The traditional mentoring is based on the fact that someone more experienced, with a higher degree of knowledge in particular subject, transfer this knowledge to other, usually younger. The process then have only one direction of learning, higher to lower. This last sentence is only an analogy, means that the mentor has and must teach and the learner, or mentee, just learning. This is one of the main factors for the traditional mentoring just does not work, is not effective today.
I have worked for the last twenty-five years together executives, entrepreneurs, teams, always as a supporting agent – consultant, coach, facilitator, coach and mentor. In this period I could clearly see how each of these roles run and provides positive or negative results in each type of customer. These functions, though often overlapping, have very clear differences.
Consultants are paid to deliver some kind of expertise, something formatted before a specified demand and predefined results. Coaches in a similar way have goals to be achieved and although the process is wide and allow changes, there is still the paradigm that action plans and tasks must be carried out within a pre-established mechanism. The role of the facilitator is usually “do not disturb” something given to a group.
My experience in this area is great and I would say it is one of the most dangerous tasks among all. You are acting like a football referee should keep the game going without being noticed, and attentive to every detail. If all goes well, is great, it has had results, you just brokered. If everything goes wrong, you are penalized even not having a direct influence on what happened.
But the coach has a role very well defined, deliver content from your expertise to an audience that has an expected demand. If the coach is good, the result basically depends on the audience. Factors such as motivation, engagement, dynamics and practicality can make a difference in this case.
The mentor has a slightly different role. In a traditional mentoring process, the mentor plays the father’s role transferring knowledge or experience to your child. And this can be very positive. But these days can be dangerous. How many professionals who have a lot of experience in a particular function can not bring a package of vices and paradigms that can put the actual function of mentoring into disrepute?
Traditional mentoring can and should be replaced by something much more powerful and that, in practice, it requires the same investment. A study sponsored by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that by 2030, 75% of professionals working in corporations belong to Millennial generation. That is, development programs should be realigned to a new learning perspective.
I want to go a little deeper into this topic. If you invite a professional, say a manager in his forty or forty-five years to make a mentoring on something specific to a potential talent with his 27 years, what would he do? I have some suspicions. He probably prepare or just would select one of their powerful presentations in PowerPoint®, print out the material available on the subject, indicate some literature, and everything ready.
What you assume would happen? Probably the level of conversation would be divergent. This can be bad or disastrous depending on the hierarchy involving both – mentor and mentee. Of course, nothing positive can happen.
A few years ago I went to study more closely how the Strategic Mentorship worked and why their results were so effective. I found something very interesting. Mentoring top-down does not work. And it does not work because it puts in direct clash generations or hierarchy. The conversations between parents and children are taken into the organizations.
I have much talked about mentoring with companies that have gone through similar experiences. I could say that the overwhelming majority of them got poor results with their mentoring programs. I know exactly why. The main villain of this process is that people understand that do mentoring is something easy, simple and straightforward. Just choose qualified people in certain topics and on the other those who need this knowledge. Join them and simply solve all problems. Obviously this is a mistake. Mentorship without strategy and preparation turns chat. Chat is good, but does not solve the organization’s problems.
The strategic mentoring is something more elaborate, with specific goals and you get extremely effective results. This is a process where mentor and mentee, or apprentice, have very specific roles. The mentor should share and discuss their experience, in addition to the important task of learning from the process. Mentoring should capture the expertise transmitted by mentor but not be limited to just that. He or she should question, deepen, complement build next to his mentor a better solution to the target learning.
strategic mentoring can be defined as a way to share knowledge, experiences and ideas of an integrated and collaborative way. It can be performed individually, as well as traditional mentoring in small groups or teams in the organization as a whole, in a process we call social learning.