Departmental Office of Human Resource Management
DOT MENTORING HANDBOOK
TABLE OF CONTENTS
The purpose of this handbook is to provide a "map" to guide you on the road to successful mentoring--a road that is becoming far more traveled.Mentoring is not a new concept; in fact, mentoring existed in ancient Greece. It is only that the road has been repaved with new ideas and styles that require a directional tool (i.e., map) for a successful journey.
This handbook will guide you through the mentoring process--what it means to be a mentor, the roles and responsibilities during your tutelage, and the different styles that you can adopt to meet the unique demands of a mentoring relationship. The mentor-mentee relationship is charted from beginning to end by tips on how to identify a mentee, cultivate the relationship, and avoid "obstacles" that can detour a mentor-mentee relationship. Finally, this handbook outlines the positive effects of traveling this road--effects that are shared by the mentor, the mentee, and the organization.
In fact, it is the positive effects of mentoring that have prompted the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) in conjunction with the National Transportation Policy, Phase 2 (NTP 2), to recommend that DOT explore mentoring, as a proactive approach, "to provide career guidance and role models for employees." This handbook supports this recommendation by providing the information you need to be a successful mentor.
Note: The content in this handbook is derived from a variety of sources. The most important source is DOT mentors and mentees who contributed information to this handbook. These DOT mentors and mentees, from different levels and disciplines, offer their experiences, tips, and suggestions to help you on your way.
This handbook is a job aid that contains comprehensive information on mentoring, with tips, suggestions, and examples to supplement this information. It is recommended that you read all sections of the handbook at least once. Whether you are a mentor-to-be who stands at the crossroads of mentoring, or an experienced mentor who is miles down the road, there is information to be learned. Once you have read the material, refer to the handbook whenever necessary. You may find that you refer to some sections more than others. Therefore, links have been established so when you click on one of the section titles contained in the above "Table of Contents," that section will immediately appear on your screen.
For Example: You may find it helpful to refer frequently to the section on "Mentoring Stages" to help you adjust to your continually changing mentor-mentee relationship. Or, from time to time, you may want to refresh your memory on the "Essentials of a Mentoring Relationship" to remind you what it takes to be a successful mentor. When you click on either of these section titles in the "Table of Contents", you will move directly to the desired section.
Remember, this handbook is the "map" that guides you on the road to successful mentoring. You need to decide how to best use this tool.
"Mentoring is an open vista of new experiences and possibilities."
One usually charts unfamiliar territory when attempting to define "mentoring." Mentoring is not a term that is easy to define because it is an ever-changing process. The mentoring process links an experienced person (mentor) with a less experienced person (mentee) to help foster the career development and professional growth of the mentee.
The mentoring process requires that the mentor and mentee work together to reach specific goals and to provide each other with sufficient feedback to ensure that the goals are reached. One DOT mentor describes mentoring as "a process by which you open a passageway to knowledge by sharing ideas and information."
Many define a mentor as a teacher who assigns tasks and reviews performance, but a mentor is more than a teacher. A mentor facilitates personal and professional growth in an individual by sharing the knowledge and insights that have been learned through the years. The desire to want to share these "life experiences" is characteristic of a successful mentor.
A successful mentor is also characterized as:
A mentor is one who supports the needs and aspirations of a mentee. This supportive attitude is critical to the successful development of the mentee. A mentor must encourage the mentee to accept challenges and overcome difficulties.
A mentor is patient and willing to spend time performing mentoring responsibilities. A mentor provides adequate time to interact with the mentee. Time requirements are defined by both the mentor and the mentee.
A mentor is someone who has earned the respect of peers, DOT, and/or community. It is important that this person be someone to whom others can look at as a positive roll model.
Just as a mentor is more than a teacher, a mentee is more than a student. A mentee, as a bright and motivated individual, is the future of an organization; the insurance that a well-trained, high-quality workforce will exist to meet long-term employment needs. Mentees represent a wide range of individuals in terms of age and work experience. One DOT mentor describes a mentee as a "diamond in the rough--ready to be cut and polished into the type of employee DOT needs."
A mentee is an achiever--"groomed" for advancement by being provided opportunities to excel beyond the limits of his or her position. These opportunities are especially important in assisting mentees who are women, minorities, or individuals with disabilities to rise to higher career levels, whether supervisory, technical, or administrative.
Most people imagine a mentee to be new to the working world; however, there are two types of mentors.
The first type is the novice DOT employee, the junior colleague who needs to be taught everything about surviving in the workplace.
The second type of mentee is the seasoned, politically sophisticated person who transfers to, or is hired into, a new office. This type of mentee already knows the "survival skills," such as time management, planning, delegating, and how to interact with others.
The seasoned mentee typically only needs to be instructed on the inner working and policies of DOT and/or the specific office or Operating Administration.
Together, the mentor and mentee share mentoring experiences that, over time, can build a successful and enriching relationship. Of course, the success of this relationship depends on both the mentor and the mentee. Both you and your mentee must want the relationship to work. You must cooperate with each other to make the most of the experience.
TIP: Watch for signs of "lopsided" mentoring. This occurs when one party is devoting more time and energy to the mentoring process than the other. In most cases, efforts should be equal. Make sure you both are committing time and energy to the process.
The success of the mentoring relationship also depends on how well the mentoring relationship is defined. You need to know each other's expectations. Once you have a clear understanding of these expectations you will be able to ensure that each other's expectations are being met. One DOT mentor remarks, "Once we told each other what we expected from each other, we were able to build a framework for our relationship."
Finally, you must be concerned with the overall development of your mentee. You should be the influencing force behind your mentee's professional growth--providing on-the-job guidance, promoting participation in training, and assisting in career decisions--to cultivate overall development
Like marks around a compass, the roles you assume as a mentor point you in many different directions. There are ten different roles a mentor can assume:
TEACHER GUIDE COUNSELOR MOTIVATOR SPONSOR COACH
ADVISOR REFERRAL AGENT ROLE MODEL DOOR OPENERWhich role you assume depends on the needs of your mentee and on the relationship you build with your mentee. On any given day, your mentee may require you to perform one of these roles, or all of them.
For Example: You may begin your day assuming the role of teacher, when suddenly your mentee experiences performance difficulties. You change direction to fulfill your role as coach, steering slightly toward the the role of advisor as your mentee asks for advice on a satisfactory course of action.
Over time, and with experience, you will learn how to assume different roles more easily. Each of the roles are explained in the next section to help you prepare for the different directions you will take.
