Techniques for Mentoring

The focus of mentoring is to develop the whole person and so the techniques are broad and require wisdom in order to be used appropriately. A 1995 study of mentoring techniques most commonly used in business found that the five most commonly used techniques among mentors were:

Accompanying: making a commitment in a caring way, which involves taking part in the learning process side-by-side with the learner.
Sowing: mentors are often confronted with the difficulty of preparing the learner before he or she is ready to change. Sowing is necessary when you know that what you say may not be understood or even acceptable to learners at first but will make sense and have value to the mentee when the situation requires it.
Catalyzing: when change reaches a critical level of pressure, learning can escalate. Here the mentor chooses to plunge the learner right into change, provoking a different way of thinking, a change in identity or a re-ordering of values.
Showing: this is making something understandable, or using your own example to demonstrate a skill or activity. You show what you are talking about, you show by your own behavior.
Harvesting: here the mentor focuses on “picking the ripe fruit”: it is usually used to create awareness of what was learned by experience and to draw conclusions. The key questions here are: “What have you learned?”, “How useful is it?”.

Different techniques may be used by mentors according to the situation and the mindset of the mentee, and the techniques used in modern organizations can be found in ancient education systems, from the Socratic technique of harvesting to the accompaniment method of learning used in the apprenticeship of itinerant cathedral builders during the Middle Ages. Leadership authors Jim Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner advise mentors to look for “teachable moments” in order to “expand or realize the potentialities of the people in the organizations they lead” and underline that personal credibility is as essential to quality mentoring as skill.

Multiple mentors: A new and upcoming trend is having multiple mentors. This can be helpful because we can all learn from each other. Having more than one mentor will widen the knowledge of the person being mentored. There are different mentors who may have different strengths.

Profession or trade mentor: This is someone who is currently in the trade/profession you are entering. They know the trends, important changes and new practices that you should know to stay at the top of your career. A mentor like this would be someone you can discuss ideas regarding the field, and also be introduced to key and important people that you should know.

Industry mentor: This is someone who doesn’t just focus on the profession. This mentor will be able to give insight on the industry as a whole. Whether it be research, development or key changes in the industry, you need to know.

Organization mentor: Politics in the organizations are constantly changing. It is important to be knowledgeable about the values, strategies and products that are within your company, but also when these things are changing. An organization mentor can clarify missions and strategies, and give clarity when needed.

Work process mentor: This mentor can speed quickly over the bumps, and cut through the unnecessary work. This mentor can explain the ‘ins and outs’ of projects, day to day tasks, and eliminate unnecessary things that may be currently going on in your work day. This mentor can help to get things done quickly and efficiently.

Technology mentor: This is an up-and-coming, incredibly important position. Technology has been rapidly improving, and becoming more a part of day to day transactions within companies. In order to perform your best, you must know how to get things done on the newest technology. A technology mentor will help with technical breakdowns, advise on systems that may work better than what you’re currently using, and coach you through new technology and how to best use it and implement it into your daily life.

These mentors are only examples. There can be many more different types of mentors. Look around your workplace, your life, and see who is an expert that you can learn something from.

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