History and Definition of Mentorship

The word "mentor" was first used in Homer's epic poem "The Odyssey" when Odysseus entrusted the care of his kingdom to Mentor who served as a teacher and overseer to Odysseus' son.

This is where mentor was derived meaning "a trusted councelor or guide."

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The terms mentoring and coaching are often mistakenly interchanged. Although they are similar, they are not the same when it comes to approach.

  • Mentoring - long-term relationship focusing on the growth and development of the mentee with the mentor as the source of the wisdom, support, and knowledge.
  • Coaching - short-term relationship focusing on strengthening traits and eliminating behaviors that diminishes one's performance.

A mentor is not someone who gives you direct answers, but someone who challenges you to know the right answer. 

And in life, you can't be spoon-fed all the time. The role of a mentor is to guide you and give you the wisdom in knowing the answer.

A mentor..

  • Takes a long-range view of your growth and development.
  • Helps you see the destination but does not give you the detailed map to get there.
  • Offers encouragement and cheerleading, but not "how to" advice.

A mentor does not..

  • Serve as a coach as explained above.
  • Function as an advocate of yours in the organizational environment such as your boss would; the relationship is more informal.
  • Tell you how to do things.
  • Support you on transactional, short-term problems.
  • Serve as a counselor or therapist. 
  • Have the willingness to learn and be open to positive or negative feedback.
  • Do not hesitate to ask for advice and use this chance to practice being a good listener.
  • Let your mentor know what your goals are.
  • Discuss with your mentor how you can best measure the success and effectiveness of your working relationship together.
  • Always follow your appointments.
  • Keep track of your discussions with your mentor and follow up specifically on those steps when you meet.
  1. Use your time looking for the mentor you are comfortable with.
  2. Share your goals and fears openly.
  3. Do not expect your mentor to spoon-feed you.
  4. Do not expect specific advice.
  5. Share your struggles and failures.
  6. Listen, research and apply your mentor's guidance.
  7. Show that you value your mentor's support.
  8. Do not abuse your relationship by expecting political support in the organization.

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RELATED IDEAS

  • M-anage the relationship
  • E-ncourage
  • N-urture
  • T-each
  • O-ffer mutual respect
  • R-espond to the learner's needs

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IDEAS

  • Identify learning goals and style and measure success for the mentoring relationship.
  • Be open and seek feedback.
  • Be active in learning.
  • Schedule and attend mentor appointments.
  • Follow through on commitments and take informed risks as they try new options and behaviors in support of career and development goals.

To develop a successful mentoring relationships:

  • Design the Alliance. Both parties must have an agreement on the contact and response times, meetings, confidentiality, focus, feedback, and goals and accountability.
  • Get to Know Each Other. It is important to have a strong relationship and trust before focusing on the problem.
  • Set the Agenda. Be clear on the purpose and goals of the program.
  • Reflect and Evaluate. Know if there is a progress or development gained from the mentoring every few meetings.
  • Closeout. Before parting ways, have a closure with each other. Reflect and appreciate what both parties have learned and gained from the experience.

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