As a teacher, you may need to teach the mentee the skills and knowledge required to perform the job successfully. This role requires you to outline the "nuts and bolts" of the position and to share your experiences as a seasoned professional. To teach the fundamentals of the position, you first need to determine what knowledge and skills are necessary to successfully meet the requirements of the position.
TEACHEROnce you have identified the knowledge and skills that the position requires, you need to identify what knowledge and skills the mentee already has and what knowledge and skills require development. Then, concentrate your efforts on helping your mentee develop his or her knowledge and skills.
TIP: Review the position description and performance standards of the job to help you identify the knowledge and skills required for the position.It is in your best interest to ensure that your mentee develops professionally. There are many different ways you can help your mentee develop. You should make a point of explaining, in detail, what you expect from your mentee.
TIP: If you are your mentee's supervisor, you may assign specific tasks, set deadlines, and frequently review your mentee's work to discover what knowledge and skills need to be developed.
If you are helping your mentee develop critical job tasks, provide examples or samples, when possible, for the mentee to follow.
For Example: Vanessa, a DOT Equal Employment Opportunity Specialist, wanted to teach Bill, her mentee, how to review discrimination complaints. Vanessa outlined common key points in several different complaints for Bill to use as examples. Bill was able to use these examples to develop his reviewing skills.
The most important developmental method you can use is to answer the questions your mentee poses. Keep in mind that you are not required to be the "expert" on everything. A good mentor knows when to direct the mentee to a knowledgeable source. Knowledgeable sources can be people or materials (e.g., handbook, diagram, chart, and computer).
TIP: Additional sources of information are seminars, conferences, and night classes.
As a teacher, it is important that you share the wisdom of past mistakes. A mentee cannot only learn from your errors, but also can realize that no one is perfect. make a point to relate these learning experiences, special anecdotes, and "trials" whenever appropriate. It is this sharing of information that strengthens the mentor-mentee relationship.
As a guide, you help navigate through the inner workings of the organization and decipher the "unwritten office rules" for your mentee. This information is usually the "kernels of knowledge" that one only acquires over a period of time. The inner workings of the organization are simply the "behind the scenes" dynamics, or office politics, that are not always apparent, but are crucial to know. The "unwritten rules" can include the special procedures your office follows, the guidelines that are not always documented, and policies under consideration.
As a mentor, it is important that you explain the inner workings and "unwritten rules" to your mentee. Brief your mentee on who does what, the critical responsibilities that each performs, and the office personalities involved.
For Example: Major contract review guidelines were under revision in the DOT Contract Review Office where Warren (a mentor) and Laquita (a mentee) worked. Following an office meeting concerning these guideline changes, Warren explained to Laquita the "philosophy" behind each of the key speakers' opinions. By explaining the "why" behind the divergent opinions, Warren helped Laquita better understand the group dynamics and internal structure of the office.
TIP: Instruct your mentee to review key policy handbooks. Then begin a question/answer session with the mentee about the rules and regulations contained in the handbook. This session can lead into a discussion about the inner workings and unwritten rules of the organization.
The role of counselor requires you to establish a trusting and open relationship. In order to create a trusting relationship, you need to stress confidentiality and show respect for the mentee. You can promote confidentiality by not discloing personal information that the mentee whares with you. Show respect by listening carefully and attentively to the mentee and by not interrupting while your mentee is talking.To establish a trusting and open relationship, you need to make the mentee feel comfortable. Non-verbal signals can help create an acceptable "comfort level" with your mentee. Non-verbal signals include:
Use appropriate eye contact. Be sensitive to cultural and communicative tendencies as to what is considered appropriate eye contact. For example, in some cultures, direct eye contact is considered appropriate during listening and speaking. Whereas in other cultures, dropping the eyes or averting the eyes during listening shows respect and direct eye contact during speaking is appropriate.
Supplement your speech with facial and hand gestures. One way to use hand gestures is to express enthusiasm. You can show enthusiasm by nodding approval, smiling, or shaking the other person's hand.
Open body posture
Keep an "open" body posture. Rest your arms casually at your sides or on a surface, and lean forward as if eager to hear the next word.
Consider how space can relate to power. A large desk might be seen as a barrier between you and your mentee. You should position your chairs next to each other, rather than across from one another, to bridge the distance while talking.Maintain proper physical distance from people when talking with them. Most people feel that it is an attack on their personal space if you stand within six inches of them while speaking. Ideally, there should be no more than one and one half feet between the two of you. The better you know someone, the more acceptable it is to stand close.
The counselor role also encourages a mentee to develop problem-solving skills. A mentee must be able to think through problems rather than always depending on you to provide a solution. You can develop the mentee's problem-solving skills by advising the mentee to attempt to solve the problem before seeking assistance.
For Example: Shing Ju, A DOT personnel Management Specialist, wanted to develop her mentee's problem-solving shills. Each time her mentee, Roland, asked for her assistance with a specific case problem, she asked that he list a minimum of three plausible solutions to the problem. Once Roland generated three or more solutions, Shing Ju discussed the pros and cons of each solution with him and helped him select one of his options, with perhaps some minor modification. By not providing Roland a solution to every case problem, Shing Ju taught Roland how to solve problems on his own.
TIP: Ask your mentee questions such as: "How would you solve the problem?" or "What do you think the solution is?" in order to sharpen problem solving abilities.
As a motivator, you may at times need to generate motivation in your mentee. Motivation is an inner drive that compels a person to succeed. It's not often you will find an unmotivated mentee. In general, most mentees are enthusiastic about their jobs. After all, mentees tend to be characterized as highly motivated individuals with a thirst for success. You usually perform the role of motivator only when you need to motivate your mentee to complete a difficult assignment or to pursue an ambitious goal. Through encouragement, support, and incentives, you can motivate your mentee to succeed.
One of the most effective ways to encourage your mentee is to provide frequent positive feedback during an assigned task or while the mentee strives toward a goal. Positive feedback is a great "morale booster" that removes doubt, builds self-esteem and results in your mentee feeling a sense of accomplishment. Concentrate on what the mentee is doing well and tell your mentee about these successes.
You can also motivate your mentee by showing your support. Show your support by making yourself available to your mentee, especially during stressful periods. An open door policy is perhaps the best way to show your support. Keep in mind that an open door policy means that your door is always open to your mentee and not just open when it is convenient for you. You need to be consistent about your availability. A mentee who knows you are always available will not be afraid to ask questions and seek guidance.
Motivate your mentee by creating incentives. To create an incentive, you need to explain what the mentee can gain from completing a task or "fine tuning" a skill.
