‘There comes a point where we need to stop just pulling people out of the river. We need to go upstream and find out why they’re falling in.’
April 23rd, 2014 by Suzanne Sweeney
We think this quote from Desmond Tutu is great and links to our theme for this newsletter – Mentoring.
Going upstream and helping people to avoid falling in the first place is great way to describe the role of a mentor. Tutu himself knows the value of having a mentor, having named his eldest child after his own mentor and fellow Apartheid activist Trevor Huddleston. Now retired, aged 82, Desmond Tutu is still an active mentor, trusted advisor and role model to others.
For us, we are very familiar with more and more professionals actively using mentoring to support their personal development advance their careers and help them make key decisions. It’s obvious but a good mentor can be critical in helping people build Windmills not Walls.
So what is mentoring? According to the CIPD they describe mentoring in the workplace as ‘a relationship in which a more experienced colleague uses his or her greater knowledge and understanding of the work or workplace to support the development of a more junior or inexperienced member of staff.’ Usually the goal is to help mentees improve their skills and, hopefully, advance their careers, however whether giving or receiving, a mentoring relationship can have a beneficial impact on your career.
How can mentoring help? Without being arrogant mentors are people who have ‘been there’ and ‘done that’ and are happy to share their knowledge and experience with less experienced ‘mentees’. Support from a mentor helps people work more effectively and avoid reinventing the wheel or falling into common traps.
The Windmills portfolio can help the mentoring process by providing tools and resources the mentor can use to develop the mentees’ self reliance. A good starting point for a mentee might be to understand their current skills set by completing the Skills Cards activity. This will identify an individual’s prime skills – the skills they love using and are good at – and allow for a discussion around how best to use those skills and develop others. Similarly often mentors need to encourage their mentees to look at things from a different perspective. Activities like creating a WLPG blend or a Walls and Windmills analysis will allow people to see their current situation in a new way and explore different scenarios going forward. Most mentees know that your mentor can offer an opportunity to expand your existing network of personal and professional contacts. However it’s equally important that the mentee develops the skills to do that for themselves and there are a number of different resources in the Windmills tool kit designed to help people create their own network of support. Mentors are frequently used as a ‘sounding board’ for ideas and exploring opportunities. Creating a “Golden Ticket” to vision for the future provides an excellent platform to explore next steps and routes to moving forward and making possibilities real for people.
So a good mentor listens; leads by example; gives advice based on experience; shares their network of contacts; provides guidance and constructive feedback and ultimately helps you on your career path. That said an effective mentoring relationship is a beneficial experience for both parties. Those of you who have already used some of the Windmills tools on a one to one basis will know that it can be personally very fulfilling to feel that you’ve directly contributed to someone’s growth and development. As well as the sense of satisfaction, being a mentor can bring its own learning opportunities. The mentor can gain fresh perspectives, improve their communication skills and advance their own career.
So are you someone’s mentor? Do you have your own mentor? Take a fresh look at the Windmills tool-kit to see how it can support you further.
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