|Internet Survey Results:
Attributes of Effective Mentoring Relationships: Partner's Perspective Matt M. Starcevich, Ph.D. and Fred L. Friend
(For individual usage only, not to be used in team building, organizational publications or training programs without written permission)
(Authors note: the terms protege or mentee are inappropriate for the type of relationship needed instead we use the term Partner)Executive Summary
Current writers seem to suggest a shift away from a one-way teacher-to-partners instruction to a power free, two-way, mutually beneficial relationship. Are these two extreme, either or positions correct, or can it be both? Who better to ask than the partner? One hundred thirty visitors to our home page completed our Effective Mentoring Survey. All we asked, as participants in the survey, was that they be partners not mentors and that they keep their most effective mentoring relationship in mind as they responded to the questionnaire.
Detailed Report of Results
Websters New Universal Unabridged Dictionary, 2nd Deluxe Editions, defines mentor as "n. [from Mentor, the friend and counselor of Odysseus and Telemachus.] a wise and faithful counselor." In the thesaurus, synonyms like advisor, instructor, tutor, master, and guru appear. Current writers seem to suggest a shift away from this one-way teacher-to-partners instruction to a power free, two-way, mutually beneficial relationship. Are these two extreme, either or positions correct or, can it be both? Does this represent the values of those charged with implementing mentoring programs and training mentors? Who better to ask than the partner? One hundred thirty visitors to our home page completed an Effective Mentoring Survey. The limits of this self-selection process are known. All we asked, as participants in the survey, was that they be partners not mentors and, that they keep their most effective mentoring relationship in mind as they responded to the questionnaire.
This article is based on the 130 respondents. Based on their E-mail top level domain name extensions, 73% resided in the United States; 18% were in International locations; 5%, 2% and 2% were from educational, government, and military organizations respectively.Does it matter who their mentors were?
This reminds us of our recent trip to Germany when after looking at the menu, our first question to the waitperson was, "English?" and the response, "A little". As indicated in Chart 1, in excess of half the respondents felt their most effective mentor was their direct supervisor.
Mentoring is occurring both on a formal, organized basis and on an informal need basis. Who the mentor was, affected only the magnitude of the differences in determining most and least important attributes of an effective mentoring relationship, not the rank of the responses. The results will be presented based on the entire group. Bottom line, how satisfied were this group of respondents with this particular mentoring relationship? Very, on a 5 point scale, the average response was, 4.2. This article attempts to understand what contributing factors lead to such a high level of satisfaction.Is there a difference between a mentor, coach, and supervisor?
This was an open-ended question, resulting in a resounding YES! Only 9 respondents saw no difference between the three roles, 5 felt the coach and mentor played similar roles different from that of the supervisor and 3 felt the coach and supervisor, played similar roles different from that of the mentor.
In summary, the mentor is person-focused; the coach, job-focused; and the supervisor, results/productivity-focused.
The major theme for the mentor was one who had a deep personal interest, personally involveda friend who cares about you and your long term development. The major theme for the coach was one who develops specific skills for the task, challenges, and performance expectation at work. The supervisor was almost unanimously seen as focusing on performance management, getting the job done as teller, director, and judge.
What was disturbing was the consistent negative view of the supervisors role, a view that will not be altered by just a cosmetic change in title to "coach". It appears that a supervisor who wants to enter into a mentoring relationship with a direct report must wear different hats during those mentoring, coaching, and supervisory discussions. Can it be done? Evidently, since more than half the respondents said their immediate supervisor was their most effective mentor.
This view of the mentor was further reinforced when respondents were asked to pick from a list of 14 descriptive words that best described your mentors dominant style. The top four are shown in Chart 2.
The four least chosen were Hard nosed, Spontaneous, Critical, and Gentle. Inclusion of the words "direct" and "logical" could lead to the conclusions that mentoring is not solely a passive Socratic process.
From the partners perspective, the mentor achieved the type of satisfaction that reinforces this helping, engaging, personal focus. When asked the open ended question, "What benefits(s) did your mentor get out of this relationship?" Only 3 said none and 9 didnt know. Fifty nine percent of the responses fell into two themes: Affirmation of the value of and satisfaction from fulfilling a role as helper and developer of others; A learning experience for the mentor from my feedback and insight. The later gives weight to the view of a two-way, power free relationship.
Effective mentoring appears to be a learning and development process for both parties. This leads to this advice for current and potential mentors; explore and learn, dont assume that you must be an all-knowing expert in this area, such a position could be detrimental to the mentoring process; mentoring is a fulfilling assignmentlet both yourself and the partner learn from the process.