TIP:Remember that incentives extend beyond the tangible. Offer incentives such as praise, a chance to attend an interesting seminar, or verbal recognition to peers at a staff meeting.
If you are your mentee's supervisor, then offer an opportunity to work on an interesting project.
For Example:While working on routine tasks, Juanita expressed an interest in working on a DOT project that involved long-range planning. As an incentive, Juanita's mentor promised her an opportunity to gain this experience on a future project.
A sponsor creates opportunities for the mentee--opportunities that may not otherwise be made available. These opportunities can relate directly to the job or indirectly to the mentee's overall professional development. The goal of a mentor is to provide as much exposure for the mentee as possible, with a minimum of risks. Opportunities should challenge and instruct without slicing away the mentee's self-esteem. A mentee should not be set up for failure. New opportunities can increase the visibility of your mentee, but you must be careful in selecting these opportunities.
Only you know when your mentee is ready to take on new opportunities. It will be apparent to you when your mentee has mastered all required tasks and seeks new responsibilities.
TIP: Speak to people in other positions to identify projects for your mentee.
At times you may need to perform the role of coach to help a mentee overcome performance difficulties. Coaching is a complex and extensive process. Before you begin, you need to answer three questions:
Does the mentee have the capacity to do the job? Is coaching likely to upgrade the mentee's skills? Is there sufficient time to coach?
Coaching is not an easy skill to perform. Specifically, coaching involves feedback. Mentors need to give different kinds of feedback, as the situation demands.
Both types of feedback are critical to your mentee's professional growth. If you know how to provide feedback to your mentee, you can perform the role of coach more easily. There are four factors to consider when providing feedback:
Behavior that you want to reinforce requires positive feedback. Behavior you wish to change requires constructive feedback.
|Describe the behavior you observed|
|Don't use labels such as "immature" or "unprofessional"|
|Don't be judgmental|
|Phrase the issue as a statement, not a question.|
When giving feedback to your mentee, concentrate on the behavior that you would like your mentee to do more of, do less of, or continue.
It is important that you do not give feedback when:
|You don't know much about the circumstances of the behavior.|
|The time, place, or circumstances are inappropriate (for example, in the presence of others).|
TIP:Set up a time to provide feedback to your mentee. These feedback sessions can be scheduled on an hourly, daily, or weekly basis, depending on need.
This role requires you to help the mentee develop professional interests and set realistic career goals. As the old saying goes, "If you don't know where you are going, you won't know how to get there." This saying holds true for mentee's professional development. In the role of advisor, you need to think about where the mentee wants to go professionally. That is, you need to help the mentee set career goals. There are several factors to consider when setting career goals.
Goals should be specific. Goals need to be clearly explained, using details about what the mentee wants to achieve.
Goals must be time-framed. You both need to plan an overall time frame for goals with interim deadlines to ensure that your mentee is moving toward these goals. It is important not to make goals too future oriented. Most DOT mentors recommend that you keep goal time frames within a three year range.
Goals must be results oriented. You need to concentrate on the results of your efforts, not so much on the activities that are required to accomplish them. An activity provides a way of reaching the goal, but the end result (the goal) should not be neglected.
Goals must be relevant. The goals must be appropriate and in tune with DOT while moving the mentee closer to the type of work that he or she finds challenging and enjoyable.
Goals must be reachable. The goals must be within the mentee's reach. The mentee needs to feel challenged, but not incapable of reaching the goals. You must consider the special talents of your mentee and weigh these talents with the requirements of the goal for which your mentee strives. You need to create the right career "fit" for your mentee.
You may want to create several career goals to eliminate the possibility of your mentee feeling "trapped." However, goals should be limited in number. You need to avoid setting too many goals at once. Concentrate first on setting goals that will help your mentee accomplish what needs to be done. Keep in mind that set goals must be flexible enough to accommodate changes in the workplace and changes in your mentee's interests. Goals shouldn't be so rigid that adjustments can't be made. Sometimes changes in DOT will require alterations in your mentee's goals. Think of how your mentee will reach his or her career goals. There are several career-building alternatives you can offer your mentee.
|Enrichment - enhancing skills and responsibilities of the current job.|
|Reassignment - moving to another position with the same or new duties, without a change in pay.|
|Detail - a temporary assignment with the employee returning to his or her regular duties at the end of the detail.|
|Promotion - changing to a position at a higher-grade level and pay or moving up the career ladder.|
|Change to Lower Grade - a position at a lower grade level sometimes at a lower rate of pay (often necessary to qualify for another occupation).|
For Example:Thomas, a DOT Accounting Manager, recommended to Shiela, his mentee, a lateral move to Accounts Receivable when he realized that Sheila had a strong interest and ability in finance.
Once career goals are set, you are likely to assume the role of referral agent. As a referral agent, work with your mentee to develop an action plan that outlines what knowledge, skills, and abilities a mentee needs to meet his or her career goals. There are several steps that you and your mentee should follow when developing a career action plan.
|Assigning job enrichment responsibilities|
|Participating in a temporary assignment|
|Attending workshops, conferences, or seminars|
|Enrolling in college and university courses|
|Participating in cross training or job rotation.|
For Example: If the developmental area is "writing skills," success indicators might include writing clear/concise proposals, proper use of the principles of speech, and good sentence structure.
Once you and your mentee has an action plan in place, you can use the action plan as an "enabler" to move your mentee toward the career goals that you help to set in the role of advisor.
TIP:When possible, take your mentee to various meetings or workgroups so that the mentee can observe you in different settings or situations.
Stress to your mentee that networking is directly related to the number of people at DOT from whom you can seek assistance or advice. To increase your mentee's awareness of personal contacts, ask your mentee to consider the number of people he or she knows within DOT. Your mentee may want to consider:
|With whom do I talk frequently at DOT?|
|With whom do I take lunch breaks?|
|With whom at DOT do I discuss my problems or concerns?|
As a door opener, you also open doors of information for your mentee by steering the mentee to resources that he or she may require.
For Example: Roberta needed procurement information from the General Services Administration (GSA), but did not know whom to contact at the agency. She asked her mentor for advice. Her mentor not only knew people at GSA, but was able to provide the name of a person who could provide the procurement information.
