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Does Mentoring Make A Difference?
By Rich Meiss • Monday, August 9, 2010

 A statistic I saw recently really caught my attention:
Training increased productivity by 22.4%.  In contrast, training plus coaching/mentoring increased productivity by 88.0%.
Wow! That is a startling statistic. My professional efforts have largely been in creating and delivering effective training. And while training has proven valuable for many of my clients, I was struck by the fact that training plus coaching/mentoring could make the training much more effective. As a result, I began a journey of creating a mentoring program that could enhance the training I was conducting. Adding mentoring would guarantee increased productivity and improve the performance of mentees after their training programs. (Our company also has a coaching program – see the attached table showing our beliefs about the difference between coaching and mentoring.)
Mentoring DOES Make a Difference
The goal of any mentoring program is to develop, encourage and support mentees who are still in training, are beginning new positions, are transitioning to a different position, or who are advancing to a higher level of employment or rank. Mentoring isn’t a natural skill that we all have.   It isn’t an ability that we can just “pick up” and perform. Just because we are an expert or master at our trade or profession doesn’t mean that we are natural mentors.   Rather, mentoring requires learning a systematic process. Described here are three keys to becoming an effective mentor.
Keys to a Successful Mentoring Program
Mentors must develop core mentoring abilities in order to help their mentees become proficient, confident and accomplished in their work.   Core mentoring abilities fall into three main categories:
  1. Communication Skills
  2. Teaching Skills
  3. People Skills
 Equipped with these sets of abilities, mentors can develop, support and encourage their mentees to new levels of success.
1.            Communication Skills – The CARE Model
Effective mentors have a strong desire and passion to see others succeed. But they also have learned the skills of connecting and establishing rapport, asking good questions, using effective listing techniques, relating & giving solid feedback, and emphasizing resources and habits that lead to success. We call this the CARE Model.  
The CARE model encompasses the following basic skills for mentoring others.
C         CONNECT
Effective mentors establish rapport with their mentee.   It is important to create a genuine relationship between the mentor and mentee. Mentees need to trust their mentor and know that mistakes will not be seen as failure but rather stepping stones to success. During the connection phase, mentors will work with their mentees to set objectives for the process, create a set of guidelines for interaction and determine goals. The final piece will be to agree on a schedule, meeting plan and process for the mentoring journey.
A         ASK/LISTEN
Persuasive mentors develop effective questioning techniques. Skilled mentors know that asking good questions will draw out their mentee and help them discover their own answers   Knowing the difference between solution-focused and problem-focused questions is critical to helping mentees grow, develop and take action on their goals. And using the good listening skills of attending, paraphrasing and empathizing will ensure that mentees feel understood and accepted, leading to positive outcomes and results.
R         RELATE
Good mentors discover how to give solid feedback in a variety of mentoring situations – both positive and educational feedback. Mentors also learn the benefits and diplomacy of accepting feedback as a mentor. Determining ways to give advice and instruction that work for both the mentee and mentor are essential in getting buy-in, and help the mentee advance toward desired outcomes
Skilled mentors discover and share resources available to the mentee to help fuel his/her growth; reminding him/her of the importance of keeping good meeting records and a growth journal.  Experienced mentors know the best ways to affirm their confidence in mentees, give encouragement, energize and cheerlead good performance to achieve growth goals.
2.            Teaching Skills- Innovative Adult Learning Methods
Skilled mentors don’t need a teaching degree to be good mentors. However they do need to know and use key principles of adult learning to ensure they are meeting the learning needs and goals of their mentees.
Adult Learning Principles
Adults need an environment of mutual trust, mutual expectations, identified learning outcomes and shared responsibility for learning. They often learn best through a process of self-directed inquiry.   Adults need the freedom to express ideas, ask questions, build on previous knowledge and connect new ideas to their current way of thinking and doing. The mentor’s job is to create a learning environment that honors and acknowledges past experiences, previous knowledge, attitudes, motivation and behaviors.     A mentor’s ability to foster a positive learning environment employing the principles of adult learning will increase the mentee’s ability to learn and succeed.
One-on-One Teaching Tips
A one-on-one teaching situation can be an ideal learning setting as it allows for an individualized teaching agenda, tailored teaching methods, academic support and personalized instruction.   A good teaching mentor recognizes the learning style of his/her mentee, and adjusts the teaching process to match this style. The effective mentor will then identify the methods, processes and tools to use in this informal teaching environment to bring out the best in the mentee.
3.            People Skills- Understanding Individual Differences
Developmental Differences
Identifying and understanding the developmental stage of your mentee is critical to a mentor’s ability to effectively mentor him or her. Is the mentee a beginner, a learner, or a practitioner in the areas being mentored on? (A 4th level is master, but it is unlikely someone would be mentored in an area in which he/she is a master.)
Upon identifying the developmental level of the mentee, a mentor maps out the skills, knowledge and practice needed to move the mentee along his/her personal developmental path.
Behavioral Style Differences
Recognizing the behavioral style of the mentee is also critical to good mentoring. The popular DISC Model of Human Behavior is used in this mentoring process.    DISC stands for Dominance (D), Influencing (I), Steadiness (S) and Conscientiousness (C).    Using a DISC self-assessment, the mentor can determine his/her mentee’s style. The mentor-mentee relationship is enhanced as a result of having a common behavioral language for understanding why people do what they do.   The DISC language lays a foundation for “people smarts” that improves both the mentor’s and mentee’s ability to relate, communicate, and understand one another’s motivations and behaviors.  
Cultural Background and Life Situation Differences
Mentors need to be prepared to assess the diverse and unique personal history that each mentee brings to the relationship.   This includes family dynamics, cultural norms, age, sex, race, ethnicity, language, nationality, belief systems and a whole host of life stories and experiences that will impact the relationship.    Being aware and sensitive to these life differences is essential in creating a solid mentor-mentee relationship.
Why Mentoring Is Important
Once you take on the role of a mentor, you take on the responsibility to give back to your organization -   to accelerate the skill development and knowledge acquisition of your mentees. 
You become a trusted friend, advisor, coach, leader, and support system.  But most of all you become a safety net that provides a safe environment for your mentee to survive, thrive and grow from a novice to a proficient expert who is ready to fly on his/her own.
A favorite exercise we ask participants to do in our mentoring programs is to list someone in their life that was very influential to them, a mentor to them, and probably someone that saw more potential in them than they saw in themselves.    In all the years that I have lead this exercise, I have yet to hear anyone name a famous coach, a Hollywood actor or actress, a star athlete, or a professional musician.    They all mention “common” people with whom they’ve interacted. The people who stand out most in our lives are those who took the time to listen to us, walked along side of us during hardships, prodded us to try new things, and encouraged us to take risks.   It is the ordinary people in our day-to-day life’s journey that we most value, because they are willing to invest in our lives by mentoring us with their time, talents and wisdom.  
How will your life be summed up?   Will your greatest treasures be the things that you have accumulated in your life?   Or will your life be marked by the many footprints of the people that you have mentored and helped succeed in their life’s journey.   Hopefully your name will be on someone’s list of a most influential person someday. Mentoring really does make a difference!
In the words of Winston Churchill-
“We make a living by what we get; we make a life by what we give.”
© Copyright 2010. Meiss Education Institute. All rights reserved.

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