THE MENTOR AS PARTNER
Bell begins with a story about a vacuum-traumatized parakeet as a
metaphor for employees who have been similarly stunned into silence
and submission by downsizings, reorgs, and other chaotic
uncertainties. The question: How to get them singing again? In
other words, how to get them recommitted, productive, and creative?
Even better, you can establish an environment in which people are
prepared and able to withstand the winds of change. Bell makes the
case that it takes a special kind of mentoring, pointing out that
worker-survivors who bounce back are typically "perpetual
learners."To increase their number, leaders have to alter their
personas fundamentally--from corporate parent to compassionate
partner. And they must all add the role of learning coach or mentor
to their repertoires. But with a new slant. The word mentor should
not conjure up ol' Charlie and a wet-behind-the-ears young recruit.
Not all mentors are managers or supervisors, but all managers and
supervisors must be mentors, Bell emphasizes. One's mentor should
be one's traveling companion on the same journey of openness,
equality, and sharing of knowledge and skills. It is a learning
partnership, intimate and engaging. A mentor's main gifts, as Bell
refers to them, are learning, advice, feedback, focus, and support.
Regarding feedback in particular, everyone knows that not every
gift, no matter what it is, is always well received. Mentors must
learn how to give feedback in the most positive way--no easy task.
Mentors must be vulnerable and willing to let go when the time
comes. Mentoring is not about "me guru, you greenhorn. Mentoring
goes through these stages:
leveling the learning field fostering acceptance and safety giving
learning gifts bolstering self-direction.
The culmination is growth and closure. But that doesn't mean
that a mentor should cut all ties. After all, partners follow up