There are many approaches to mentoring. Some of these contain elements of the strengths approach. So let’s start by considering some of the frequently asked questions about mentoring and coaching.
What do mentors do?
Mentors are wise and trusted advisers. They pass-on knowledge in a way that helps the mentee to achieve their personal or professional goals.
Many successful people use mentors. Why? Sometimes it is useful to take time-out with a third party who helps them to get an overview of a situation, explore the possible options and chart the road to success.
The word ‘mentor’ comes from Homer’s epic poem The Iliad. When Odysseus left to do battle in Troy, he asked a man called Mentor to take care of his son, Telemachus.
Rumour has it that Mentor was not always up to the task, so the Goddess Athena assumed his form and made him strong and wise. Since then, the word mentor has become synonymous with ‘wise and trusted adviser’.
Why do some organisations use mentoring?
Mentoring plays a key role in nurturing talent. The benefits to the organisations include passing-on wisdom and helping people to make good quality decisions. The benefits to the mentee are that it provides an opportunity to expand their repertoire of knowledge and tools they can use to achieve success.
What is the difference between
mentoring and coaching?
Different organisations have different definitions. There are also different definitions in different parts of the world.
Here is one approach that is taken in some organisations. This does not mean it is right or wrong, because it is possible to have long discussions about the semantics.
The main thing is for everybody to be clear on the differences between mentoring and coaching in their own organisation.
They then know how to get the best from the session.
Mentors help people to take a helicopter view and focus on their strategy. Coaches then help people to master the skills required to achieve success.
Mentoring works best when the mentee chooses mentor, preferably somebody outside the line. Coaching often takes place within the line from the team leader. Here is an overview of the differences.
What are the respective responsibilities
of the mentor and the mentee?
The mentor’s responsibility is, first and foremost, to make sure they really want to be a mentor. Mentoring is very rewarding, but doing it properly can also be time-consuming.
After familiarising themselves with the organisation’s approach to mentoring, it is to facilitate the sessions and pass-on their knowledge in a way that the mentee can use to achieve success.
The mentee’s responsibility is to be proactive in setting-up the sessions, prepare properly and make the best use of their session with the mentor.
How do you choose a mentor?
There are obviously many ways to choose a mentor. Here are some suggestions.
* Choose somebody who has credibility in your eyes.
They must be somebody you respect. They must also have knowledge that you believe can help you to achieve your picture of success.
* Choose somebody who has similar values.
Look for a mentor who expresses the values you believe in and seems able to express these successfully at a high level. Values-fit is crucial.
* Choose somebody who has the qualities you want in a mentor.
Try completing the following exercise. Describe the qualities you want in such a person. You may want them to be a good listener, creative or whatever. Then try to find somebody with these qualities.
How do you facilitate a mentoring session?
Imagine you are a mentor. There are obviously many ways to facilitate a mentoring session. Many of these approaches are based on creative problem-solving.
The mentor starts by creating a stimulating sanctuary. They make the person feel welcome and clarify the topics the person wants to explore. They then make clear working contracts and agree on the goals for the session.
Different mentors use different models to help a person to explore these themes. Here is one approach called the Classic Mentoring Model. The mentor focuses on the 5Cs.
They encourage the person to explore their Challenges; Choices; Consequences; Creative Solutions and Conclusions. The aim is to enable the person to take away practical tools they can use to achieve ongoing success.
Here are some questions the mentor may ask the person at each stage of the model.
“What are the topics you would like to explore? What for you would make it a successful session?
“Looking at these various themes, which is the first challenge you would like to tackle? Can you give some background and explain what is happening at the moment?
“Looking at the challenge, what are the real results you want to achieve? If there are several results you want to achieve, let’s put these in order of priority.
“Looking at the situation, what are the controllables? How can you build on what you can control and manage what you can’t?”
“Let’s summarise the things we have covered? What are your specific goals? What are the real results you want to achieve? What is your picture of success?
“Let’s be crystal-clear on the ‘What’ before moving onto the ‘How’.”
“Let’s consider the possible choices you have for tackling this challenge.
“What do you see as Option A? (Doing nothing is, of course, an option.) What is Option B; Option C; Option D; Option E? What other strategies have you tried before? Are there any other possible options?
