The Purpose of Mentoring Has Changed
Unfortunately, according to Randy Emelo, most mentoring relationships today are obsolete. Traditional mentoring, he writes in his book Modern Mentoring, does not truly meet the needs of the modern organization.
The reason, as he explains, is that “the purpose of mentoring has moved away from getting a handful of people ready for leadership roles.” Instead, mentoring according to Emelo, is an organizational practice that should increase an organization’s intelligence, including emotional, leadership and technical intelligence; enhance the organization’s competitiveness; and “accelerate” employee development.
In other words, the traditional approach to mentoring, focusing on a few select individuals, should be replaced by an approach that is much broader and inclusive, he writes. Instead of mentors only consisting of top leaders, and mentees consisting of high-potential employees, mentors and mentees can be anyone in the organization, at any level.
The connections of modern mentoring are no longer one-to-one, Emelo writes, but many-to-many.
In the opening chapter of his book, Emelo lays down the building blocks of modern mentoring:
Open and Egalitarian. The goal of mentoring is to enable “uninhibited and meaningful learning,” Emelo writes. For such learning to take place requires, he writes, “an open environment where people have equal access to one another.”
Diversity. The diversity in question involves different perspectives coming from different functional, geographical, hierarchical or generational backgrounds and experiences. These different perspectives are valuable in helping mentors develop innovative solutions for the people they are mentoring.
Broad and Flexible. One person does not have all the answers. Such a mindset, Emelo writes, “is outdated and inefficient.” The ideal mentoring relationships are those that involve multiple people who are simultaneously advisors and learners. The relationship is flexible, depending on the situation at hand. A person can be an advisor in one situation, and a learner in another. As Emelo writes, “modern mentoring breaks the cycle of the sage on the stage and pushes the idea of the guides on the side.”
Self-directed and Personal. In today’s world, people must take the responsibility to direct their own personal development. They have to choose what they want to learn and from whom they want to learn it. “By allowing participants to control the process,” Emelo explains, “they can tailor their learning so that they reap the benefits.”
Virtual and Asynchronous. In traditional face-to-face, one-on-one mentoring, advisors and learners made arrangements to meet. Such arrangements are no longer necessary, given today’s technology, nor even logistically effective given the broad “many-to-many” reach of modern mentoring. Thus mentoring sessions, writes Emelo, are more likely to be virtual as well as asynchronous — that is, the teaching and learning do not have to occur in the same window of time. Mentors can share their knowledge and experience through virtual communication, which is then captured at the learner’s convenience.
Modern mentoring as described by Emelo is a significant change from traditional mentoring, and therefore often requires a significant and perhaps difficult culture change in an organization. Leaders used to the traditional methods will need to be “reeducated,” Emelo writes.
Another challenge is the vital role of trust. Today’s virtual capabilities allow long-distance mentoring but hinder trust-building. Emelo includes guidelines for trust building and many other facets of modern mentoring in this eloquent and compelling addition to the personal development literature.