MENTOR AND MENTEE CHARACTERISTICS
Desired Characteristics of a Mentor
Desired Characteristics of a Mentee
|Desired Characteristics of a Mentor|
To successfully assume the different roles of a mentor, you need to display certain characteristics. As previously mentioned, a successful mentor is characterized as supportive, patient, and respected. There are other characteristics a successful mentor should possess. A successful mentor should be:
A mentor is one who is genuinely interested in people and has a desire to help others. A successful mentor is one who has "good" people skills"; that is, knows how to effectively communicate and actively listen. A mentor must also be able to resolve conflicts and give appropriate feedback.
A mentor is someone who inspires a mentee to do better. A mentor needs to be able to motivate a mentee through encouraging feedback and challenging work assignments. One DOT mentor best describes this characteristic by saying, "a mentor needs to stretch the mentee's potential, setting new limits for what the mentee can do."
A mentor must throroughly understand skills required by the mentee's position and goals, and be able to effectively teach these skills to his or her mentee. A mentor must not only teach the "skills of the trade," but also manage the learning of the mentee. This means that a mentor must actively try to recognize and use teaching opportunities
|Secure in Position|
A mentor must be confident in his or her career so that pride for the mentee's accomplishments can be genuinely expressed. A mentor should appreciate a mentee's developing strengths and abilities, without viewing these accomplishments as a threat. A secure mentor delights in a mentee's discoveries and welcomes a mentee's achievements. In truth, a mentor enjoys being a part of the mentee's growth and expansion.
A mentor is usually a
professional achiever--one who sets lofty career goals, continually
evaluates these goals, and strives to reach them. A successful mentor is
usually one who takes on more responsibility than is required, volunteers
for more activities, and tends to climb the proverbial career ladder at a
A mentor attempts to inspire a mentee with the same drive for achievement. This "attempt at achievement" is the flint that sparks a mentee's desire for career success. In this way, a mentor helps a mentee to set, evaluate, and reach career goals.
|Able to Give Mentee Visibility|
|Values DOT and Work|
Not all of these characteristics are equally found in every one. If you fall short in one or several of these characteristics, it doesn't mean that you can't be a successful mentor. It just means that you need to strengthen those characteristics that you think are a bit weak.
|Desired Characteristics of a Mentee|
|Eagerness to Learn|
A mentee has a strong desire to learn new skills and abilities, or a desire to develop existing skills and abilities. A mentee seeks educational and/or training opportunities whenever possible to broaden his or her capabilities. A mentee strives to elevate his or her level of technical skills and professional expertise to gain a greater mastery of the job.
|Ability to Work as a Team Player
A mentee usually must
interact with many others as a part of the requirement of his or her
position. Therefore, it is important that the mentee cooperate and
communicate with these individuals.
A mentee must learn how to be a team player--to contribute as much as possible to the mentoring relationship. To do this, a mentee should:
o Initiate and participate in discussions
o Seek information and opinions
o Suggest a plan for reaching goals
o Clarify or elaborate on ideas
o Try to ease tension between parties
o Resolve differences
o Be fair with praise and criticism
o Accept praise and criticism.
Remember, these characteristics are desired characteristics of the "ideal" mentee. If your mentee has only two or three of these characteristics, this does not mean that the mentoring relationship will fail. It may, however, take extra effort to overcome possible obstacles that could arise from lacking one or several of these characteristics. For more information on how to overcome mentoring obstacles, see the section "Obstacles in a Mentoring Relationship."
|Various Roles of a Mentee|
Mentoring creates a partnership between two individuals--the mentor and the mentee. In the previous section you learned the roles of the mentor, but a mentor is not the only one that must "wear many hats." A mentee must also perform several roles.
A mentee is the "gauge" to measure how interactive a mentoring partnership will be. This means that a mentee determines the capacity of the mentoring relationship. Your mentee decides upon the amount of dependence and guidance he or she needs. A mentee should take the initiative to ask for help or advice and to tackle more challenging work.
A mentee is the student who needs to absorb the mentor's knowledge and have the ambition to know what to do with this knowledge. As a student, the mentee needs to practice and demonstrate what has been learned. As one DOT mentor describes it, "A mentee should be able to interpret the regulations, not just spout the regulations."
A mentee is also a "trainee" who should blend mentoring with other training approaches. The mentee must participate in Departmental training programs, in addition to seeking your professional advice. By participating in other programs, the mentee becomes a more well rounded and versatile DOT employee.
ESSENTIALS OF A MENTORING RELATIONSHIP
|Five Essentials of a Mentoring Relationship|
When you are traveling to an unfamiliar destination, there are probably some essentials you should take to make your trip a success--a road map, directions, and perhaps a contact's telephone number in case you get lost. Well, as you begin your mentoring journey, there are several essentials that you should know to make your journey a success. These essential factors are:
The first essential of a successful mentoring relationship is respect. Respect is established when the mentee recognizes knowledge, skills, and abilities in the mentor that he or she would like to possess. The mentee then attempts to acquire these much-admired characteristics. Respect usually increases over time. One DOT mentor asserts that, "Respect accrues over the course of the mentoring relationship."
Trust is another essential of a successful mentoring relationship. Trust is a two-way street--both mentors and mentees need to work together to build trust. There are four factors to building trust:
|Communication: You need to talk and actively listen to your mentee. It is important to value your mentee's opinions and let your mentee know that he or she is being taken seriously. Your mentee can help to build trust in the relationship by honestly relaying his or her goals and concerns and by listening to your opinions.|
|Availability: You should be willing to meet with your mentee whenever he or she needs you. Remember the "open door" policy--that is, you should keep the door open as often as possible. Your mentee should also make time for this relationship.|
|Predictability: Your mentee needs you to be dependable and
reliable. You should make a point to give consistent feedback, direction,
and advice. You should also be able to predict the needs of your mentee.
Conversely, your mentee needs to be consistent in his or her actions and
behavior. Although your mentee will grow and change during the mentoring
relationship, drastic changes in behavior or attitude could signal a
problem. Look for these indicators of potential trouble in your mentoring
|Loyalty: Never compromise your relationship by discussing your mentee's problems or concerns with others. In addition, instruct your mentee not to discuss your relationship with others. Keep the information discussed between the two of you in strict confidence.|
The third essential is "partnership-building" activities. When you enter a mentoring relationship, you and your mentee become professional partners. There are natural barriers that all partnerships face. Natural barriers may include miscommunication or an uncertainty of each other's expectations.
