Pondering over up coming posts on the subject Coach, Trainer, or Manager? with Liz on Liz Strauss [dot] com we stumbled on the word mentor. We both agree that mentors/mentoring can’t be placed in the same list.
Why not? Personal experience with two mentors (I’ve been / am very fortunate) taught me that it is on a different level, even a different ball game, different setting.
Where coaching, training and managing kind of dictates close interference from the coach, trainer, manager to achieve a specific goal (and even ‘penalties’ can be given when this goal isn’t met), a mentor acts as a wise and trusted guide and advisor (that’s the best description I found from WordNet on my 'lifeline' dictionary)
A mentor doesn’t stand on the side-line (coach), a mentor doesn’t teach you just a skill (trainer) nor does a mentor set your strategy (manager) – thanks for the perfect short and clear descriptions Liz – .
Then what is a mentor? I won’t trouble you with history; just see wikipedia for that.
To me a mentor is exactly what WordNet says: a trusted guide and advisor, mostly appearing then when the ‘student’ needs it. Giving/sharing freely his/her own knowledge, experiences, thoughts and insights as a guide to learn from, not a dictate.
I don’t think both persons I consider my mentors (one past, one existing) even see themselves as mentors, I haven’t enlisted them specially to become my mentor, they just ‘turned-up’ on the right moment. In a supportive role, as bouncing boards for ideas (not to get their approval), sometimes even as a shoulder to cry on; but also challenging me to set higher goals, to become a better business manager, to create a better - profitable business. And never with penalties.
Like I said: I’ve been and still am very fortunate to have found these two persons (and it’s the privilege of a writer – me - to combine them into one character in a novel ;-)).
Can you hire a mentor, ask someone to become your mentor? Can someone appoint himself as your mentor?
It is one of those special relationships, first build on trust, which almost unnoticed grows into mentorship.
That’s why I don’t believe in mentoring programs or worse: mentor coaching!
If any one has a different experience, please share that here, always willing to learn (of course).