The Basic Mentoring Strategy

© 2001, Barry Sweeny

While there are a few aspects of mentoring which are unique at each setting, almost all elements of effective mentoring are the same regardless of the setting.

  • The unique aspects of mentoring are provided on this web site in the “Resources” section.
  • The best practices which are needed across all organizational settings are provided in the other sections.

When the common best practices for mentoring are reduced to their most basic structure, we arrive at the “Essential Mentoring Strategy” which is provided below.

INDEX:


A. The Deceptive Nature of Simplicity

A word of CAUTION is in order here. Essential ideas must, by definition, be simple. But “simple” is not necessarily easy. Thereinlies a danger.

There is simple powerful truth behind what is shared on this web page which you may tend to gloss over and MISS or MISunderstand precisely becauseit IS simple. Don’t let the simplicity fool you.

The understanding and use of this essential strategy solves so many problems and is so powerful in transforming practice, you simply MUST grasp and use it if you want a high impact mentoring program that delivers improved performance and better, quicker results.


B. FUNDAMENTAL PREMISES OF THE ESSENTIAL MENTORING STRATEGY:

  1. We must receive the “gift” of effective mentoring before we can effectively give it to others.
  2. When we are given the gift of effective mentoring, we will feel that we can never adequately repay our mentor for giving us such a valuable gift, and we will only be satisfied by passing the gift on to others. (Eleanor Roosevelt once said this.)
  3. We must understand WHY the gift we received was valuable to us, if we are to be able to give others that gift and make it just as valued for and by them.
  4. If WE are the mentors, we will probably need a mentor of mentors to show us what effective mentoring is like and can do, AND then, to help us understand the process that makes it so valuable.

C. The Essential Mentoring Strategy

  1. Use a research-based model of human development or learning to assess where the protege is on that developmental process.
  2. Provide a high impact learning experience to the individual learner which is designed to address those specific developmental needs and help them move to the next stage of development. At the start, try to do so without explaining what you are doing or why. “Just do it”.
  3. Afterward, use open-ended questions to guide the learner to reflect on and analyze that mentoring experience and WHY it had a high impact on them. Once that is done, then…
  4. Ask open-ended questions to prompt the learner “translate” what made their experience so powerful into e parallel “work strategy***.
  5. Facilitate the learners planning for how to use that high impact work strategy in his/her own daily  work to improve their own and others’ learning, growth, performance, and results.
  6. Mentor and support the learner in using and mastering the work strategy in his/her own work.

** A “work strategy” is any “truth” or growth strategy which is required in your organization and work to be truly excellent, such as:

  • Honoring and using the strengths diversity provides
  • The power of the team to do more than the separated individuals can
  • The power of data to transform thinking and create learning and improvement
  • The value of learning to be open to feed back from others who care about us, etc.
  • The necessity of emotionally safe environments to support taking the risk of learning with others.
  • Any other task or setting-specific truth or principle.

D. How Might Use of This Strategy Look in Actual Settings?

The Essential Mentoring Strategy just presented was intentionally stated in very general terms. This was done to ensure it’s applicability for every setting. However, that generality of the language may make it difficult for you to imagine how it would actually work in your specific mentoring context.

Let’s “translate” the language of the Essential Mentoring Strategy to help you see a couple of such specific applications.

In a business setting where the mentor is trying to help the protege learn about (example) excellent customer relations, the essential strategy might look like this.

What we will need to translate are the words:

  • Learning > Mentoring
  • Learner > Protege
  • Work strategy* > Excellent customer relations
  • Work > Customer relationships
  1. Assess the protege’s level of development on a model of the stages for learning how to be an effective customer relations worker.
  2. Provide a high impact mentoring experience that is designed to build on the individual learner’s current skills, meet the current developmental needs, and move the protege to the next level of growth. To begin with try to do so without explaining what you are doing or why. “Just do it”.
  3. Afterward, use open-ended questions to guide the protege to reflect on and analyze that experience and WHY it had a high impact on them. Once that is done, then…
  4. Ask open-ended questions to prompt the protege to apply what made their learning so useful to discover the parallel concepts of excellent customer relationships. The result would be strategies to provide customers a high impact learning experience based on assessing and meeting customer needs.
  5. Facilitate the protege’s planning for how to use the high impact concepts of excellent customer relationships in his/her own work as a customer needs assessor and provider.
  6. Mentor and support the protege in learning and using assessment and meeting of customer needs as the basis of excellent customer relationships.

In an educational setting (K-12 schools or higher education), the essential strategy might look like this.

What we will need to translate are the words:

  • Learning > Mentoring
  • Learner > Protege who is a new teacher
  • Work Strategy* > Instructional strategy
  • Work > Teaching
  1. Assess the new teacher’s level of development on a research-based model of teacher development.
  2. Provide a high impact mentoring experience to the individual new teacher which is designed to build on their current strengths, meet their current needs, and prompt growth to the next level of learning. Try to do so without explaining what you are doing or why. “Just do it”.
  3. Afterward, use open-ended questions to guide the new teacher to reflect on and analyze that experience and WHY it had a high impact on them. Once that is done, then…
  4. Ask open-ended questions to prompt the new teacher to discover the parallel instructional strategy which made it a high impact learning experience. (ie. meeting the assessed needs of the individual learner.)
  5. Facilitate the new teacher’s planning for how to use that high impact instructional strategy in his/her own teaching to improve student learning, growth, performance, and results.
  6. Mentor and support the protege in using and mastering the teaching strategy in his/her own classroom and daily instruction.