Five improvement activities can help you overcome these barriers:
You and your mentee can use the following activities to help build a successful partnership.
|Show enthusiasm: Create a positive atmosphere by showing enthusiasm and excitement for your mentee's efforts.|
|Create an atmosphere for emotional acceptance: Since a person can resist being changed, transformation is a campaign for the heart as well as the mind. Help your mentee feel accepted as he or she experiences professional growth.|
|Approach change slowly: Listen to your mentee and be responsive to his or her concerns. When drastic changes occur, a person needs time to accept and experiment with these changes.|
Partnership-building activities are not only useful when building a mentoring partnership, but also are helpful to your mentee when interacting with others.
The fourth essential to a successful mentoring relationship is to build your mentee's self-esteem. All people have the desire to believe that they are worthwhile and valuable. There are several steps you can take to build your mentee's self-esteem.
Encourage your mentee to have realistic expectations of:
|Him or herself|
|The mentoring relationship|
Encourage your mentee to have a realistic self-perception. You can help define your mentee's self-perception by identifying your mentee's":
One DOT mentee comments, "My mentor perceived talents in me that I had not recognized. She helped me to develop these talents by encouraging and supporting me."
Tip: Always provide honest feedback. Your mentee deserves the truth, and honest feedback helps your mentee keep a realistic self-perception.
Encourage your mentee to change a poor self-perception. Changing a poor self-perception requires a good deal of commitment from your mentee. There are two reasons for a poor self-perception:
- The mentee "can't" be the person he or she would like to be.
- The mentee "won't" be the person he or she would like to be.
A mentee "can't" change when he or she does not have the skills or abilities to change. You can help our mentee change this self perception by helping him or her develop the knowledge, skills and abilities to become the person he or she wants to be.
Often, a mentee with a poor self-perception claims he or she "won't" be the person he or she would like to be because he or she is not willing to do what is required. You need to instill in your mentee that a poor self-perception can be changed if he or she is willing to make the effort.
Tip:Self-esteem building is an important part of your job as a mentor. The most effective way to build your mentee's self-esteem is to listen and give positive feedback.
The fifth essential is time. During the mentoring relationship, make time to interact with your mentee. Specifically set aside time for your mentee. Try not to let routine tasks exclude your mentee. Here are some ways to make time:
|Set meeting times with your mentee and don't change these times unless absolutely necessary.|
|Meet periodically, at mutually convenient times and at times when you know you won't be interrupted.|
|Take a minimum of ten minutes a day to check in with your mentee.|
In addition to making time in your schedule, realize that you need to give your mentee adequate time to grow professionally.
|A Six-Step Mentoring Process|
CHECK THE CHARACTERISTICS THAT APPLY TO YOU:
|People Oriented||Good Motivator|
|Effective Teacher||Secure in Position|
|An Achiever||Able to Give Mentee Visibility|
|Values DOT and Work||Respects Others|
|Who do I believe has potential to be an outstanding employee and would benefit from my expertise?|
|With whom would I feel comfortable building this kind of relationship?|
|Who needs my help?|
It is usually recommended that your mentee not be someone you supervise. In practice, however, mentoring relationships often result from supervisor-subordinate relationships. In this situation remember to keep the mentoring relationship separate from the supervisor-subordinate relationship. You must build a trusting relationship and this involves being able to talk freely to each other. If you are your mentee's supervisor, you need to avoid passing judgment and remember to separate the roles of supervisor and mentor.
When you are identifying a mentee, remember that the person doesn't need to be exactly like you. Successful mentoring relationships often occur between people of different genders, ethnic backgrounds, and physical capabilities. Think of the employees you know. You want to find a person who possesses at least some of the traits on the following checklist:
CHECK THE CHARACTERISTICS THAT APPLY TO YOUR MENTEE CANDIDATE
|Eagerness to learn||Able to Work as Team Player|
Once you have identified your mentee, the third step is to develop mentoring guidelines. Talk to your mentee about expectations that help build the foundation of the mentoring experience. Communicate your expectations to your mentee. Ask your mentee about his or her expectations. Find out what he or she expects to learn from this relationship and how the relationship should develop. Begin by asking your mentee:
|What do you want to gain from this mentoring relationship?|
|How should we work together to make the most of this mentoring experience?|
|What do you expect from your position/job?|
|Where do you want your career to go?|
During this step of the mentoring process, you should develop a daily or weekly schedule with your mentee to ensure enough time will be devoted to the mentoring relationship.
The fourth step is to perform the appropriate roles. Talk to your mentee about the different roles of a mentor and mentee. Your mentee may not be aware of the roles he or she is expected to perform. During this step of the mentoring process, you and your mentee begin to assume your roles.
When you evaluate your mentoring relationship, you may find that there are issues or obstacles you need to discuss. The mentor, as the senior and more experienced partner, should take the initiative for monitoring the "health" of the mentoring relationship. Your mentee is responsible for acknowledging and discussing problems as they arise.
|Mentee "grows" beyond the boundaries of the relationship. When a mentee begins to gain more confidence and starts to perform more independently, the mentoring relationship may begins to wane. This is acceptable. You want your mentee to achieve independence and begin to make decisions on his or her own. Of course, you and your mentee can still remain good friends and continue professional contact.|
|Mentee and mentor have a "falling out." You may also find that the mentoring relationship is no longer beneficial to you or your mentee. Sometimes the mentoring relationship becomes exploitative and needs to be terminated. When a mentoring relationship ends, reflection and analysis need to be employed to discover why.|
Both the mentor and the mentee should think carefully about whether their expectations were realistic and if their behaviors were appropriate. This reflection is beneficial if the mentor or mentee begins a new mentoring relationship with another individual.
|Mentor or mentee leaves position or DOT. Of course, a mentoring relationship can also end when one partner leaves a position or DOT. However, the role of advisor, counselor, teacher, or the other roles may still continue.|
There are two styles of listening--one-way listening and two-way listening. One-way listening, also know as passive listening, occurs when a listener tries to understand the speaker's remarks without actively trying to provide feedback. In this style of listening there is little or no feedback. The listener may deliberately, or unintentionally, send non-verbal messages such as eye contact, smiles, yawns, or nods. However, there is no verbal response to indicate how the message is being received.
Sometimes one-way listening is an appropriate way to listen. If your mentee wants to "air a gripe," vent frustration, or express an opinion, you may want to practice one-way listening. Your mentee may not want or need a verbal response, but may only want you to serve as a "sounding board."
