· Features

Why mentoring is a must for a learning organisation

Mentoring enriches interaction and collaboration within an organisation

One of the biggest challenges faced by the modern organisation is that of how to create effective ways to tap into and share the wealth of knowledge available in their stakeholder population.

A mentoring programme enables the sharing of organisational knowledge throughout an enterprise in ways that encourage the application of learning at the workface. Mentoring works on a basis of positive encouragement, not negative criticism, to make a real difference. Research shows that those who actively seek out feedback increase their self-awareness and that engenders a greater likelihood of endeavour and engagement.

The mentor, who has a commitment to developing others, encourages participants to take responsibility for themselves and to realise their potential. It’s not about words of wisdom, or sage advice based dropped from above; instead, it is about using the experience and expertise of a mentor with the grounding and gravitas to help formulate questions and assess the pros and cons of a variety of approaches and solutions.

The focus is to facilitate learning and reflection with a view to becoming a more independent and experienced manager rather than one reliant on the mentor. Good questioning skills and the ability to envisage alternatives and explore innovative solutions are more effective than a directive approach.

Mentoring, while supportive, is about offering a challenge to accepted thinking, cultural norms and the organisational perspective. Ideally a mentor will suspend judgment and encourage exploration, experiment and reflection on a range of options. Obviously, rapport is essential in the establishment of relationships which are open and honest so both parties experience maximum benefit from the mentoring.

The process encourages a manager to re-examine behaviours and assumptions so that they grow and develop both as employee and manager. A mutual appreciation society is not the aim, but participants need to feel secure enough to take risks, to conquer doubts and fears and to aspire to excel. A mentor who demonstrates integrity will inspire trust so that their input, whether positive or negative, is credible and effective; giving mentees room to explore and focus but also encouraging them to address and tackle issues that they may prefer to avoid!

Essentially a mentor is not there to give direction but to help evaluate viable options and realistic approaches to securing the desired outcome. It’s a system for growing managers with the confidence and courage to apply agile and innovative thinking to dealing with a multiplicity of challenges in a dynamic environment.

Organisations need to support and encourage both informal and formal mentoring among their employees. Mentoring enriches interaction within the organisation and consciously encouraging and supporting employees enhances the quality of their performance, boosts engagement and commitment, and sets a standard of knowledge sharing and good management practice for everyone in the workplace.

The mentoring relationship is not about power; it centres on learning. Both parties working in accord on the general goals and direction for the relationship, adjusting as necessary. It is intended to be collaborative, with both parties having input, but the onus is on learners taking responsibility for their progress by committing themselves to the mentoring engagement.

Michael Moran is chief executive of career management company 10Eighty, which will be demonstrating its Mentorpotania app at HR magazine's interactive HR Future Leaders Forum on 10 February