Mentoring – 5 Takeaways

a friend of Odysseus entrusted with the education of Odysseus’ son Telemachus


Here is how Atul Gawande begins his essay about his personal need for a coach:

I’ve been a surgeon for eight years. For the past couple of them, my performance in the operating room has reached a plateau. I’d like to think it’s a good thing—I’ve arrived at my professional peak. But mainly it seems as if I’ve just stopped getting better. 

I thought of this as I prepared some material on “Mentoring in Business,” for an organization implementing an “official” mentoring program.  At the heart of this is the simple acknowledgement of what we all know to be true:  people do not get better all by themselves.  “It takes a village” to build a leader.  “It takes a village” to build a successful career.  It takes the willing learner, learning from teachers, supervisors, and coaches, and mentors to produce the closer-to-finished product.  (Though, that fully-finished product may never quite arrive).  As I put it in my presentation:

Someone – someone who is respected — has to say “this is what you need to work on next.” In order to do that, that person has to be able to see, observe, and be trusted throughout the process.

I’ve enjoyed my preparation.  I’ve drawn from a pretty wide array of business books, and I’ve thought back on folks who taught me so much, and some teaching me now…

I’m ending my presentation with these 5 takeaways:

1)    Accept the fact/embrace the truth that your most promising people need to be “helped” to develop.
2)  Accept the fact/embrace the truth that this needs to be multi-pronged.  You need teaching, managing/supervising, coaching, and mentoring. 
3)    Accept the fact/embrace the truth that you will not have enough “great” mentors to go around.  Thus, you need a superior (a great) mentoring process, with great training for your mentors.
4)    Accept the fact/embrace the truth that some of your candidates will do better than others.  Find what works with each individual.
5)    And, whoever you are, whatever your position, you too need to be a mentor, and to be mentored!


2 thoughts on “Mentoring – 5 Takeaways

  1. Mentoring is too important to leave to chance — it’s critical that the design of mentorship programs be deliberate and intentional.
    Following is the link to a column I wrote on mentoring, coincidentally almost exactly two years ago.

    Mentoring 10.28.10

    Thanks, Randy, for your post. Informative and thoughtful, as always.

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