One-way listening is also appropriate when you want to ease back mentally and be entertained. It would be a mistake to interrupt your mentee as he or she relates a good joke or story. Two-way listening involves verbal feedback. There are two types of feedback that you can use as a listener. One type of verbal feedback involves a questioning response. You ask for additional information to clarify your idea of the mentee's message. For instance, you may want to ask, "What do you mean?" By asking this type of question, you are asking your mentee to elaborate on information already given. The second type of verbal feedback is paraphrasing. In this type of feedback, you need to demonstrate that you have understood your mentee's concerns. You need to rephrase your mentee's ideas in your own words. If you concentrate on restating your mentee's words, you can avoid selective listening which is responding only to parts of the conversation that interest you.
TIP:You can summarize your mentee's points by saying, "Let me make sure I'm with you so far," or "The way you see the problem is…"
|Holding your fire: Learn not to get too excited or angry about the individual's point until you are sure you understand it. Do not immediately draw conclusions whether the meaning is "good" or "bad." Reduce your emotional reactions.|
|Listening for the main points: When listening to your mentee, focus on the main ideas. Make a mental outline of his or her most important points. Look at your mentee to understand what is being communicated.|
|Resisting distractions: While listening to your mentee, try to ignore your surroundings, outside noises, or others. Try to concentrate on your mentee's facial expressions, or his or her emphasis on certain words.|
|Capitalizing upon thought speed: On an average, you speak 125 words a minute. You think, and therefore listen, at almost four times that speed. You need to remember not to let your mind stray while you are waiting for the person's next thought. Instead, try to "listen between the lines." You can do this by interpreting your mentee's non-verbal messages.|
|Listening for the whole meaning: Listen for feeling as well as fact. In other words, try to "get inside the other person's head."|
During the course of the mentoring relationship, you may be required to counsel your mentee on problems that can stem from conditions outside of work, or from conflicts at work. You may also counsel your mentee on how to make certain decisions.
As a mentor, you should be familiar with the non-directive approach to counseling. The focus of this approach is to let your mentee discover problems and work out solutions that best fit his or her value system.. This type of approach avoids the need for making a diagnosis.
TIP:One role you don't want to assume is that of psychoanalyst. Never try to diagnose a mentee's problem.
A non-directive counseling approach requires you to use active listening skills. One DOT mentor explains that, "By carefully listening to your mentee's concerns, you are better able to help your mentee…" While listening to your mentee, refrain from passing judgment. You should accept the different values and opinions of your mentee without imposing your own values and opinions. Make your mentee feel comfortable and at ease and show a genuine interest in your mentee's welfare. Attempt to get your mentee to "open up" with phrases such as:
|"I see, would you like to tell me about it?"|
|"Would you help me to better understand your feelings?"|
|Why do you feel that way?"|
As part of the non-directive approach, you should learn how to reflect on what has been said by your mentee. A non-directive approach doe NOT mean that you are passive throughout the discussion. Any discussion, if it is to be productive, requires give-and-take. You should reflect on your mentee's statement by restating the key point(s). Make sure you really know what your mentee is trying to tell you.
It is not unusual for a person to stop talking during a conversation to organize thoughts, focus opinions, interpret feelings, or simply catch his or her breath. You may feel great pressure to break the silence by saying something. However, it is better to let your mentee restart the conversation and continue the conversation at his or her own pace. This eliminates putting too much of your own feelings and biases into the conversation.
TIP:Don't try to anticipate your mentee's feelings or thoughts. Doing so can lead the conversation off in the wrong direction. Let your mentee voice his or her own feelings and thoughts.
If your mentee becomes emotional during your discussion, let him/her work through the feelings. After an emotional release, it is not unusual for a person to feel shame and guilt. If you mentee wants to discuss this emotional release, you should allow him/her to talk freely about it. With a non-directive approach, it is better to let your mentee arrive at his or her own solutions. (This helps your mentee sharpen problem-solving abilities.) Of course you can give advice to your mentee, but you need to emphasize that this advice comes from your own perspective or experience. If you are asked for advice, preface your statements with "From my experience…," or "The way I vies the situation…," or "If I were in your situation, I would consider…" These statements help your mentee understand that this advice is from your perspective. It is the mentee's choice and responsibility to decide whether or not to apply it.
Remember the more serious and personal your mentee's problem, the more cautious you should be about giving advice.
TIP:You can refer your mentee to DOT's Employee Assistance Program (EAP) if you feel that the problem is too serious or personal.
When you counsel your mentee, you can learn to better understand how your mentee thinks, feels, acts, or reacts. In fact, counseling can effectively stimulate your mentee's problem-solving ability.
Mentoring requires you to help your mentee set career goals and to meet these career goals within a specified time frame.
First, you need to determine your mentee's interests. To help your mentee determine his or her interests, begin by asking questions such as:
|What activities do you enjoy or find satisfying in your work?|
|What did you like best about your last (or present) job?|
|What outside activities or organizations do you enjoy?|
|In what are volunteer programs are you active?|
Keep in mind that your mentee may have difficulty identifying his or her own skills and abilities for three reasons.
Creative interests--writing, designing, developing, planning
Labor interests--working with machines, tools, living things
Research interests--collecting and analyzing data, facts, and records.
By categorizing your mentee's interests into these key areas, you can help your mentee focus on the types of tasks (or jobs) that he or she enjoys.
Once you have identified your mentee's interests, identify his or her knowledge, skills, and abilities within these interest areas. You need to gather this information to focus your mentee's goals and his or her areas of interest. Ask your mentee:
|What are your work responsibilities?|
|What knowledge, skills, and abilities do you need to meet these responsibilities?|
|What do you believe are your strengths?|
TIP:Your mentee may wish to consider learning more about his or her interests, skills, abilities, and preferred lifestyles by completing a self-assessment instrument.
Often knowledge, skills, and abilities are shown in accomplishments. Accomplishments include the successful completion of any work-related assignment or task that clearly demonstrates a particular skill or combination of skills. Have your mentee think about his or her professional or personal accomplishments by asking your mentee the following questions:
|What would you consider to be your three most significant accomplishments?|
|Why do you consider these to be the most significant?|
You can help your mentee reveal knowledge, skills, and abilities by forcing him/her to closely examine professional or personal accomplishments.
Third, once you have determined your mentee's interests, knowledge, skills, and abilities, help your mentee develop or isolate developmental goals. Developmental goals are desires to enhance one's career, social interaction, and personal endeavors.
