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Evolution of Mentoring

In: Business and Management

Submitted By pdelaney
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THE EVOLUTION OF MENTORING
By: Patrick Delaney

Mentor was first documented in Greek mythology. Mentor was with whom Odysseus trusted to run his household and see to his son’s education when Odysseus went off to fight the Trojans. Many things have changed in the three thousand years since. Mentoring has evolved from the traditional one-on-one relationship to eMentoring. This paper will look at the different types of mentoring relating to leadership and how it has changed over the years.
Mentoring is a process for the informal transmission of knowledge, social capital, and the psychosocial support perceived by the recipient as relevant to work, career, or professional development. Mentoring entails informal communication, usually face-to-face and during a sustained period of time, between a person who is perceived to have greater relevant knowledge, wisdom, or experience (the mentor) and a person who is perceived to have less.
There are two broad types of mentoring relationships: formal and informal. Informal relationships develop on their own between partners. Formal mentoring, on the other hand, refers to a structured process supported by the organization and addressed to target populations.
Traditionally, mentoring was a formal one-on-one face-to-face relationship between an older more experienced person and a young person with no experience. At one time, the term 'apprentice' was commonplace in various trades, most commonly in blue collar industries; however, apprenticeships have stepped aside for the now more commonly recognized term of mentoring and the concept has moved strictly from trade industries to more white collar and 'professional' setting.
Apprenticeship is a system of training a new generation of practitioners of a skill. This is usually in the form of a person being assigned to an experienced employee for training. Although career paths that would use this form of mentoring have shifted outside the United States, there are still some industry classes that still use apprenticeships, such as plumbers, electrician, and pressmen. In addition some professional fields also require a modified form of apprenticeship, such as certain engineers and doctors, in order to be licensed in their field. An additional reason for the decline in apprenticeship programs over the year is that employees stayed with one employer for their entire career. This meant that it was to the employer’s advantage to have these programs to properly train and support their employees. Now with employees being considered portable employers do not want to put in the time and expense just to have the employee leave shortly after completing the program.
Another type of formal mentoring is Co-op although depending on the program it could be considered part of traditional mentoring or team mentoring. This method combines classroom education with practical work experience. This has been the replacement program to apprenticeship programs for a good number of employers. It’s less expensive, less risk and less of a commitment to the employer. In addition some participants in the program have been recruited by the employers they co-op for to fill open positions once they complete the program. The advantages to both sides is the knowledge each gained from each other in the program to determine that this would be a good fit for both. For the student it helps to make the school-to-work transition, help identify what they want to do, and gain experience.
Mentoring circles depending on the members could be a form of peer or team mentoring. These groups are usually informal and are not always led by a formal mentor instead the group as a whole is the mentor. This allows the group to benefit from the experiences of the individual members. In order to have this method to work some basic ground rules need to be established and followed such as concerns over teamwork, confidentiality, and keeping the sessions productive. One of the biggest benefits of mentoring circles is the diversity they bring to discussion. Every member of the circle has different backgrounds from education as well as cultural experiences that shed different lights of any given discussion point. The mentoring circle also ignores the formal stereotypes of manager to staff, or older to younger. A good example of this is when technology is involved in the discussion as the younger members tend to be more confident when dealing technology issues.
Traditional mentoring in the workplace usually derives from one of three methods: (1) a mentor is assigned to you; (2) you secure one on your own; or (3) a mentoring relationship naturally develops with someone you know and trust.
This third type of mentoring takes time needs a great deal of commitment and a great deal of work from both sides of the relationship. The focus of the relationship is traditionally related to one’s career, employability skills, and social interactions within the organization. While most leaders would like to be mentors, in part because they were once themselves the mentee and thus they wish to pass on the knowledge and experience endowed upon them at the beginning of their careers, today time and budgets are tight and the concept of long-term employment with a single company has diminished in popularity. Today’s leaders are under more pressure to produce results with fewer resources, thus mentoring does not hold a high priority. This is probably the biggest change over the years, the corporate culture. The bottom line has always been important, before there was a balance between the bottom line and personnel, now that balance does not exist; it’s all about the bottom line.
Peer mentoring is a good way of practicing social skills for the mentor and helps the mentee adapt to a new setting. Most peer mentors are picked for their sensibility, confidence, social skills and reliability. Peer mentoring can offer employees a valuable source of support and information in the workplace. In addition, peer mentoring offers a low cost way to train new employees or to upgrade the skills of less experienced workers. Peer mentoring usually allows for the natural leaders in the group or organization to step up and take the new person under their wing. This is the most beneficial to the mentee as they will get more out of the peer mentor than from their supervisor. Peer mentoring also helps address the pressure supervisors, managers, and upper level leaders feel to produce better results, as they can put more effort into that than mentoring if the peer-mentoring program is successful.
The concept of Team Mentoring has evolved due to historical incidents involving mismatches, the problems associated with male/female mentoring relationships, and diverse cultural mentoring relationships.
