Friday, July 17, 2009

Mentee See, Mentee Do

Even in our youngest days we all had our role models; older siblings, a cool Uncle, or a crazy cousin. We watched every move this person made, paid special attention to everything they said, and then made every attempt to be their mini-me.

Recently I was visiting with our neighbor's two-year-old son, Cassidy. Cassidy has been a total sponge. Seemingly soaking in everything that is happening around him. This particular night he was playing with his new favorite toy; a plastic hammer. I, just like any other, could not resist getting a good laugh out of a lovable audience. So I took his plastic hammer and began knocking myself on the side of the head with it. Hilarious, right? Well, Cassidy thought so. However, I quickly realized the error of my ways when Cassidy took the hammer back and promptly whopped himself in the side of the head with it, laughing hysterically.

My point here is that we do not out grow the natural tendency to learn by example. Even as adults we can still learn a great deal from a mentor or role model. The difference being that our professional mentors are interested in sharing with us the productive and useful practices that they have learned along the way. Practices that may help on those days that we find ourselves reaching for the plastic hammer. Practices that show us real solutions to real, everyday problems in our field. Practices that could quite possibly prevent any unnecessary plastic hammer induced head trauma.

Knowledge of a particular field cannot come solely from books, articles, and years of instruction. A lot of the valuable lessons about handling our business, schedules, clients, and co-workers comes from our observations of others. Everyone knows that the key to success in any field relies on a relentless pursuit of knowledge, but how often do we look to one of the most readily available sources of information; our co-workers. Looking outside ourselves is a challenge for those of us who are competitive in spirit, because it would inevitably lead to the unimaginable admission that we in fact do not know everything. Gasp! Think of it this way, nothing is more valuable then tips from those seasoned veterans who went before you, fought the good fight, licked their wounds, and emerged victorious.

Jolynn Atkins, Manager of Business Development and Consulting Solutions at Escoe Bliss, recently attended an eye-opening seminar at the Leadership Services Program at Chapman University. The topic, Mentoring...Developing Human Potential presented by Susan Gerke, focused on the value that an organized mentoring process can bring to any business. A mentoring relationship that focuses on growth and development produces a broad range of benefits for the mentee, the mentor and the organization. Mentoring should not be confused with company specific training or education, nor is it a substitute for performance management. Mentoring is a separate relationship in which skills and insight are acquired through a more casual and personable relationship. A mentoring relationship offers the details of doing business that are not available in the employee handbook. It is the intangible lessons of networking, leadership, and personal growth that make mentoring worthwhile.

The benefits of mentoring to the mentee are obvious. The mentee, essentially the new fish in a big sea, is not left to fend for him/herself. The mentoring relationship transforms an unfamiliar and possibly scary environment into a safe and friendly environment, easing the mentee's process of assimilation into the new culture. The transfer of knowledge from mentor to mentee is a two-way street and a confidence builder for both. The mentor's varied experiences and company knowledge while of great value to the mentee, may also be enriched by the new, cutting-edge ideas that the mentee brings to the relationship. Both individuals wind up feeling more well-rounded and therefore capable of tackling much more. Renewed confidence will lead directly to good employee morale, which will lead to a more productive company. The result of a successful mentoring program is a company that retains their important, time honored traditions while simultaneously integrating a new culture of fresh ideas.

If you or your company think that mentoring may be the next productive step that you want to take, then Escoe Bliss would be happy to direct you to some resources.

The advantages of mentoring done right are pretty plain to see. So perhaps the next time you consider banging your head against the wall (or with a plastic hammer), you will stop and think, "There might be someone who can advise me on this matter and help me find my way to a positive solution."

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