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Friday, March 14, 2014

Mentoring: No Longer Guru and Sponge

Mentoring is a valuable organization development tool for individuals and organizations in nonprofit and corporate sectors. And it’s not a new concept. It first appeared in Greek mythology as a way of cultural survival. Through the years, mentoring became the informal mechanism for teaching and guiding—taking the form of apprenticeships and cultural traditions.

When mentoring finally found its way into business, it began as patriarchal, authoritarian and one-way. The mentor was the guru and the protégé was the sponge—an eager learner positioned to absorb all that the wise mentor had to offer. Unfortunately, this type of partnership was highly selective and one-sided. Mentors, most often white men, were actually sponsors who picked their young protégés (always men) based on the belief that they were younger versions of themselves. This corporate model of mentoring was exclusionary and it tended to produce clones.

In the twenty-first century, with the emergence of more women and people of color in the workplace, mentoring enjoyed resurgence in Corporate America. In just the last 20 years, mentoring has advanced and flourished. Mentoring is still valuable but new applications are helping organizations enhance diversity and cross-functional and cross-cultural education.

Leading organizations understand the correlation between mentoring and humanizing the workplace and increasing employees’ ownership of the mission. Many companies use mentoring to attract and retain the best candidates, fast-track high-potentials and ensure a seamless succession plan. In working with nonprofits, JD Coaching & Consulting recommends providing new board members a mentor to accelerate learning and facilitate their integration into the organization. In all applications, mentoring promotes individual development while ensuring greater employee engagement, productivity and high performance.

Mentoring takes many forms. It can be formal and informal. People can have “mentoring moments” as well as mentors for life. However, there is a profound difference between a manager and a mentor—and one should be aware of the element of non-judgmental confidentiality that exists with true mentoring partnerships. In the book, The Promise of Potential, Jodi Davis explores the topic of mentoring in greater detail—offering a proven process for selecting a mentor and managing the partnership. Mentoring is not rocket science, but it does require certain guidelines to guarantee effectiveness and success.

JD Coaching & Consulting partners have enthusiastically helped launch numerous mentoring programs in nonprofit and corporate arenas. Mentoring is powerful to have in your business tool kit. It may be an old tradition, but we are never too old to enrich our lives with a mentor who helps us to achieve our potential. Let's keep the conversation going.

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