In the team mentoring environment the mentee will have multiple mentors, each bringing something unique to the table and something the other mentors cannot provide, or are not as skilled or experience at to pass on to the mentee. The diversity of input is thought to create a stronger employee and a more favorable contribution in the long term, although the concept of 'long-term' has changed. Especially in our expanding and ever changing professional environment, a combined package of work skills and knowledge base make for a stronger and more powerful workforce. For example one mentor may be a person who has been in the business for several years and is thus able to provide input into the corporate philosophy and help navigate social situations within the company. A second mentor most likely is not part of the organization, but has technical background that will help the mentee. Finally a third mentor that is most likely a spouse or close friend that knows the mentee personally and can help advise how things will affect the mentee personally. Contributors to the overall 'whole' mentee may or may not be an actual part of the business culture, but will have an overall effect on the mentee's view, experience, focus and ultimate goals.
An effective team-mentoring program is one in which all of its members’ sights are on accomplishing the same goal or objective.
The first step is determining the goals, define what it is you are trying to accomplish. A clear goal will help you to utilize your resources the most efficiently. By knowing where you are heading, and knowing the strengths of those contributing to the goal, you can best utilize the strengths and knowledge of each member of the 'team.'
The second step is to choose the right people to create a mix of skill sets, experience and view to create an overall positive and successful outcome. With each goal or objective you are trying to accomplish the team of mentors you assemble can and most likely will be different. This is due to the fact that no one person has all the experience or knowledge needed to complete the task. Also competing ideas make for constructive communication that should allow you to complete the task at hand.
The third step is to develop an action plan. This plan will outline the objectives and determine the best methodology to proceed.
The final step is to execute and complete the objective.
With the ever-changing technology in today’s environment, eMentoring has become the newest form of mentoring. EMentoring is a means of providing a guided mentoring relationship using online software or email. The mentor and mentee never meet face-to-face. There is available online software that allows both mentors and mentees to log into a secure online environment where they can converse under supervision of moderators and coordinators. A second more informal means of eMentoring is when the mentor and mentee communicate via online chat or email.
Some look at eMentoring unfavorably as they feel it takes away from what you can get out of a face-to-face such as visual, hearing and social clues. Although some of this is being addressed with programs like Skype that allow the users to see and hear each other, making it more personal. Leaving the social aspect as the remaining negative. There are several positive aspects of eMentoring, the first being that it opens up the choices of mentors globally. This gives the mentee even more perspectives about any given objective. The second is it less time consuming allowing those who in the past that could not make the time to able to participate in mentoring. This again grows the base of knowledgeable mentors available to interact with the mentee.
I personally have experienced a progression in mentoring. As an accounting clerk for a family owned newspaper I was at the bottom of the ladder. What I had going for me was attending school at night and that I never said no to any projects. By doing this I became noticed by the Controller. When the company was purchased by a major chain the office was reorganized and I started have direct contact with the Controller. After some more interaction we formed a traditional mentoring relationship where we worked one-on-one together, not professionally but also in regards to my schooling.
After about a year the relationship went from traditional to peer with the addition of the Accounting Manager as a mentor. About another year passed and the relationship made another change. With the acquisition of a new property by the parent company I was promoted and the three of us became a team. This was probably the most rewarding time for me as our relationship became informal. We all trusted and valued each other. When a new mandate or change came down the line we would get into a room discuss the issue. We were all free to speak our minds and yes there were a few animated discussions, but when we came to a decision as to how to handle the situation we were all on the same page. Finally a few years ago all three of us left the company and went our separate ways.
Even though I’m on the opposite coast from them we are always talking online. Bouncing ideas off each other, they even helped me when I was considering MBA programs. I can say eMentoring can work as long as both sides put in the effort.
In conclusion the biggest misconception with mentoring and leadership is that the mentor is the leader when in actuality the leader is the mentee. The mentee is the one responsible for their own development and will use the mentors as a resource. This, in my opinion, is the most important aspect of leadership, as if you can’t lead yourself to learn and grow how you can lead others.

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[ 1 ]. Bozeman, B; Freeney, M.K. (October 2007) “Towards a useful theory of mentoring: A conceptual analysis and critique” Administrative and Society vol.39 no. 6
[ 2 ]. www.ache.org/newsclub/career/mentorarticles/multiple.cfm
[ 3 ]. Evans, Marshawn www.blackenterprise.com/2011/05/01/the-problem-with-traditional-mentoring/
[ 4 ]. Bozeman, B; Freeney, M.K. (October 2007) “Towards a useful theory of mentoring: A conceptual analysis and critique” Administrative and Society vol.39 no. 6
[ 5 ]. Ensher EA, Thomas C, Murphy SE. "Comparison of traditional, step-ahead, and peer mentoring on protégés' support, satisfaction, and perceptions of career success: A social exchange perspective." Journal of Business and Psychology 2001;15(3):419-438.
[ 6 ]. www.insala.com/articles/coaching-skills-training/team-mentoring.asp
[ 7 ]. www.insala.com/articles/coaching-skills-training/team-mentoring.asp
[ 8 ]. www.mentornet.net
[ 9 ]. http://healthcare.advancementoring.com/index.php?FindPage=Advantages+of+our+hybrid+e+mentoring,+telementorin&LayoutSet=short

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