Thoughts on Mentoring
By: Bruce Pontier, Vice President & Regional General Manager, Securadyne Systems
Thoughts on Mentoring
I have been involved as a mentor the last two years at Securadyne and we have found it to be a very effective leadership tool in our company. Our Human Resources team has built a program called “Expedition Securadyne”. This program includes our Learning Management System (LMS) for all employees, but we also target individuals with very high leadership potential or potentially at-risk staff in our mentorship program, called the Alpine Team.
What is Mentoring?
Mentoring is different from coaching. There are similarities but each have distinct and separate methods. Coaching is usually done in a supervisory or professional role where the coach is compensated to supervise and manage a direct report employee. Mentoring is best provided in a philanthropic (unpaid) role and is typically something that you want to do out of appreciation for the opportunity. You want to give back something to others and help them in their careers as well as their personal lives. Since you are not compensated and your individual performance is not tied to the mentee, mentoring provides a certain level of objectivity that is missing from coaching.
If you choose to become a Mentor, be willing to make a personal commitment to invest in someone as well as yourself. It is time consuming and takes dedication to get it right. You have to be willing to set aside time on a regular schedule and clear your thoughts so you can focus on the conversation. It is a dedicated, almost sacred time that must be the highest priority and scheduled around.
As a mentor, you need to foster an unconditional positive relationship with your mentee. You need to be supportive and non-judgmental of the mentee’s current situation, personal views, lifestyle and career aspirations. You need to assist the individual as they develop their own competencies while avoiding any dependency on you as the mentor.
The best approach to mentoring is a face-to-face meeting, but this is not always possible. We have used Skype for video calls as the next best alternative. I believe to be effective you need to have eye contact and monitor more than just the verbal exchange.
The Value of Being a Mentor
In a recent SDM article I had the opportunity to share some thoughts on this subject. Over the past two years, I found that I really did get much more out of being a mentor than I expected. I have learned a lot about myself and how to bring more value to my team. The format fosters open feedback between both parties without any penalty.
When I look back on my career there are clearly a few informal mentors that influenced me in the early part of my career. These mentors encouraged and challenged me to take a different path that ultimately led to where I am today. They taught me to take risks and push beyond my comfort zone. They also influenced my core values to always do the right thing.
In a structured mentoring program, you make time to really understand the individual you are working with. You focus on the whole person and assist them in developing in all aspects of their professional lives. It can be very challenging and will push you out of your own comfort zone, but the rewards for all involved will bring a true sense of accomplishment.