Developmental goals are difficult to identify because they are more abstract than tasks. To identify developmental goals, start with a long-term goal setting plan (no more than three years) and work backward. You need to work backward because it's easier to identify short-term goals once you know what the long-term goals are. Ask your mentee:
|Where would you like to be in three years (long-term goals)?|
|What series of one-year goals (short-term goals) could lead you to these objectives?|
You can set a formalized career structure for your mentee by writing the long-term and short-term goals on a planning worksheet. (A sample goal setting worksheet follows this section.) Keep in mind that your mentee's career goals must be realistic and flexible. You also should ensure that the mentee's career goals coincide with DOT's philosophy and culture.Once you have identified the developmental goals, organize these goals in one of the following categories:
Career goals are desires to advance one's profession. To attain career goals, one must use his or her knowledge, skills, and abilities. For example, a DOT Industry Economist wanted to be recognized as a "senior" Economist. To accomplish this career goal, he determined that he first needed to concentrate on publishing economic articles in professional journals to enhance his writing skills and promote peer recognition.
Target areas are subtasks that a mentee needs to do to reach his or her career goals. For example, a DOT Secretary has a long- term career goal to be an Administrative Officer. She identifies three different target areas to accomplish this goal. Her target areas are to improve (1) writing shills, (2) analytical skills, and (3) personnel, budget and procurement knowledge.
Social goals are aspirations to meet other professionals to build a network of contacts. For instance, one mentee joined a professional organization to meet people in his field.
Personal goals are strong desires to improve oneself. One mentee wanted to concentrate on improving her organizational skills so that she could perform her job more effectively. She decided to attend a time management course to reach her goal.
Fourth, once your mentee's career goals are established, you need to meet at least every six months to evaluate them. You and your mentee may want to adjust developmental goals as your mentee's interests change, or changes occur in DOT.
TIP:One way to set goals is through an Individual Development Plan (IDP). The IDP is a written plan designed to meet particular developmental goals.
SAMPLE GOAL SETTING WORKSHEET
TYPES OF MENTORING
Three Types of Mentoring
|Three Types of Mentoring|
Although these routes will lead you to the same destination, you need to decide which route to follow. To see how these three mentoring types are characterized, see the Mentoring Matrix at the end of this section.
Another characteristic of traditional mentoring is that it involves frequent social interaction between the mentor and mentee. This type of mentoring relationship usually results in the mentor and mentee spending time together outside of the office and sharing a friendly, comfortable relationship. This type of mentoring is usually successful because the two parties have a genuine concern for each other's well being. Friendship, rather than job requirements, keeps the two parties together.
Planned mentoring concentrates on the needs of the organization. This usually results in benefits to both the organization and the mentee.
This type of mentoring promotes a "formal business" approach to the relationship so there is little or no social interaction. The mentor and mentee rarely see each other outside the office. The mentor and mentee are not concerned with developing a friendship as much as they are interested in meeting the organization's needs. After all, the basis for the relationship is organizational commitment.Planned mentoring usually lasts from six to eight months. The relationship ends when the organizational goals are reached. This type of mentoring takes a systematic approach that consists of five steps:
Note:Some mentoring relationships develop into a combination of both planned and traditional.
Read and research materials in the field. Learn new information from trade magazines, books, and periodicals.
You may want to alert your mentee to these strategies. A mentee should be encouraged to look for opportunities to develop independently, outside of the traditional mentoring arena.
TYPES OF MENTORING CHARACTERISTICS
|High Social Interaction|
|Low Social Interaction|
|No Social Interaction|
|Average Span of 8-15 Years|
|Average Span of Less than 1 Year|
|Undetermined Number of Years (Depends on Individual)|
|The Four Stages of Mentoring|
In the first stage of mentoring, the Prescriptive Stage, the mentee usually has little or no experience at DOT or in the workplace. This stage is most comfortable for the novice mentee, who depends heavily on you for support and direction. This is where you are prescribing, ordering, and advising your mentee.During this stage, you will primarily assume the roles of:
Note: These roles are not exclusive to this stage. The purpose of this list is to serve as a guideline for your actions during this stage.The Prescriptive Stage requires you to give a lot of praise and attention to build your mentee's self-confidence. You will devote more time to your mentee in this stage than in any of the other stages. You will provide detailed guidance and advice to your mentee on many, if not all, workplace issues and procedures. In this stage, think of the mentee as a "sponge"--soaking up every new piece of information you provide. You will share many of your experiences, "trials," and "anecdotes" during this stage.
For Example: A mentee fresh from school, was unsure of what was expected of him in the Grants Management Office. His mentor gave him advice and told him how she was integrated into the Department when she first joined DOT. By sharing her stories and offering support, the mentor was able to provide a more confortable workplace transition for her mentee.
|TIP: Give examples of how you or other people handled similar situations and what consequences resulted.|
During this stage, you mentee may need to be prodded into taking risks. Suggest new strategies, coach, question, and push your mentee into discoveries.
Generally, the roles you assume during this stage are
For Example: A Security Specialist mentee, with two years of experience at DOT, faced a problem that could ruin her professional reputation in the division if she made the wrong decision. She turned to her mentor who offered different suggestions to give the mentee a new perspective on the situation. The mentee was able to make a better decision once she knew all the alternatives and was able to keep her good reputation in the division.
|Tip: Influence actions by asking questions challenging your mentee.|
In the Collaborative Stage, the mentee has enough experience and ability that he or she can work together with the mentor to jointly solve problems and participate in "more equal" communication. In this stage, the mentee actively cooperates with the mentor in his or her professional development.
For Example: A Procurement Analyst mentee transferred into DOT. He had four years of government experience but was unfamiliar with the policy and procedures in his new office. While he had made several good contacts in the other agency, he relied on his mentor to introduce him to key DOT procurement dynamics and the challenging projects that different groups were undertaking. He and his mentor discussed policy and procedures and jointly decided how he could make a smoother transition into DOT.
In this stage, you may allow your mentee, at times, to take control by having him/her a chance to work independently. For instance, a mentee can be given a piece of an important project to do on his or her own, with little or no guidance from the mentor.
|TIP: Alternate leadership roles to give your mentee more experience with working independently.|
The Confirmative Stage is suitable for mentees with a lot of experience who have mastered the job requirements, but require your insight into DOT policies and people. In this stage, you act more as a sounding board or empathetic listener. One DOT mentor asserts, "my mentee presents career questions to me. I give her my advice and encouragement in a non-judgmental manner about her career decisions."
Generally, the roles you assume during the Confirmative Stage are:
TIP:Assign your mentee independent work projects.
While everyone can benefit from a mentor at any point in his or her career, the ultimate goal of the mentoring stages is to produce a well-rounded, competent employee who outgrows the tutelage of a mentor. Your relationship should evolve to the point where you mentee is self-motivated, confident, and polished. Ideally, you want your protégé to move on to become a mentor to another colleague.
