Great Strides by "Walking Alongside"
The mentoring role is reserved
for managing a person whose performance is standard or average. While the catchwords
for coaching are "inspire" and "motivate," the catchword for
mentoring is "instruct." When you mentor, it's your job to teach new
skills. Typically, that's the only way average performers can grow and begin experiencing
Think of a mentor as a person who walks
alongside someone else. In the mentoring role, you "come alongside"
the supervisees on your team. You work with them side by side, giving instruction
- and not just verbal instruction. It's "hands-on" instruction. It's
doing the task together. You lead by example.
Why? One reason
is that every team follows what its coach "models." If supervisors tell
team members to come to work on time but come to work late themselves, what will
team members do? Show up late, of course. Whatever the coach does, to a greater
or lesser degree, team members will emulate. Like it or not, you are the example.
instructing and supervising by example, your other task as a mentor is to develop
new abilities in the supervisees you work with. You'll help supervisees develop
new skills ... help them do things they never knew they could do. You'll teach
each person how to be more competent in more areas.
with Productive Purpose
The mentoring process demands a plan. It's a process
of development ... not a practice of shooting from the hip. No leader arrives
at work Monday morning and announces, "Guess what, today I'm going to mentor
you." Instead, each mentor builds a plan - and for any plan to be successful,
it must be built on three components:
o Mutual trust and commitment
o Emotional maturity
1. Mutual trust and commitment
trust and commitment between supervisees come from spending time together. The
more time you spend teaching someone, the more commitment you have to that person
and she will have to you.
This should tell you something about
the mentoring process in general. It is slow. Hard words to hear, perhaps, but
nonetheless true. Some supervisors make the mistake of believing that their intentions
to mentor are 90 percent of the battle, and that the other 10 percent involves
the actual work.
Two dangers exist in harboring this illusion:
o When the truth hits home that the formula is actually reversed - 10 percent
intention, 90 percent hands
on, day-to-day effort - some supervisors become
so discouraged they never really get started. Which leads to the second danger
The team member may perceive that she is not worth special attention and grows
to distrust not only your motives, but eventually her own value and ability.
the point? Simply this: Mentoring is hard work and it takes time - but thousands
of supervisors just like you have done it and are doing it with terrific results.
Ask any of them if their commitment is a necessary element and if team-member
trust is the result. What do you think they will answer? If you guessed "Absolutely,"
you're absolutely right.
2. Patient leadership
is extremely important in the mentoring process. Once you've established the commitment
and trust discussed above, you maintain it through patience. You will have plenty
of opportunity to exercise patience. That's because people are well ... people.
The need for patience will present itself in three basic areas:
The things you think are important about certain
concepts and procedures may not seem all that important to your "mentoree."
The key to this phase of the job, Rob, is watching this set of figures here. They
will tell you instantly if this product is safe to send on ahead. Do you understand
Rob: Sure. Where does that door lead?
Coach: What door? Oh - well,
it leads to the equipment lockers. But about these figures I was discussing -you're
sure you have a clear grasp of
Impatience would tempt
anyone to say something like, "Earth to Rob: Wake up ... this process is
lots more important than where a dumb door goes!" But remember, your mentoree's
perceived response to information may have no bearing whatsoever on how well she
processes it. And, more importantly, it may be totally unlike your own. No one
will ever mirror your values or priorities perfectly. Don't expect it.
if inattentiveness becomes a real problem, you will have to deal with it - but
be ready to exercise patience by giving your mentoree the benefit of the doubt.
Some supervisees learn faster than others. As obvious
as that may sound, it is hard to remember it in a mentoring situation. Your mentoree
may be way ahead of your most "difficult" explanations ... finishing
sentences for you evidencing an advanced grasp of concepts it took you much longer
to "own." More likely, however, she may require very precise, step-by-step
explanations from you in order to effectively apply information in an actual work
situation. Your two key jobs as a mentor in this area are to:
the team member's understanding with questions like, "Is there anything I've
said that could be a little clearer?" or "If you were explaining this
to someone else, how would you do it?"
