Management and Mentoring

The following is an IMA mentoring expert’s response to a message is from a Dr. S.K. head of a managment education institute in India. His questions may not directly relate to your mentoring business program, but we bet the responses to his questions WILL be very thought provoking and useful to you r business.
– The Editor

” Dear Mr. Editor,
I am working as Faculty in a management institute, and recently I am appointed as Head of the HR Forum (to include Mentoring Activities) and now am facing lots of problems as:

  1. Our mentoring concept was implemented one and half years ago, but never
    been successful.
  2. All faculty are assigned eight to ten students as mentees and they are charged to make them perfect in terms of an employable product. We have not succeeded because many graduates did not find employment placements.

I am not convinced that purpose of mentoring in management education is to make the student employable. As my head speaks that if these students get fail in getting placement, then it would be failure of mentors too.

Would you please help me to think about the ultimate goal of mentors in management
education, because what is expected by my seniors is very wide and abstract kind of thing and on this basis I cannot set criteria of success and cannot motivate my team of mentors.

Best Regards,     Dr. S.K., India”

Dear Dr. S.K.,

My question is, “what defines ‘success’ to you? For your mentor program? For your management education program? For the faculty mentors? For the student mentees?

A. “Success” can mean that something has met a standard.  Does your mentoring program have a standard toward which it is working and against which it is assessed?

B. “Success” can also mean attaining a goal. Does your mentoring program have a purpose or goal statement?

I also think we need to clarify a statement you made. You said, “the mentoring program has never been successful.”

C. “Success” can also mean being effective. This would imply that the mentor program or perhaps the mentoring itself, is improving – that there is visible progress, and that it is getting better.

But this then requires answering the question – Getting better at what? – Progress toward what?

So, we are back at the start and needing to know if your program has a goal or a standard. I could be more helpful if you could answer that for me.

I believe that the ultimate goal of mentoring should not be “employability”.

1. I view that as a very minimal goal – it’s as if the school is saying, “We don’t care how effective our graduates are when they are working, as long as they just get a job.”

2. It’s also a suggestion that your program thinks the students don’t want or care about if they know how to do a good job, just that they get a job. I am sure that your program, school, and faculty do NOT believe these things.

3. Given the kind of program you are, I am sure your faculty are TEACHING your students how to be effective managers. Therefore, your goal for the mentoring should be that graduates demonstrate a certain number of the qualities of effective managers.

4. Now, there will be several very challenging aspects involved in following up with a educational program and a mentoring program that serves that goal of producing effective managers.

A. The goal must be demonstrated and measured. Measuring a demonstration requires multiple forms of data to support a conclusion of effectiveness. The process of faculty selecting data that will adequately demonstrate effectiveness will be of major importance to the programs, to the faculty, and to their students.

1. It will require that they review their own instructional practice and assess the extent to which THEY model this management effectiveness, so that students can actually see it demonstrated and know what “good” practice looks like. The core question they must consider and decide is, to what extent are good instruction and mentoring the same and different from effective management?

2. It will require that the faculty review the content they teach to see if that content adequately defines, clarifies, and helps students understand what effective management is. “Understanding” implies that students would have to work as managers, trying to learn and demonstrate the defined best practices, and that they receive corrective feed back to improve in their skills.

3. It will require the faculty to define criteria that must be meet (a standard) to adequately demonstrate effective management. These criteria can then be applied, such as by YOU, when you work with faculty as mentors, to help them self-assess their mentoring effectiveness, and when you offer them feed back from your view point to help them improve as mentors. These same criteria should also be applied in the assessment of th management students, as they seek to demonstrate these competencies.

4. It should be accepted wisdom that effective managers must be able to help develop their subordinates and, through supervision, help subordinates become more effective. In other words, effective managers MUST be effective MENTORS. Consider what THAT implies.

5. If effective managers must be effective mentors, then, faculty mentoring must model how to help others grow to become more effective (in that case, as students of management, as managers, AND as mentees who work with mentors). This is crucial because when students eventually become managers, they will always have a supervisor whom they must learn from, accept experience and guidance from, even accept correction and feed back from.

In this way we can see that being a part of an effective mentoring team (a pair or a team) is critical preparation for the role of manager.

  • It teaches the mentees what they must do when they are managers/mentors.
  • It teaches the mentees what they must do as mentees when they are working
    with their eventual supervisors.

This should serve as a big insight to faculty and it should motivate them to consider all these issues and work to clarify what their mentoring must demonstrate to mentees, and work to ensure that the students can demonstrate those qualities too.

• Note – These are two concepts (a. goals must be measurable, and b. multiple forms of data are needed to inform decisions) are probably something you teach your management students.

1. Consider – What other things do you teach management students which should be demonstrated by faculty in the mentoring experience so that students personally experience and understand these concepts and practice doing them?

  • Balancing what is important versus what seems urgent?
  • Openness to learning from others, AND to supporting the learning of others?
  • Aligning one’s work with one’s beliefs about what matters, what makes a difference?
  • Doing self assessment against criteria for excellence?
  • Setting goals for one’s own improvement?
  • Writing goals that are s.m.a.r.t. ((specific, measurable, etc.)
  • Planning how we will learn and improve, and then, taking those steps?
  • Determining how to assess when a goal or a standard has been met?

2. Finally, have faculty had the opportunity to receive training in how to be effective mentors? Have they had access to insights and strategies that come from experienced, successful mentors and which will show the faculty exactly what, how, and when to do those strategies? This last is critical, as faculty will have limited time in which they can be meeting with and mentoring their mentees.

If they have not had this opportunity, it would be inappropriate to hold them accountable to do the work of effective mentors. After all:

  • How many of them were ever mentored themselves, at least at the level of effectiveness and using the criteria we have been discussing?
  • How many of them ever had supervisors who helped them to grow and become more effective?
  • How many of them NOW have effective supervisors who help them grow
    and become more effective as faculty members?

I hope you find these suggestions to be helpful.

Sincerely, the Editor