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This post is the second in the series The Mentor’s Way, a set of guides for mentors who want to bring out the best in others.
One of the things that separates mentoring from coaching is the time scale in which the two operate. Coaching tends to be focused on the here and now, closing immediate gaps and accomplishing short term goals. Mentoring is focused on the long term, the protégé’s journey that may last years. Understanding a protégé’s goals and aspirations will help create a context for more meaningful conversations. Spending the time up front to explore these goals will guide the mentoring interaction, helping the mentor to ask better questions, give better advice, and create an overall direction for the partnership.
One thing mentors learn is that protégés come to mentoring at very different stages of career exploration. Some will approach mentoring with very clear goals for their career (“I want to be the vice president of sales for the company’s South American region in five years”), while others have no idea what is possible for them or where they are going to be in five years. Both of these protégés are on a journey, but they are at different points on different paths. They can both benefit from mentoring, but their mentoring will look very different if their mentors take the time to learn where they are and where they are trying to go.
Below is a brief description of four phases of career exploration. At the beginning of the mentoring process, spend time finding out where your protégé is in terms of these phases to help establish where you want to take mentoring. Use the phase to set a one year mentoring goal that will guide your conversations.
While these phases are presented as a logical sequence, most protégés do not experience them that way. As they learn and experience more, they change their understanding of where they want to go and what it takes to get there. And, circumstances may change around them that may reshuffle their priorities. A strident navigator may get transferred within her company, derailing her plans and forcing her to reassess her goals and path. An Explorer may spend a year exploring options, only to find that he had the ideal job the whole time and switches to becoming a Homesteader.
Spend the time at the beginning of the process finding out where your protégé is and where he or she wants to go. Then, check in every three to six months to see how things have progressed. After that, enjoy the ride with your protégé. Remember, your protégé is in the driver’s seat (see the first rule). The next rule will focus on how mentors Create a Safe Place.
To comment on this article or to learn more about mentoring, contact Rik Nemanick at firstname.lastname@example.org