Home' HR Monthly : December 2016 Contents 6
To read past Perspective columns by
Peter Wilson, visit bit.ly/hrmonline
To encourage better leadership during the Greek empire, mentoring
was invented to expose young proteges to learning from wise elders
'who had been there and done that'. Today we are seeing a major
renaissance in the practice and art of mentoring, including at AHRI!
We all live in a global, digitally-connected business empire, where
we have to fight off other tribal warriors seeking to enter our business
patch, and take away our competitive advantages.
Life at work is full of ambiguity and uncertainty, and sometimes
critical moral and ethical challenges. Mentoring has entered the
workplace fray of business growth and survival with many mentees
identifying that they aren't coping, and in need of good counsel. As
the author and principal character of international bestseller and
major Hollywood film Mao's Last Dancer, Li CunXin, told me during
interview for my own book entitled Make Mentoring Work: "A good
mentor helps you walk in your own shoes, even if you start out just
wanting to walk in theirs."
So what makes for a good mentoring relationship? Evidence from my
research, gives the following answers:
• A harmonious set of values between mentor and mentee. One in six
mentoring pairs end prematurely because that alignment of values and
trust fails to exist -- for whatever reason.
• The mentoring relationship needs to be a safe haven of trust --
especially for the mentee, who needs to expose their inner most fears
and concerns to their mentor, in order to make material progress in
overcoming them. You need to know whether you are getting into the
water with a dolphin, or a white pointer.
So what are the key requirements?
• Firstly, a level of discipline in setting objectives;
• A regular calendar of meetings;
• The mentee doing homework in between times -- such as reading a
relevant publication the mentor has given them;
The strength of a mentoring relationship thereafter depends on the
understanding and practice of the roles for each party. A good mentee:
• Patiently establishes trust with their mentor;
• Persistently probes the mentor for their real life experiences which
can throw light and insights on the mentee's own challenges;
• Respects the mentor's time and commitment pressures and is flexible
around meeting times; and
• Is prepared to be open and honest on who they are and what they
are trying to achieve.
On the other hand, a great mentor will usually:
• Work hard to present themselves as an equal to the mentee -- ie
stripping themselves of power body language, dress and behaviour;
• Demonstrates a genuine concern and interest in the mentee;
• Be an 80/20 listener /talker -- and not the reverse;
• Ask probing and insightful questions;
• Pose critical learnings to the mentees primarily through powerful
stories that parallel the mentee's challenges; and
• Know when to let go, and when the mentee has reached their own
moments of truth.
Mentoring discussions are mostly about complex interpersonal
relationships, or 'difficult people' we meet in work and life. Other
common topics relate to strategic challenges, moral and ethical
dilemmas, or understanding and using power
structures. No rocket science here -- these are
issues we all face each day on the job.
In writing Make Mentoring Work, I
interviewed nearly 100 of Australia's top
leaders, all of whom had mentors, and they
all willingly shared their mentoring stories.
Further, I met with sponsors and managers
of Australia's 20 leading mentoring programs.
The result was a book for the self-starter
looking for a mentor, and those
organisations that want to set up a
The mentoring motor is now
active everywhere and shows no
signs of abating. It's a key to both
success and survival in the global
digital business world in which we
now find ourselves.
AHRI's mentoring program has grown from about 50 mentoring participants in our first intake
five years ago, to around 110 0 members signing up in 2016. How did all this come about?
BY PETER WILSON AM FCPHR AHRI CHAIRMAN
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