What do partners want from mentors?
When asked "Why did you want a mentor?". Chart 3 shows the two run away favorites.
When asked to select those things this mentor did for them, the top group is shown in Table 1.
This strong theme of helper, development, and growth is reinforced in the response to the open ended question: "What is the one most significant thing your mentor did?" The following four themes, capture 62% of the responses:
In response to the open ended questions "What one thing should your mentor do more of?"; although 19% indicated that they were satisfied by writing, "nothing", the top three choices are shown in Chart 4
Conversely, the response to the open ended question: " What one thing should your mentor do less of?"; 65% indicated that they were satisfied by writing, "nothing". Only one significant theme, "imposing ideas, giving advice too early, giving me answers, and not letting me figure things out for myself" emerged, representing 17% of the responses.
Consistent with the previous results and indicative of how the mentor-partner relationship is changing, in Chart 5 the percentage of time these words were chosen as the "best descriptive word for your most effect mentor." Teacher and partner win, hands down.
Hmm In the thesaurus synonyms like advisor, instructor, tutor, master, and guru appear? Development via a two-way, power free relationship seems to be desired. Effective mentors provide feedback, their time and support in an effort to help the partner gain insight and find solutions. They sometimes share knowledge and give advice but know how to time it so they dont preempt the learning process for the partner.
What role do partner play in the relationship?
These partners are a very proactive, taking responsibility for their own development and growth group of people. Selecting a mentor was a very purposeful action. This is supported by the responses to the open ended question: "How did you find or select this person as your mentor?". The theme, "they worked together as a peer or manager" accounted for 40% of the responses while, "through my search, they had traits I admired, and I asked them to be my mentor" accounted for 33% of the responses.
To borrow a phrase, be careful, "smile, youre on candid camera", seems appropriate. How others see and evaluate your skills and behaviors are driving their decisions to approach you to be their mentor. Take this request seriously, the data suggests that the partner has done the detective work to ferret you out as someone who could be helpful to their development and growth. Finally, 17% of the responses fell into the theme, "they were assigned or they asked me to be their partner".
Finding a mentor is just the start, keeping the relationship alive is equally important. Again, the partner felt a strong responsibility for actions that would keep the relationship going as indicated by the responses to the open ended questions "What is the most significant thing you did to maintain the relationship?". Four themes included the majority of the responses, see Table 2:
Clearly, the partner is not a passive vessel, waiting for the mentors call and time. Additional support to this active partners role is given by the responses to the open-ended question: "What two guidelines would you way are "musts" to be a good partner?". Two thirds of the responses group into five themes, see Table 3:
Sounds like a pretty serious group! Mentoring is more effective when the partner takes a proactive role in maintaining contact with the mentor. In fact, it may be an essential element. partner's should be made aware of the importance of taking the lead in maintaining the relationship and responding to the mentors efforts to help the process be successful.
As final affirmation of the proactive partner role, when asked the open-ended question: "What will (did) cause this relationship to cease?"; "it will continue" accounted for 30% of the responses; 52% attributed it to "inaccessibility due to relocation or unavailability"; 14% to "other priorities, lack of contact, no value added, or we out grew each other"; while only 9% attributed a "lack of trust, competition, deception, harsh reactions, or taking credit for the accomplishments of the partner". Sounds like a pretty committed group.What was the nature of the mentor-partner interactions?
High tech has not yet arrived, high touch still is in. For the question: "How often were you in contact with your mentor?", 69% said "at least once a week" and 20% "at least once a month". For the question: "What was your primary form of contact with your mentor?", 80% said "face-to-face", and 16% "phone". Effective mentoring is a significant personal commitment in time and energy for both mentor and partner.Is the mentor-partner relationship changing?
These results support the conclusion that mentoring is a power free, two-way, mutually beneficial, learning situation where the mentor provides advice, shares knowledge and experiences, and teaches using a low pressure, self-discovery approach. Teaching using an adult learning versus teacher to student model and, being willing to not just question for self discovery but also freely share their own experiences and skills with the partner. The mentor is both a source of information/knowledge and a Socratic questioner. It is not an either or proposition, instructor/advisor or friend and facilitator. This data suggests that the partners actively seek out and maintain relationships with mentors who have the background and skills to do both in a way that maintains the partners freedom of choice and decision.
About the Authors
Matt M. Starcevich, Ph.D. CEO, Center for Coaching & Mentoring and Fred L. Friend each have over twenty years experience in training and organization development, as internal change agents and external consultants. For comments or additional information email Matt from the selection below.
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Matt Starcevich, firstname.lastname@example.org