Three Conceptions of Mentor Development

© 2005, By Barry Sweeny


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How Our Beliefs Drive our Actions & How to CHANGE Our Beliefs

It is very, VERY difficult to change a person’s beliefs. This is so because very often, even we are not fully aware of our own beliefs.

If we can examine our beliefs and could consciously choose the new beliefs that we think we SHOULD believe, THAT would really drive improvement. The fact is that, by ACTING according to what we should believe, we can actually begin to change our beliefs.

In other words, acting like we believe something, helps us to adopt new and better, more appropriate beliefs to replace older, inappropriate ones.

When we observe the ways that mentoring program leaders behave, it reveals a great
deal about what they believe. The trick in being a great mentor program leader is:

  1. being fully aware of your underlying beliefs
  2. examining your real beliefs
  3. choosing the beliefs that makes the most sense
  4. planning the actions we think would reflect our desired beliefs…and…
  5. doing the behaviors that we should do based on our new beliefs.

Mentor and ProtegeHere are three conceptions for the development of mentors. Each reflects what may be for you, an unexamined belief.

Read these three conceptions, and choose what you feel you should believe. Then choose how you and your program should behave as a result.


Excellent Mentors Are Found” –

  • The program has processes, or just works to attract, recruit, select and match
    excellent people who seem to have the necessary willingness, relationship skills,
    and experience and/or content knowledge to be good mentors.
  • Since these persons are deemed already good enough to be mentors, little use is seen for mentor training and on-going support is minimal.
  • The biggest program concern is finding and recruiting sufficient numbers of these
    kinds and quality of persons.

Excellent Mentors Are Found & Prepared

  • The program has processes, or just works to attract, recruit, select and match
    excellent people who seem to have the necessary willingness, relationship skills,
    and experience and/or content knowledge to be good mentors.
  • However, the program considers excellent mentoring to require a knowledge base
    of strategies and a set of professional skills which potential mentors may not yet
    have had the opportunity to learn.
  • Therefore, the program requires a mentor training experience for all potential
    mentors, to ensure that they have the range of knowledge and skills needed to be
    an excellent mentor.
  • Little on-going support is provided mentors because it is assumed that, after the training, they have all the requisite knowledge and skills and can be the excellent mentors the program expects.
  • The biggest concern is that mentoring is largely “invisible” to those outside the relationship, because of its confidential nature, so the quality of mentoring
    remains unknown except in the worst cases were a protege feels they must complain.

Excellent Mentors Are Grown

  • The program has processes and strategies to attract, recruit, select and match
    excellent people who seem to have the necessary willingness, relationship skills,
    and experience and/or content knowledge to be good mentors.
  • However, the desired quality of mentoring reflects a desired image which the
    organization has of excellence in others/employees and it is rarely found. So mentors must both be prepared and grown to become the people that are desired.
  • Even the best mentors acknowledge that model of excellence to be beyond their
    current capacity, but their own personal and professional goals reflect a desire
    to become like that image. (For example, if excellence involves continual learning,
    mentors do that.)
  • Therefore, mentoring is undertaken with the expectation that mentors will learn
    and grow as much as or more than their protege.
  • The program perceives its role as attracting, recruiting and selecting persons
    with such an expectation and commitment, and then preparing them for work within the program and its support system, and finally as providing mentors the on-going challenge and accountability to keep growing, and the support and recognition for that growth.
  • Most experienced persons can serve as effective mentors if they have that understanding of mentoring and the commitment to become more effective.
  • Although such mentoring is complex and time-intensive, the organization undertakes this approach and makes this commitment because it perceives mentoring as the key strategy for transforming the organization itself.
  • Since mentoring is both about individual people and the organization, the goals
    of mentoring are intimately connected with the organization;s own goals.

Now, which of these conceptions about mentor development truly reflect what you
think is the best?

Then…

  • Given your choice, how will you behave differently as a mentor program leader?
  • Given your choice, how should your mentoring program behave differently
    regarding …

    1. Recruiting mentors?
    2. Orienting mentor candidates to possible mentor roles?
    3. Selecting new mentors?
    4. Training new mentors?
    5. Training experienced mentors?
    6. Matching mentors and proteges?
    7. Dealing with mentor-protege mismatches?