Why Do We Need Mentors?

Mentoring?  What’s it all about?

Well, basically, it’s the School Buddy System all grown up.

Moving into a new job – at any level – has a lot in common with that awesome day you transferred from your safe little primary school into the maze that was secondary schooling.

Do you remember?

It’s Day One and suddenly, you’re surrounded by a whole new environment and culture. Many of your friends are missing. There are new rules and regs; a timetable and location map; a host of responsibilities you don’t really understand; teachers and leaders and authorities you don’t recognise  and an overwhelming feeling of being lost forever. All in all, a day of fear and confusion that seemed never to end.

But… with the dawning of Day 2, you were introduced to your School Buddy. And suddenly the world began to right itself. Here was an older kid  – bigger (it seemed) even than your parents who knew EVERYTHING and EVERYBODY. And best of all, was willing to teach you how to cope.

It was the beginning of a sorta-friendship that would last for a very long time. And of course that’s what mentoring is all about. It’s a relationship that grows and evolves over time until most often it becomes a kind of two-way street.

Both mentor and mentee benefit in various ways.

The benefits to the mentee are obvious. They have access to someone understanding who has “been there, done that”. So, a mentee has a soundboard to bounce off; someone to critique their ideas and actions; to offer feedback when that’s appropriate, champion them ditto – and provide the kind of support that builds confidence.

Mentors gain from giving. And as they talk through things like career planning with their mentee or are asked for advice on various topics, they’re forced to go back, re-learn or adapt old knowledge, connect to contemporary thinking and in doing so, they add to their existing skills in people and team management.

In effect, while shaping their mentee, they are re-shaping themselves.

Mentoring and coaching are not the same thing.

According to the International Mentoring Group (IMG)

Mentoring is oriented around relationships. Although the mentor and mentee might initially focus on certain learning goals or competencies, over time they develop a bond and rapport that often transcends specific workplace issues.

Development driven, mentoring focuses on the future … on building the capabilities the mentee will later rely on, personally and professionally.  By sharing experience, the mentor is a positive influence who helps the mentee to grow, over time.

Coaching is oriented around defined tasksCoaching is performance driven. The focus is on the present. The purpose is to improve, enhance, or acquire new skills that can be leveraged immediately. Generally, coaching centres around learning or expanding a specific skill or capability.

For more information on the differences: https://www.learningsolutionsmag.com/articles/whats-the-difference-between-mentoring-and-coaching

It’s worthy of mention that by their very nature, coaching tends to have a finite time frame. Whereas mentoring requires a significant time commitment from both parties. Mentors and mentees may start out as casual acquaintances, but often build strong fellowships that can continue for years.

In conclusion

Mentoring and coaching are two management techniques that often overlap but should not be confused. While similarities exist, there are also some salient differences. Brefi Group, a UK-based change-management organisation, sums up the key difference between mentoring and coaching in this thought-provoking sentence: “A coach has some great questions for your answers; a mentor has some great answers for your questions.”

Access more at community.hrdaily.com.au posted by Wayne Faulkner

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