“Let’s consider the consequences of each option. What are the pluses and minuses involved in pursuing Option A; Option B; Option C; Option D; Option E?
“We will soon be exploring any other potential creative solutions, but first let’s check your gut feeling for each of the possibilities. Rate the attractiveness of each option. Do this on a scale 0—10.”
* Creative Solutions
This is the point where good mentors earn their corn. They ask if it okay to share ideas for reaching the goal. They then pass on knowledge, tools and models the mentee can use to achieve success. So they may say something like the following.
“Let’s move onto the other possible creative solutions. First, let’s re-establish your goals. What are the real results you want to achieve?
“Looking at the different options you have outlined: Is it possible to take the best parts from each option and create a new road?
“Looking at the goals you want to achieve, here are some other possibilities you may wish to consider. For example, it could possible:
“Looking at these other possibilities, are they any that resonate with you? If so, let’s explore those in more depth.
“Let’s consider your strengths – where you deliver As, rather than Bs or Cs. How can you use your strengths and assets to tackle the challenge? How can you complement your strengths by getting other kinds of support?
“Let’s learn from your positive history. Have you ever been in a similar situation in the past and managed it successfully? What did you do right? How can you follow these principles again in the future?
“What can we learn from other people who have tackled similar challenges successfully? What did they do right to achieve their goals? How can you follow some of these principles in your own way?
“Let’s return to the results you want to achieve. What are the three key things you can do to give yourself the greatest chance of success? Looking at the challenge: Are there any other possible creative solutions?”
Good mentors pass-on knowledge in a way the person can accept. The key is to clarify which ideas resonate with the person. This is easier to see with extroverts. When working with introverts, however, the mentor keeps saying something like:
“Looking at the ideas we have explored, which ones resonate? Which would you like to explore further? Which might be useful in this situation?”
During this stage the mentor will often go through the creative process of ‘opening up’ and then ‘closing down’. They will sit alongside the person, explore many ideas and see which resonate.
After a while, they will ‘close down’ by inviting the person to settle on the ideas they would like to explore further. Pursuing this theme further, they may then again go through the process of opening up and closing down.
Each mentor will do this in their own way and continue until the mentee is ready to move onto the next stage.
There is often a natural rhythm to a mentoring session. The mentor will encourage the mentee to explore the first challenge, choices and consequences.
After considering the potential creative solutions, the mentee reflects and then, at a certain point, will be ready to move onto the final stage – their conclusions.
They settle on their plan for tackling the challenge. When it feels appropriate, the mentor enables them to take this step by using some of the following questions.
“Looking at the different options we have discussed, which route do you want to travel? What will be the pluses and minuses of pursuing this option? Are you prepared to accept the whole package?
“Let’s move on to your action plan. What steps must you take to reach your goals? How can you make this happen? Momentum is vital, so how can you get an early success? You can only do your best, of course, and make sure you also have a back-up plan.”
“What is the next challenge you want to tackle?”
There are many models for facilitating a mentoring session. The 5C model is one approach. The mentor can use it to enable people to achieve ongoing success.
So how does the strength
approach fit into mentoring?
Different mentors will obviously have different approaches to mentoring. This will influence the kind of questions they ask.
Mentors who lean towards the strengths approach will invite mentees to focus on their strengths and successful style when exploring creative solutions. As mentioned earlier, they will ask questions like:
“Let’s consider your strengths. Where do you deliver As, rather than Bs or Cs. How can you use your strengths to tackle the challenge? How can you manage the consequences of your weaknesses? How can you complement your strengths by getting other kinds of support?
“Let’s learn from your positive history. Have you ever been in a similar situation in the past and managed it successfully? What did you do right? How can you follow these principles again in the future?”
They will aim to pass on practical tools the mentee can use:
* To build on their strengths.
* To manage the consequences of their weaknesses.
* To achieve ongoing success.
There are many ways to be a mentor. Whichever approach is used, the aim is to enable the mentee to achieve their personal or professional goals.
Here are some links to more information about the mentoring process.
* Choosing a mentor.
* Facilitating a mentoring session.
* Clarifying what you can offer as a mentor.
* Using the strengths model for helping people to achieve success.