Imagine that you have found yourself in a dense jungle. You are trying to make your way in it. You are hesitating whether to go on or put your hands down. Suddenly you see that someone has cleared a path out of the brush, and you can walk through the jungle. What a relief!
The scene described above is precisely a metaphor for mentoring. The paved road is the mentor’s experience, which he generously shares with his student. The jungle is a symbol of the mentee’s goal.
Mentoring – what is it?
Mentoring involves matching qualified people or people with a lot of experience (mentors) with people who want to improve their competences or develop in a specific field (mentee). The mentoring relationship is based on the transfer of specific skills and the sharing of social competences in a friendly and confidential atmosphere. The mentor provides his/her mentee with knowledge and advice in order to support him/her in achieving a certain goal. This may be the realization of a professional path, the completion of a project or the acquisition of new competences.
Mentoring is a process of transformation for both the mentor and the mentee. It can be practiced informally or take the form of a mentoring program. Formal mentoring requires a contract to spell out the rules of the relationship and mutual obligations.
Mentoring was born in the United States and Canada as an answer to numerous crises (in the economy, in the sphere of employment) which revealed the need for a special kind of support. Mentoring programs began to be implemented there in the 70s of the last century and were adopted in all cells of social life: schools, universities, companies and associations. Today, mentoring is expanding in Asia and Europe, meeting the needs of societies undergoing profound change, seeking greater exchange of knowledge and ideas and developing platforms for mutual support in the face of increasing digitization.
Like all forms of support, mentoring contributes to the well-being of the people it supports. It is a tool for professional and personal development, a career enabler, builds bonds within an organization and strengthens the sense of worth of the people involved in the mentoring relationship.
Mentoring – what is it based on?
Mentoring is based on strong pillars which ensure the development of its participants and the success of the project:
- the pairing of mentor and student is done without coercion;
- the mentor does not have to account to anyone for his mission and is not obliged to achieve specific goals, acts independently and keeps confidentiality;
- the tandem has full freedom of action, is free from external supervision; in fact, it is essential that they are outside the “hierarchy”;
- neither the mentor nor the student is paid, although building a mentoring relationship has its price.
Mentoring involves exchange and continuous learning within the tandem. One of its participants will have more say in the beginning, but over time the direction of this exchange is often reversed.
The mentoring relationship fosters the expression of ideas and the development of creativity within the tandems, who act as active cells.
Mentoring creates a space in companies where employees are free from interference from managers. It does not set performance as a goal, nevertheless it naturally drives it.
Mentoring – what are its characteristics?
Mentoring in organizations is about building a supportive and voluntary relationship between experienced mentors and students who are striving for growth and looking for an active listener and support. The mentoring relationship is about an exchange in which each party has something to share. The mentee with less experience develops his talents and predispositions thanks to the mentor’s care, while the mentor sees that his student recognizes him as a master and wants to follow in his footsteps.
An important dimension of this form of support is to increase the self-esteem of those involved in the process, building bonds within the organization, as well as increasing individual and collective productivity.
Mentoring can be informal, when one chooses a mentor for one’s own personal development, and it can be formal – when it is aimed both at the well-being of its participants and at increasing productivity in the organization. Implementing a mentoring program requires a lot of preparation. The program must also be coordinated at all stages of its implementation.
What is mentoring for?
Mentoring is an interpersonal relationship at the professional level between two or more people who want to move forward together to learn from each other. The concept of mentoring is based on the idea that together we can do more and are stronger; that we move forward faster by learning from the experience of someone who has already experienced what we are going through; that we can learn by “walking alongside” a more experienced person, and exchange knowledge with one who is competent but often not aware of it. The benefits of mentoring are always mutual. The main benefits include:
- professional and personal development,
- career progression,
- integration of the employee during the position,
- broadening of competences,
- smooth succession management,
- reduction of turnover among employees,
- intergenerational exchange,
- development of organisational culture,
- respect for diversity,
- increase in creativity and adaptability.
To whom is mentoring addressed?
Mentoring in companies and organizations is addressed to everyone: people with higher potential, human resources, rank-and-file employees, people from different professional backgrounds, young people, seniors… It can also be proposed to one person as well as a large number of people at the same time.
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