(2) Encourage your mentoree to
feel perfectly comfortable asking questions by telling him or her to feel that
way ... and by responding maturely when the questions come.
Fast learner or
not-so-fast learner, your mentoree can learn from your patient approach to her
o Pressure to attend to "business as
Let's face it. Finding time in your already overcrowded schedule
to mentor one or more team members will take some doing. But it can be done. Thousands
of successful coaches are making it happen. One way many do it is represented
by the simple but effective "15-5-10" Formula:
15: Rank your daily
duties in order of importance and break out the bottom 15 percent.
that 15 percent to selected team members, using 5 percent of the time you saved
to continue directing them and reviewing their work.
10: Use the remaining
10 percent for mentoring activities.
And where does patience
come into play in this area? The inclination to resent or begrudge the time you
spend away from "normal" job activities will grow as you progress in
your mentoring projects. It's a natural tendency. You will be tempted to postpone
or skip mentoring opportunities in the interest of "more important things."
When that happens, remember:
(1) You aren't "losing" time while you
mentor -you're using free time made available because you delegated duties.
Your mentoree will know in a minute if you view your time with her as a time-wasting
So have patience with the mentoring process. It will pay off!
Additionally, an effective mentor (or any other leader,
for that matter) is able to control her emotions for the sake of effective leadership.
Even when you're sick of hearing the same questions over and over again, you must
remain (or appear to remain) calm and eager to help.
you do that? Volumes have been written dealing with the issue of emotional control.
There are nearly as many methods as there are supervisors - but here are three
that continue to deliver results for supervisors in a wide variety of organizational
o See the mentoree as your child.
Everyone is someone's
child. So when the questions seem especially irrelevant ... when your tendency
to explode or give up seems impossible to push down think how the mentoree's parents
would want you to react. Think how you would want a supervisor to respond if the
mentoree was your child, or your brother or sister, etc. Silly? Try it anyway.
You will be surprised at the effect the exercise has on your attitudes and responses.
Schedule mentoring sessions to end with "rewards."
to look forward to can minimize emotional intensity. Anger is less likely to grip
a person who is about to do something pleasurable. So schedule your mentoring
sessions to end with lunch or quitting time, etc. Not because your mentoring sessions
will be dreary, painful experiences - they won't be. But they can be demanding
and a bit draining, as any good teacher will tell you. So anticipate the possibility
of frayed nerves and prepare for them. Then you can tell your emotions that "recess"
is coming soon.
o Speak with a smile
Emotional upheaval is usually
accompanied by raised voices and "strained" facial features (frowns,
etc.). Anger, fear, and indignation are virtually impossible to express (for long)
with a smiling face and soft, conversational tones. Moral: When emotions threaten
to distort your normally mature responses, take a deep breath ... consciously
speak more softly ... and smile! It does more than hide inner turmoil. It actually
In Uganda, farmers pair the young beginner ox with
an older ox. The two oxen are tied together with a special harness. The device
is called a training yoke -and it is configured to make sure the older ox pulls
most of the burden. The older ox has the control. If the farmers don't do that,
the younger ox tends to go too fast or too slow. The older ox has the control,
so it'll go at the right pace. The younger one must work at the same pace. The
young ox learns from the experience of "walking alongside." Can you
see the wisdom in that from a mentoring standpoint? If you've never mentored before,
keep this illustration in mind in the days and years ahead. It will begin to have
special relevance as you interact with mentorees.
- Hendricks, William (ed.),
Coaching, Mentoring and Managing, National Press Publications: New Jersey, 1996
Reflection Exercise #4
The preceding section contained information
about the mentoring role, and supervising by example. Write three case study examples
regarding how you might use the content of this section in your practice.
As a mentor, what are your two key jobs regarding your supervisee
aptitude? Record the letter of the correct answer the