Metaphor for Mentoring

//Metaphor for Mentoring

Although I have actively engaged in mentoring throughout my career, I have proactively increased my mentoring efforts since leaving the “big corporate” world.  This increased interest and activity has resulted from a number of emergent opportunities:

"The Eternal Mentor"
Mentoring is experienced guidance, not teaching

Firstly, my association with many young people from a range of cultures through coordinating courses for RMIT University’s MBA, which led me to revamp and lead the student mentoring program in which volunteer business leaders offer their time to invest in conversation with MBA students.
Secondly, my interest in the influence of behavioural awareness through my PhD research leading to the concept of behavioural environment optimisation to enhance trust and team dynamics and
Thirdly, my personal desire to “give back” something to the professional and social communities though which I have enjoyed being part of, such the Melbourne Knowledge Management leadership Forum and Organizational Zoo Ambassadors Network and some other on-line communities that share knowledge and expertise.

Talking to a number of the mentors and mentees over time about what they do, why and the outcomes they achieve has been very rewarding and revealing.  The importance of conversation and metaphors as tools to engage and share complex concepts so that the mentee can gain a richer understanding of what is being said within their own experiences has become a common theme.  Conversations that Matter form a useful framework for mentees to elevate their awareness to a new level and gain deep insights into how the experiences of their mature mentors can help then in their own contexts and situations.  It is not about “finding a solution” to their problem, it is more a process to discover a range of options. Reflection with others helps to “bounce ideas” and adapt the mentors insights into something that will work for them and their own situations.

When metaphor is added to the conversation a new dimension of understanding can be shared and lead to more creative generation of options. The process of reflecting on your your thoughts with others provides greater perspectives and triggers ideas and emergent opportunities that you may not have considered without this process.  My recent research highlights that there are synergies gained by combining metaphor and conversation in that the two together, combined with reflection are creative provide a more creative environment for insightful exchange (and is more fun).

Business students involved in the mentoring process often write highly reflective articles of their personal and professional development expressing their gratitude towards their mentor. A few examples of such statements follows:

“I found out that speaking about me and listening to peers were an incredible and mind opening experience. It was enriching to learn what fellow classmates were thinking in terms of job perspectives as well as gain global industry insights from my mentor.”

“I gained a lot more than these expectations and realized an extension of skills and work choices that I was not aware of.” 

“Without mentor guidance, it would have taken me a much longer time to answer the career questions of moving vertical or horizontal in my career.  In future, I do anticipate looking for life coaches as well as mentors to routinely keep my work and personal goals in direction.”

“I became comfortable and confident to discuss my professional developments with my mentor towards the later sessions. I learnt that an active mentoring relationship with regular communications and a two-way exchange of ideas was much more effective than a formal lecture student relationship.”

Both personally and professionally, seeing/hearing such statements is the ultimate reward, especially when they contact you several years later and describe how they attribute elements of their success to application of their learning from the mentoring.  Knowing that one’s efforts and guidance have made an ongoing difference for the mentee is satisfying far beyond “just teaching” (although the value and responsibility of this too is not to be understated).  I can only encourage everyone to invest a little time in being involved in mentoring at some stage (as either mentor or mentee or through group peer mentoring) to experience the exhilaration of making a difference for someone else and watching them prosper as a result.

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