TechTarget

Motivation through mentors



David Taylor

Inside Track

How much time do we have, in our lives, to help others along the way. In our busy lives, what value is...



David Taylor

Inside Track

How much time do we have, in our lives, to help others along the way. In our busy lives, what value is put on the time spent enabling others to perform better, and to be all that they can be? What are the consequences if we do not? High staff turnover and recruitment costs, low effectiveness, the threat of outsourcing and the inability to capture the ideas, experience and talent that lie dormant within our own people.

Many companies, and IT departments, have turned to mentoring. It is a hugely powerful skill.

What is mentoring? Mentoring is when one person (the mentor) helps another (the mentee) to transform their knowledge, work or overall thinking. This happens in one-to-one meetings, at which the mentor invites the mentee to talk, and the mentor asks relevant, searching, non-threatening questions to allow the mentee to discover the "answers" for themselves.

Mentor qualities

  • A mentor is someone who is, above everything else, totally trustworthy.
  • A mentor must be patient, as real long-term learning can take time. However, the mentor must also be persistent in ensuring that mentoring sessions stay on track.
  • A mentor's status is irrelevant; it is the interpersonal qualities that count.
  • A mentor must be able to ask the right questions to address deep-rooted issues.
  • Finally, the good mentor is someone who is committed to making the relationship work on all levels.
  • Benefits for mentees

  • A mentor can assist, and transform, personal and career development.
  • He or she can also be a sounding board, perhaps before a major presentation.
  • If the mentor is more senior, there are opportunities to learn, and build a close bonding with, a power player in the organisation.
  • With a mentor, people feel the organisation is taking a genuine interest in them, and what they are trying to achieve. This is highly motivating.
  • Benefits for the mentor

  • Self-discovery through helping others.
  • Learning about areas of the department they would not otherwise know about.
  • Sense of achievement when mentee achieves, and meets objectives.
  • Fostering closer relationships, trust and communication at all levels.
  • Of course, the big question IT leaders will ask is "how do I find the time for mentoring?". This question is best answered from a different angle. Taking all of your activities, meetings, rushing around, interviewing, where should you position mentoring in your list of priorities? An activity that develops and retains your people, helps motivation, releases knowledge, improves culture and the exchange of ideas.

    Much is talked about so-called knowledge management, and it has many different definitions. The true knowledge that is most important to an IT department lies inside people's heads. The experience, ideas and contributions people can make must be brought out in the most positive, constructive and motivational way. Mentoring is the most effective, powerful and long-lasting method of achieving this.

    David Taylor is president of the association of IT directors Certus

    This was first published in February 2000

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