideally such mentoring programs are also meant to motivate and help mentees perform and think better on their own, discuss, filter and absorb organizational/technical/business related aspects as appropriate for individual needs. It is not meant to influence the mentee to follow the mentors blindly. If such blindly followed relationship sticks together for longer duration it dilutes the mentoring purpose and the mentee just become clone of the mentor. The carbon copy of the mentor thinks, acts, behaves, reacts and operates in the same fashion how his/her mentor does. Individuality disappears, creativity fades away, thinking diminishes and real purpose of mentoring gets lost.
In one of the interviews (uploaded on YouTube in 2009), Jack Welch pointed out ineffectiveness of mentoring programs by just following single mentor.
In modern times the mentoring process is changing, it obviously needs further improvements and more than having 1-to-1 mentoring in one direction, it should be n-to-n mentoring in bi-directional way. Few thoughts:
- Not one but multiple mentors – Every individual has specific career aspirations, professional needs, learning requirements and growth paths. One mentor cannot help mentee achieve his / her goals and make them successful. Let mentees select multiple mentors and gets guidance, help, coaching from them as appropriate. It should be like school where we used to have a class teacher assigned to us but different subjects were taught by different individuals. Mentees should have an opportunity to learn from anyone and everyone as appropriate in the organization. As far as the learning is aligned to the organization objective and appropriate for the mentee’s career, it should not be restricted.
- Mentoring relationships beyond just KRAs and goals – The mentors and mentees relationship should not be just around organization defined key result areas and few goals. it has to be beyond that. Mentors need to take accountability for mentees career and professional growth and do their best to align mentoring areas specific to mentees requirements and capabilities.
- Trust and respect – Both mentors and mentees need to trust each other and have respect to individual capabilities. Mentees have more responsibility to respectfully listen, understand, filter and absorb certain points to suite their requirements and capabilities. Mentors will always have their personal point of view which may be not applicable to mentees. Filtering and customizing the advice to individuals need is mentees responsibility.
- It’s a two way journey these days – Mentoring is a long journey and both mentor and mentee need to put equal amount of efforts. It’s an opportunity for both of them to get benefitted from each other. Especially new generation is well equipped with multiple sources of knowledge and they can mentor the older generation other way round as appropriate.
- Leaders create leaders – Organization need to understand such mentoring programs as mean for creating next generation leaders. It requires strong commitment in terms of time, funds, bandwidth and infrastructure. Organizations need to sincerely follow such commitments and help leaders create strong leader for organizations benefit.