MENTORING AND THE WORKPLACE

In the 1970s, businesses, entrepreneurs and researchers started paying more attention to the vital role mentors and mentoring play in grooming, developing and raising future corporate executives (Roche, 1979). As a matter of fact, the 1970’s witnessed mentoring as a tool used in producing and regenerating leaders, in a bid to incubate corporate leadership pool.   The whole concept of mentoring found its way to the workplace, traditionally, to facilitate the process of raising junior colleagues to advance their career towards corporate leadership opportunities and ambitions.

“Mentoring opens mentees up to be politically aware of the happenings within the office.”

In the 1970’s through the 80’s, in United States of America and the United Kingdom, mentoring was widely adopted to groom and to give equal opportunities to women and minorities (blacks of African origin, in particular). In the 1990’s, it became even more practical in corporate settings to introduce mentoring as a culture to some institutions to the extent that mentees gained valuable perspectives and insights through close association with mentors who are perceived to be experienced persons with admirable personality types worthy of emulation. The key responsibility of mentors is the willingness to guide  mentees on their career  journey. In a formalized mentoring system, there is more to it, though.

A good Mentor provides protégés with requisite understanding of the workplace, adequate knowledge on their journey, counselling, relationship advice, support in the area of career opportunities and challenges, corporate strategy, how policies work, diplomacy and how office politics work.  Let me pull the breaks even though it will be discussed later. Mentoring is not the same as coaching in workplace setting because it may not aim at specific employee development needs and a mentor may not even be a part of the mentee’s organization.

Just as coaching, there are informal and formal mentoring techniques, which also means that, there are informal and formal mentoring programmes developed to shape the mentor-mentee relationship. Mentoring is informal when a mentee and a mentor develop a long-term relationship based on related interests, mutual respect and fundamentally, friendship. Mentoring becomes formal when the organization assigns a relatively inexperienced junior employee with high leadership potential to a top executive in the organization.  As hinted, formal mentoring was deliberately used to facilitate and accelerate the development of female employees and minority protégés often believed to be lacking organizational support for growth within teams. Informal mentoring appears to be more effective than formal mentoring because of the longer-term relationships built over time and the fact that mentor and mentee connects emotionally, better.

Mentoring would not only guide mentees. It also gives mentees a focus. It redirects their energies on the right things. It opens them up to be politically aware of the happenings within the office. The power of mentoring should not be underestimated. Many have made striking strides because they had mentors. I am a beneficiary of mentoring and I will always recommend that you get yourself a mentor on your journey. We’ll look at the responsibilities of the Mentee and the Mentor in the coming episodes. 

This is Leadership!

Richard Ahenkorah

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