Thursday, 12 January 2012


Mentoring post-cpd23

I've been thinking a lot about mentoring since I took part in cpd23, and various things that I've read have given me yet more food for thought.

I recently read an interesting comment about the outlook of people who are knowledgeable and experienced which seemed to imply that knowledge is the opposite of creativity, and experience is built on solutions to problems that are now old, and therefore neither were good qualities to have. However, in the context of mentoring, I think it is just this knowledge and experience that a mentor shares with a mentee that helps to develop the mentee, to help them work on solutions to problems and gain experience.

So, in order to be a mentor, surely you need to have some knowledge that is worth imparting? I don’t think I have (stemming from a complete lack of confidence, confidence that has been eroded over the years by various circumstances and various people), but having been put into the position of acting as a mentor I am now having to take a closer look at myself because I am trying to help someone else. This is hard for me. I’m sure most people would take this in their stride, and even if they were feeling a little unsure would hide this and plough on, but that’s not me; I need people to know where I’m coming from, but I do recognise that this isn’t always a good thing.

I’ve been reading around the topic just lately; I haven’t read enough yet to be able to mentor properly because almost everything I have read has said something profound which I’ve needed to take time to think about. Initially, I was struck by this comment:

“A good mentor can make a great difference in someone’s life. A good mentor helps, guides, shares knowledge, and enjoys doing it. Mentoring, when done right, benefits both the mentor and the mentee.”

No pressure there then! But, I am certainly beginning to realise that there are benefits to me, as the mentor, even though my poor mentee is probably not getting as much out of the relationship as they’d hoped, as I am also on a learning curve.

As with offering training to people, mentoring is one of those activities that helps you to remember or realise just how much you do actually know, and that just because you know something doesn’t mean that other people do. So, I guess, in a way it’s a confidence builder; the more I mentor the more I realise I know things, the more confident I will become.

However, I’ve also read that I should be careful that I don’t make this relationship into an ego-building exercise for me, rather than a confidence-building process for the mentee! In my case, I think my sense of self-worth is so low, any ego-building will only ever bring me up to the same level as any “normal” person, who’s done normal things in their working life!

So, moving on swiftly, I have also discovered that in order to be a good mentor, the mentee needs to have shared their goals with you; they need to know where they are going and where they want to be, so you, as the mentor can share relevant experience with them. As with most, if not all areas of life, if you don’t know what your goal is then you will never know when you’ve reached it and therefore risk remaining unfulfilled.

I was also struck by this comment:

“people become stagnant out of fear. Fear of failure, fear of success and fear of something different.” ( )

So, I need to be a supportive mentor (tautology!) and I should be encouraging my mentee, helping them to get over any self-doubt they may be experiencing. I was also struck by the idea that a mentor can help to motivate the mentee by building on their strengths and improve upon their weaknesses; so I need to make sure the mentee does a SWOT analysis so that we both know what they’re working with!

And then there’s the idea that the mentor/mentee relationship is not just about two people getting together and chatting; it’s about chatting with a purpose, usually focussed on the mentor helping the mentee with their development. It’s also important to remember that actually, the responsibility to develop lies with the mentee; provided the communication between the mentor/mentee is open, honest and transparent this will foster a large degree of mutual respect which will help the mentee fulfil that responsibility.

As a mentor it is also important that the mentee is my focus. If I share experiences, or the way I handled particular situations this can help the mentee to value my opinion and feel connected to me, and this is fine as long as I stick to experience that is relevant to the goals of the mentee.

Most of what I've written here is distilled from rather a lot of sources I've read. I don't think there is any one right answer to how to go about mentoring, so the points I've highlighted above are the ones that resonated with me, and seemed to make the most sense. I'm sure there are plenty of other good ideas around, but these are the ones that I shall be thinking of when I actually mentor.

What next? well, I am considering attending the CILIP mentoring course. Will let you know in a future blog post!