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Fast-Track Mentoring: Sparking Ideas for Collaborative Conversations
by Beverly Kaye

The case for mentoring in organizations is now more compelling than ever. It is clear that mentoring supports the retention, development, and engagement of today's workforce. It is a direct link to an organization's productivity and, ultimately, profitability. No one really needs to be convinced as to what a powerful and dynamic process mentoring can be for both employees and organizations. It has the potential to elevate corporate dialogue from the mundane to the truly transformational. But the key concern has always been how do managers learn the skills, find the time, and build the relationships necessary to make it successful.

Many mentoring programs begin with high energy and good intentions, but end up with little impact and less long-term follow-through. In our current organizational climate there is a pressing need for a practical way to educate managers and leaders quickly so they see mentoring as a positive experience rather than a burden. The task is to integrate a simple and effective method to give managers, team leaders and individual contributors the basic skills and practical how-to's of mentoring others that makes it part of their on-going responsibilities and not an add-on.

It's a rare organization today that can afford to take mentoring partners offsite for extended training. The alternative is to provide an easy self-study process or brief facilitated program that highlights the most important aspects of the mentoring process and gets mentors started immediately.

What Mentors Do
Everyone brings unique experiences and expertise to the mentoring relationship. Allowing mentors to begin with their strengths gives them confidence and comfort with the process. Here are four different ways mentors can work with their partners. Mentors can try on each of these to see which works best for them.

  • Helps partners in their learning by showing them different paths and warning of potential pitfalls.
  • Shares strategic views of the organization.
  • Helps partners reflect on their attitudes, skills and patterns of behaviors and whether they help or hinder their success.
  • Asks questions that challenge partners to think, analyze, and probe for meaning.
  • Provides a risk-free environment in which partners can vent frustrations, share difficulties, and seek other perspectives
  • Appraises behaviors and helps partners see how others perceive them.
  • Talks straight: neither critic nor judge, but a candid and honest partner.
  • Provides specific feedback and impressions-favorable and unfavorable-to support partners' personal growth.
  • Motivates partners' enthusiasm and initiative.
  • Helps partners see their future in the organization with a new insight and vision.
  • Sees unanticipated possibilities that partners might make happen.
  • Focuses on encouraging partners to discuss ideas, visions, and creative concepts that might not find a forum elsewhere.
  • Champions the ideas and interests of partners so visibility and exposure is gained.
  • Helps partners by opening opportunities for specific learning experiences.
  • Captures the attention of significant others to help effectively connect partners.
  • Uses a powerful voice to bring partners ideas to the people in the organization who have the authority to implement them.
How Mentors Do What They Do
A practical and direct process for use by new or seasoned mentors can be mastered in four simple steps.
    Managers often report that one of the most satisfying parts of their job is when they have the opportunity to share their knowledge, experiences and insight with others. Reaching beyond the daily responsibilities of their job and profoundly affecting the growth and development of others brings the manager immediate rewards and the organization long lasting benefits. Fast-track mentoring education begins with "where and how" to offer help to learning partners.

    The mentor's job doesn't start with giving advice-it begins with listening. A mentor needs to hear what their partners want from the process. It's also critical to learn about development needs and expectations. A good mentor must learn to explore the focus and understand the goals of their partners.

    The traditional mentor was a teacher-but today it takes much more to be a successful mentor. There are four different conversation styles that can be used to stimulate learning and transmit knowledge quickly. They have been proven to promote learning and transmit knowledge quickly. Mentors need to learn how to share their stories, encourage dialogue, debrief their partner's experiences, and help build network connections for their partners.

    Mentoring partners have equal responsibilities in making the process work. They need specific action plans so that both mentor and partner can measure the progress of their work together. The Mentoring process can be a great source of personal learning and satisfaction for everyone. But much of its success depends on finding the right balance between doing too much and doing too little.

How Everyone Benefits
While the time-honored practice of mentoring has always been with us, it is now more than ever a dynamic tool for building collaborative relationships. Organizations need a simple but elegant that demystifies the mentoring journey. It also should work to develop the mentor as he or she works to develop others.

A successful process should provide mentors and their partners with specifics on what to do, what to talk about, and how to take action. Mentoring in this fast-track format may well be one of the most powerful ways to engage and retain both employees and managers. It should also provide a payback for the organization so that talent can be recognized and grown.

Beverly Kaye, co-author of bestseller Love 'Em or Lose 'Em: Getting Good People to Stay (Berrett-Koehler, 1999 & 2002) and author of classic career development book Up is NOT the only Way (revised, Davies-Black, 1997) is internationally recognized as one of the most invested, knowledgeable and practical professionals in the area of Talent Management.

Copyright Beverly Kaye. All Rights Reserved.

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