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.
Benefits for mentees
Benefits for the mentor
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