Mentoring is a vital component in the development of any individual or institution – business or educational. Yet, the very idea of mentoring hasn’t been adequately explored – as yet. Some recent management thinkers believe that mentoring has its origin among the ancient Greeks. My research has confirmed me that it is much earlier. Vedic literature, including the Vedas, Upanishads and Puranas contain extensive records and stories of Raja-rishis (royal sages, better translated as royal mentors) mentoring princes from a young age and providing them counseling and direction whenever sought. Mentoring reflects overall the role of the guru in Indian society, which is central to all endeavors.
Mentoring is a profound concept where an experienced and, most importantly, wise individual cares for and trains a less experienced as well as less developed mind. These mentoring institutions were known during Vedic times as “Gurukuls” which have undoubtedly created India’s historically acclaimed rulers, thinkers and yogis. It has produced effective role models, individuals with positive motivations and improved efficiency as well as a reduction of all negative emotional tendencies. Essentially this Vedic mentoring is a process which fosters the growth and development of mentees in the path of wisdom and abundance.
I essentially offer to select clients one to one mentoring as a service. I place a significant emphasis on confidentiality in the instruction, since understanding and trusting each one another is a key factor in achieving a transformative level of communication. I believe in the principle of “institutional development through individual development.” The individual is the foundation of life and consciousness and an aware individual is necessary to properly guide any organization or process.
My focus is on the following:
- Becoming a positive role model both in terms of knowledge and character
- Gaining a source of guidance and providing a deeper perspective for insight and creativity
- A safe confidant or friend for dialogue and debate
- A place to stretch and challenge the mind
- Access to Vedic resources
- Gaining responsibility over ones own learning and training
- Increased self-esteem and higher motivation levels
- Scope to enhance existing skills & learn new skills effortlessly
The scope of my mentoring process can either have a precisely defined framework or can allow participants to develop their own timing. In both the approaches, our mentoring relationship flows through five distinctly recognizable phases, namely:
- Road Mapping
In this phase I look at values we’d share as mentor and mentee besides knowing how we would work together. Since we believe that Rapport plays a pivotal role in the success of any mentoring association; we believe in forging five components essential for rapport building:
1. Trust – It’s imperative that anything discussed between is kept confidential and all commitments are adhered to.
2. Focus – Without having a clear focus the mentor/mentee association has a poor chance of attaining their desired objectives. It’s therefore important to ensure that there’s active listening.
3. Empathy – There must be mutual respect between the mentor and mentee. Both need to try and understand the other’s point of view, their feelings, ambitions and drives, even if these are different than one’s own.
4. Congruence – There should be a shared sense of purpose for the relationship and the confidence to talk about the fears, weakness or mistakes of both individuals.
5. Empowerment – The mentoring relationship needs to be liberating on both sides.
2. ROAD MAPPING
Having clear aims and objectives is important in creating a sense of purpose and in some respects, a sense of urgency as well. The mentee needs to articulate, with the help of the mentor if required, what kind of development they wish to achieve.
This is the mature and the most productive stage of the mentoring relationship, since the mentor and the mentee will have understood one another by this time, and the relationship would in a very dynamic phase. The mentee will show more independence as his or her confidence grows and will be in less need of support and advice from the mentor. The ground rules will no doubt be well understood and the meeting agenda, structure, and timing factors will already be established. It is also useful to look at the way the sessions are being managed to ensure best use is made of the time involved and the mentoring relationship. A review of all the elements of the mentoring relationship at this stage is strongly recommended to allow any adjustments and new plans to be added, if necessary.
In this phase, the relationship becomes more mutual in terms of learning and support. The mentee gradually becomes more self-reliant and should be in charge of the direction of the mentoring process, so that the mentor’s role is much more responsive. It is appropriate during this stage for the mentor and mentee to frequently review what both parties are receiving from the relationship and let matters develop their natural course. The objectives defined at the start of the relationship will gradually be realized by this time and the mentor will start to see a culmination of the relationship in sight. Alternatively, a much wider range of issues may be examined with mutual agreement. Many of these could be outside the scope of the mentee’s initial goals. In this situation, it is important to be aware of and stay within the boundaries of the mentoring role, and not to get involved in the mentee’s personal life
Vedic teachings have always advocated that the mentee (shishya) must never overstay his time with his mentor (Guru). Once the mentee has benefited positively from the association he’d need to move on.
