Mentoring has a vital role to play

SOCRATES, the Greek philosopher who died in 339 BC, was declared to be the wisest man of his time in the world. He is described as philosophically representing, at the highest, values of questioning and discussion without bigotry or preformed conclusions, thus exposing feeble arguments and prejudices. (Guthrie, W.K.C. (1971), Socrates, Cambridge.) The Socratic method of teaching and learning is employed in the mentoring process. Here are some more things to consider for a manager acting as a mentor. Establish ground rules regarding when to let the learner ‘fail’ and when the mentor will intervene and rescue the learner from some undesired consequence. Discuss what gains are expected by both parties. Record key issues and points for future reference after each meeting. Allocate effective preparation time for mentoring sessions. Demonstrate your commitment to the mentoring process by ensuring regular mentoring sessions – schedule meeting dates and times. When beginning a mentoring process, reach agreement on how the mentoring process works – agree the conditions that make mentoring effective. Acknowledge any shortfalls you may have in knowledge and experience of the mentoring process. Hold a preliminary meeting to establish and agree the purpose, the outcomes, the process, the conditions, your role and their role. Conduct the mentoring sessions on their territory or on neutral territory. Explain that you are a partner in the learning process and that you expect both of you will obtain new insights and knowledge. Discuss how the learner will cope with any changes to their workload associated with the mentoring process. Allow the learner to learn by experiencing the consequences of their own actions. Use positive reinforcement – acknowledge right efforts as much as right results. Identify opportunities for both parties to learn – share your learnings with the learner, but don’t let this become the focus of the session. Create a climate where the learner can experiment and discover without fear. Use role playing as a tool for learning. Employ plenty of silent moments to allow the learner time to reflect and arrive at their own conclusions. Allow and encourage the learner to become more skilled than you. Check for understanding of communication given and received. Recognise and work on correcting inappropriate behaviour and help them see better ways of thinking and doing. Take time out to review the effectiveness of the mentoring process from both points of view. Review agreed actions within agreed timeframes. Be prepared for spontaneous opportunities for mentoring – a continuous process. Determine whether any extra training may be required. Let the learner decide and act on their decisions. Continue to display leadership by making decisions when required – do not abdicate decision-making responsibility when needed.

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