A Personal Statement of Advising and Mentoring Principles and Practice
As I’ve worked with leaders around the country, and internationally, I’ve found one thing to be true: if you talk to the best and most successful leaders they will almost always tell you that at one point in their professional lives they found a mentor.
The value of mentoring is in the relationship of respect between the two, mentor and mentee. A good mentoring relationship is an exchange based on mutual respect, professional and personal. Different kinds of learning are enabled, in both directions. What comes out of a mentoring relationship, as the two work together around business or other challenges, is something new, something forged in that exchange, that wouldn’t have been found in any other way, for both participants. Both the process of exchange and its outcomes build cumulatively: mentor and mentee become better and better at working together, and build on their successes.
For the mentee, the value of the mentoring relationship lies first in the opportunity to put anything up for discussion. Nothing is ruled out of the exchange: everything is open, and can be put on the table. A good mentor will bring considerable experience to the challenges. Experience is valuable firstly, because it can help avoid costly mistakes; and secondly, because if it has been thought through it will have crystallized into powerful principles that can be applied successfully over a wide range of areas. In this way mentoring can cut short the otherwise lengthy, and often painful, path of learning by trial and error. This knowledge, the kind that only comes over time with experience on the ground, has been called ‘practical wisdom’.
Mentoring can have–usually does have–both organizational and personal dimensions. Often the things a mentee wants to discuss relate to the day-to-day business of the organization, whether for-profit, or non-profit, or government. At other times the issues may be closer to home, relating, for example, to personal development or career paths. In a relationship of trust and respect both kinds of questions can be addressed.
What mentoring is not is a one-way set of directions or solutions. A mentor is not an oracle, and it would be a mistake for the mentee to approach the work in that way. A good mentor will work with the mentee on clarifying issues, exploring options, looking at criteria, finding evidence, assembling tools, and establishing frameworks for decision making; but in the end the mentee must make his or her own decisions. The mentor will then help the mentee to evaluate outcomes, and to develop new reponses as needed: this is adaptive management, which alone can handle the complexities, rates of change, and volatilities of the modern business environment.
Mentoring shades into Advising. Advising operates at many different levels, in whatever way is most useful. It can be project related, or focus on particular skills and knowledge; or it can be the more open and general brief that goes with mentoring. Advising is more often an exchange of peers, so tends to be at a more senior level. Advising too can be either professional or personal, or both.
I’ve worked as both a mentor and an advisor to people in many professional roles, with CEOs or senior managers, with aspirational middle-level managers, with early career professionals, and with students. I’ve drawn on everything I’ve learned, over decades , in leadership, in business planning and development, in organizational development, in governance and ethics, and in all the complex dimensions of working with people. I’ve drawn from the things I learned and built on from my own mentors. Acting in the role of mentor and advisor have become the highest point, in value and satisfaction, of my career. I continue to learn from all the people I work with, even as I pass on what I know.
Fortunately it’s now very easy to implement an advisory or mentoring relationship online, using Skype or G-Talk or GoToMeeting, or any of the many reliable online conferencing platforms. This makes it possible to connect at any time, from virtually anywhere, across the world. My commitment, as a mentor or advisor, is to be readily available for those discussions, well prepared, and with full attention and focus. For that reason I limit the number of people I work with to a small group, to guarantee that attention. This work is always undertaken after a free trial session, to see how we go, on both sides, and what kind of structure works best–how often we speak, how we set that up, what we bring into the discussions, and so on.
You may want to look at the other material on my website. This will give you an idea of my experience, in the Bio and CV, and in my Clients, and also an idea of my values, in the various projects I’m involved with.
If you’d like to discuss the possibilities available in mentoring or advising please don’t hesitate to contact me, either by phone or online. I look forward to talking with you.
Phone: +61 409 671 151 Skype: geoffreywells Email: firstname.lastname@example.org