This is an entirely new form of mentoring that has been developed over recent years and is continuing to gain popularity. This form of distance mentoring can be utilized to overcome time and location barriers, besides complimenting the traditional face to face mentoring process. The availability of email and internet access have created a whole new paradigm of mentoring – communication through electronic messaging systems such as telephone, Skype, email, internet chat rooms, online course material, and bulletin boards. This is what we call eMentoring.
eMentoring can either be formal or informal. It can provide a whole range of services from programme support to personal relationships. eMentoring works well for information based communication, particularly for specific instructions or explanations. Personal relationships are also possible to develop through electronic communications, and without actual face to face meetings, but the individuals must be comfortable with distance forms of communication. eMentoring can combine a variety of distance methods visual or non-visual.
The mechanics of eMentoring in practice are straightforward, where the mentee will send in a message the issues important to him or her at that time. Using, for example, email designed to enable the receiver to insert text into original message, the mentor can then “thread” his or her responses between the mentee’s sentences. Threading is a really important aspect since you can highlight elements of the text that are important and insert your response next to them. This is the next best thing to having an actual conversation.
Ground rules, of course, must be agreed upon, just as in a conventional mentoring relationship. Instead of regular meetings, regular times for sending and receiving email messages can be set up. The benefit of email is being able to send and receive messages at any time – day or night. The flexibility is particularly important if the mentor and/or mentee have busy personal and professional lives.
Perhaps the greatest opportunity eMentoring offers to mentees is greater choice and diversity in choosing mentors. Theoretically, an individual can be mentored by someone on a different continent, has be turned into a reality. One of the key components for the new learning possible here is to value diversity. eMentoring opens the door to enormous diversity in potential mentors and mentees. If people understand and endorse this principle, they can look for an eMentor or eMentee who is different rather than similar to them, either in temperament and culture, and will have a more potentially transformative interaction for it.
TECHNIQUES AND PROCESSES
I personally recommend following techniques and process for efficiently conducting and implementing the mentoring process:
- Understanding the Right Perspective: The mentor and mentee may have a very different set of experiences, values and ambitions from each other, especially if they are from different cultures. It is therefore, important to recognize the existence and validity of such differences, even if you do not fully agree with them. Having a good understanding of each other’s’ perspectives will lead to more fruitful discussions.
- Developing Networks – A mentor can help the mentee develop their own networks by sharing networking techniques and helping the mentee determine how to develop and maintain good relationships with others.
- Being a good role model – Effective mentors always become good role models for their mentees. However, they need to be mindful that the mentee may likely adopt some of their behaviour patterns automatically and potential weaknesses, which may not be appropriate. Therefore, the mentor must help the mentee to determine what behaviour fits best with their particular personality type and individual strengths.
- Being a critical friend – Plain, straightforward speaking is not always comfortable either for the mentor or the mentee, but it is one of the main things they are most likely to appreciate and benefit from in the long run. Plain talking and effective challenging will lead to a more meaningful dialogue, deeper reflection and better learning outcomes.
- Giving Advice – It is important for the mentor to hold back from giving advice and jumping straight into a solution mode for the mentee. The mentee should be encouraged to develop his or her own solutions through the use of effective questions and inquiries. However, there are times when a simple “This is what you need to do” can be an appropriate approach. The trick is to understand when to give advice and when to hold back and let the mentee discover the answer for themselves. This understanding will undoubtedly come with practice and experience.
- Career Planning – A mentor can draw upon knowledge and experience of the organization to help the mentee identify specific career paths and job opportunities within the organization.
- Encouraging and supporting – There will be times when a mentor just needs to be present in order to just listen and help a mentee regain their confidence and ability to make their own decisions. Jumping into solve their problems will not help build self-reliance.
CODE OF PRACTICE
The following points provide a general code of practice for the mentoring relationship at Vedic Management Institute:
- Mentoring is a confidential activity, in which both parties have a duty to care for each other.
- The mentor’s role is to respond to the mentee’s developmental needs and agenda and not to impose one his own upon them.
- Mentor and mentee should take adequate time to discuss and agree upon the aims and objectives of the mentoring relationship.
- Mentor and mentee should discuss and agree upon the necessary ground rules used to govern the mentoring process.
- The mentee must over time accept increasing responsibility for managing the relationship and the mentor must empower them to do so.
- Mentor and mentee must be open and truthful to each other about the nature of their communication, regularly reviewing how it might be improved for better understanding and more effective action.
- Mentor and mentee may choose to conclude their association at any given point in time, if it is not working for either of them. However, they have a responsibility to first discuss the matter thoroughly together, as part of a mutual learning process before the association is concluded.
- Mentor and mentee share responsibility for the smooth winding down of the relationship, when it has achieved its purpose. For this specific time frames of assocation and specific topics of examination should be first mapped out.