A Wise Old Man Talks About Mentoring

A wise old man talks about mentoring…

Mentoring - GS Lab

Having seen (and seen off!) many mentors and mentees over the past decades, here are my completely unsolicited tips for mentoring.

  • Mentoring is not coaching. Mentor responds while coach initiates.  Ideally, a mentee should choose a mentor and not vice versa.  Accept mentoring only if you are genuinely interested in the mentee.
  • Work on strengths. Seldom do weaknesses turn into strengths.  It is more efficient to make the mentee’s strengths more robust.  It is also important to ensure that the flaws are worked on to the extent that they stop being impediments to progress.
  • There is no “one shoe fits all” rule for mentoring. Understand your mentee’s personality and then decide the approach.  Press the right button and strengths and passion will surface.  Press the wrong ones and weaknesses and resistance will take over.  The trick is in knowing the buttons.
  • Do not attempt to turn the mentee into your clone. Personalities differ and with them the methods.  Allow people to find their own way of dealing with situations.
  • As a rule, respond to a question with another question until the answer comes from the mentee. This is not my original idea.  Socrates did it a while ago, so…
  • There’s more than one way to skin a cat. Push the mentee to come up with multiple approaches instead of one.
  • Encourage the mentee to develop and trust instinct.
  • Don’t over-mentor. Also have an exit plan. Mentoring should not be a lifelong commitment.
  • And finally, don’t even think about taking credit for your mentee’s success.

Comments 5

vinod borole

April 5, 2017

+1 for the last point, however I have few questions though. Should the mentor be viewed negatively if mentee’s performance is not meeting expectations? and If Mentor is not a couch, then does advising a mentee about professional and personal development considered ethical?

Ajit Patwardhan

April 10, 2017

Should the mentor be viewed negatively if mentee’s performance is not meeting expectations?
• Generally speaking, mentoring is about advising while coaching is about directing. You can either act upon or ignore an advice while there is an expectation of compliance with coaching. Also, mentees are expected to be more mature and therefore more responsible for their actions. Therefore the short answer (though it’s already too late for that!) is- not really, unless this happens with multiple mentees.
If Mentor is not a coach, then does advising a mentee about professional and personal development considered ethical?
• I don’t see ethicality being an issue with either mentoring or coaching unless what is being imparted is unethical!

Ajit Patwardhan

April 10, 2017

Should the mentor be viewed negatively if mentee’s performance is not meeting expectations?
· Generally speaking, mentoring is about advising while coaching is about directing. You can either act upon or ignore an advice while there is an expectation of compliance with coaching. Also, mentees are expected to be more mature and therefore more responsible for their actions. Therefore the short answer (though it’s already too late for that!) is- not really unless this happens with multiple mentees.
If Mentor is not a coach, then does advising a mentee about professional and personal development considered ethical?
· I don’t see ethicality being an issue with either mentoring or coaching unless what is being imparted is unethical!

Ajit Patwardhan

April 7, 2017

Should the mentor be viewed negatively if mentee’s performance is not meeting expectations?
• Generally speaking, mentoring is about advising while coaching is about directing. You can either act upon or ignore an advice while there is an expectation of compliance with coaching. Also, mentees are expected to be more mature and therefore more responsible for their actions. Therefore the short answer (though it’s already too late for that!) is- not really, unless this happens with multiple mentees.
If Mentor is not a coach, then does advising a mentee about professional and personal development considered ethical?
• I don’t see ethicality being an issue with either mentoring or coaching unless what is being imparted is unethical!

Ajit Patwardhan

April 10, 2017

Should the mentor be viewed negatively if mentee’s performance is not meeting expectations?
· Generally speaking, mentoring is about advising while coaching is about directing. You can either act upon or ignore an advice while there is an expectation of compliance with coaching. Also, mentees are expected to be more mature and therefore more responsible for their actions. Therefore the short answer (though it’s already too late for that!) is- not really unless this happens with multiple mentees.
If Mentor is not a coach, then does advising a mentee about professional and personal development considered ethical?
· I don’t see ethicality being an issue with either mentoring or coaching unless what is being imparted is unethical!