There has been some confusion regarding what is mentoring. I see a lot of reference to the organizational contexts of mentoring obviously with a slant towards the professional growth of employees. Mentoring is defined as a two way trusted relationship where both the mentor and mentee can grow personally and professionally. The relationship relies heavily on the building of trust and the sharing of personal information in the building of that trust. The trust is further strengthen by the mentor’s ability to create a safe environment for the conversation to take place.
I have mentioned in some previous articles my concern with some corporate mentoring programs that focus purely on the professional growth of the employees. I firmly believe that we are doing a disservice to the employee but not touching on the personal growth challenges that they may be dealing with. I see those as obstacles and barriers to being able to move ahead with addressing professional growth challenges.
I recently reviewed my mentor log which has between 250 and 300 hours of mentoring over a one year time period and I found that in the majority of the mentoring sessions we touched on personal growth challenges. Those challenges were an actual obstacle or barrier to the person being able to move forward with anything on their professional/career side of their life. Let me give you an example. If you have self-esteem and/or self-confidence challenges are you going to be able to move forward and enhance your career or as an entrepreneur take your business to the next level. Chances are that you won’t be able to. I have seen a number of entrepreneurial failures that were directly attributed to a lack of self-confidence or self-esteem. To ignore the personal side of one’s life is a mistake.
Building the trust in the relationship can require the sharing of personal information that demonstrates humility on the part of the mentor. I find that when I share something personal it helps in the creation of the safe environment that is essential in fostering the dialogue required for success. Without any of this I would not be able to address any professional growth challenges.
As a mentor we need to be comfortable in building trusted relationships. It is not an easy task but if provided with the correct tools it can be a skill set that is mastered. As a mentor we need to focus on the personal growth challenges first. If we are not whole as a person it is very hard to move forward with our careers. People that we have worked with in a mentoring relationship where we have addressed the personal growth challenges have gone on to have a high level of productivity, are more positive in the workplace and have seen a change in their leadership in family, community and work environments. Removing the barriers and obstacles was key to the behaviour change. The “gift of mentoring” has many tools that you can put into use to change the culture and the environment that you work in. You need to take the first step – “can you afford not to?”