Mentoring as a way of developing leadership skills
One very effective way for a manager to continue their development is to identify a mentor. A management mentor is a guide, someone with greater experience and the wisdom that comes with it, someone who can offer impartial advice and support. Many senior managers find their own mentor often someone outside of their own organisation, may be someone they met at a conference or someone they know from a previous job, someone whose judgment they respect, someone they trust and have developed a rapport with. Often they are in a different but related area of work.
In Lancashire as part of pay back to the organisation for the investment that had been made in them all the managers who had benefited from executive coaching were expected to offer themselves as mentors. Rather surprisingly in view of their experience some senior managers expressed doubts about their skills for the role and concerns that mentees may have unrealistic expectations. Were these genuine concerns or just a reluctance to take on an additional role? We offered a one day workshop to managers who wished to be mentors and produce guidance for mentors and mentees covering confidentiality, frequency of meetings and an end date for the relationship. The guidance made it clear that the onus was on the mentee to come to sessions with a live issue to discuss as opposed to the typical line management supervision session where the manager would take the lead in determining what was discussed.
We decided that the introduction of a mentoring system was more likely to succeed if mentors were volunteers.
It became clear early on that mentors and mentees had very different views on the type of structure to support mentoring. Mentors wanted things kept relatively informal mentees wanted detailed guidance. Mentors were relatively relaxed about the matching process” if someone wants me to mentor them I will. If it doesn’t work out we will agree it isn’t working and call it a day”. Mentees had grander expectations they seemed to think it was like a dating agency and were happy to fill in a lengthy questionnaire about their experience and what they wanted to get out of a mentoring relationship. Mentors were reluctant to complete any forms one mentor summed up their view as “look it doesn’t really matter what posts I have held I am not offering professional supervision but the benefit of my experience as a senior manager”
A detailed case study is published in Equipping managers for an uncertain future published by www.russellhouse.co.uk