Each mentoring stage is characterized by the degree of dependence your mentee has on you as a mentor. The degree of mentee dependency is greatest at the Prescriptive Stage, with dependency decreasing with each subsequent stage. This means that a mentee who is successfully capable of working independently most of the time would be comfortable in the Confirmative Stage. As the mentee grows professionally, the amount of dependence decreases, until the mentee is shaped into an independent and competent employee.
You and your mentee can begin your mentoring relationship at any of the four stages mentioned above. The stage of your relationship is determined by the amount of experience your mentee has and how much guidance he or she needs. To determine your mentee's level of experience, you need to analyze the mentoring relationship. You need to decide:
|What are your mentee's knowledge, skills, and abilities?|
|What is your mentee's level of experience?|
|What amount of guidance does your mentee require?|
To answer these questions, observe your protégé at work and watch how your mentee interacts with others. The answers to these questions can help you decide in which stage your mentoring relationship should begin.
For Example: Sally, Director of Strategic Planning, evaluated her mentee as a well-seasoned employee who had a fair amount of contacts in the field and who had extensive knowledge of her position. Sally adapted her mentoring style to fit the characteristics of the Collaborative Stage.
Once you have determined how much guidance and support your mentee needs, you can decide which mentoring stage is appropriate for your relationship and which role(s) to assume.
Mentoring relationships may follow all four stages, or only several of these stages. In fact, there is such a fine line between each stage that frequently it is difficult to tell when one stage ends and another begins. Your mentee should give you verbal and non-verbal signs to indicate when he or she is ready to move to the next mentoring stage.
You need to continually evaluate your mentoring relationship as it evolves. Determine when it is time to alter your mentoring style. Keep in mind that your relationship will stagnate if your mentoring style remains in a stage your mentee has outgrown.
OBSTACLES IN A MENTORING RELATIONSHIP
|Overcoming Obstacles in the Relationship|
During the course of your mentoring relationship, you and your mentee may experience "roadblocks." Roadblocks are obstacles that could hinder a developing relationship. There are obstacles unique to a mentor and obstacles that only a mentee may encounter. The obstacles that could confront a mentor are:
|A mentoring style that does not meet the mentee's needs or suit you|
|A mentee's supervisor feeling excluded|
|A mentee who has a hidden agenda|
|An inappropriate attitude on the part of the mentee.|
What happens when . . .. . . a highly organized mentor has a mentee with a relaxed work style? . . . a creative mentee has a mentor who practices the "old school of thought?" . . . an assertive mentor has a mentee with a reserved personality? Of course you can guess what would happen . . . . frustration!
As a mentor, your style of mentoring may not always match the needs of your mentee. Your mentoring style has a lot to do with who you are and how you work. If you are a detail-oriented person, you probably tend to give extensive directions or outline each step of an assignment. If you are a person who tends to see the "big picture," you probably are more inclined to give looser, perhaps even vague directions to your mentee. Of course, noting these differences does not make one style better than the other. However, differences in styles between you and your mentee can pose as an obstacle.
A dot Contract Specialist mentee comments, "My mentor had a "laissez-faire" work style which frustrated me. She would assign me a task, but she wouldn't offer any suggestions and very little details on how to complete it. I felt lost and needed more direction." Both of you need to understand each other's styles. Be flexible, but remember that disorganization and sloppiness warrant improvement rather than acceptance.
Frustration may also occur when you don't adapt your style to meet the developing needs of your mentee. As your relationship evolves, your mentee's confidence grows as skills develop and successes are relished.
You need to adjust your mentoring techniques to keep in sync with your mentee's evolution. In time, detailed directions or certain problem-solving strategies may be considered stifling by your developing mentee. Consider giving less and accepting more from your mentee. To meet the needs of your mentee, you need to periodically evaluate your mentee by considering:
|Knowledge, skills, abilities, and traits of your mentee|
|The level of your mentee|
|The needs of your mentee.|
Once you evaluate your mentee and discover the required amount of guidance, you can determine what style is appropriate for your mentee.
|TIP:Take verbal and non-verbal cues from your mentee to determine your mentoring style.|
Another potential obstacle for mentors is insufficient time. Some mentors can't seem to devote enough time to their mentee. Other commitments in your schedule may prevent you from spending time with your mentee. If you start to sacrifice time with your mentee because of other commitments, he or she may lose faith in you and your mentoring relationship will suffer.
Another obstacle involving time occurs when a mentor expects too much progress from the mentee, in an unrealistic amount of time. You need to give your mentee time to grow professionally and to make mistakes along the way. Try not to be impatient with your mentee and expect too much to soon.
Unless you are your mentee's supervisor, you may find that your mentee's supervisor feels excluded from the mentoring relationship. It is imperative that you do not undermine the authority of your mentee's supervisor.
|TIP: Keep the supervisor updated by discussing your mentee's achievements, progress, goals, and action plan|
Another possible obstacle is a mentee who has a hidden agenda. A hidden agenda is an ulterior motive for forming the relationship. For instance, some mentee's seek out high-level, respected mentors with the misguided intent of only furthering their own career, thus overlooking the significant other benefits of mentoring. Hidden agendas are harmful to the mentoring relationship because the relationship is built on deceit.
|TIP: Be honest about motives and keep the lines of communication open.|
If you think that your mentee has a "hidden agenda," you may want to discuss the issue tactfully. Remember never directly accuse your mentee. Questions your mentee, but don't push the issue.
Another possible obstacle involves a mentee's inappropriate attitude toward the mentoring relationship. Some mentees expect too much from their mentors--demanding more time and attention than they actually need.
|TIP: Periodically discuss your expectations with each other.|
Others may expect to control their mentors. Be firm with your mentee about commitments and responsibilities. If you give your mentee an assignment or deadline, don't accept excuses for poor work or missed deadlines (unless the excuses are beyond the mentee's control).
In terms of social etiquette, you must be supportive of your mentee and sensitive to cultural differences. For example, in some cultures, there is a preference towards modesty, reserve and control. Whereas with another culture, directness or emotionally intense, dynamic, and demonstrative behavior is considered appropriate.
The mentor is not the only one in the partnership that may have to confront an obstacle. Obstacles may arise for the mentee too. A mentee may confront obstacles such as:
|Being accused of "holding on to the coat tails of another"|
|One party overstepping professional boundaries|
|The mentor falling from favor.|
One problem for a mentee is the jealousy of peers who do not have a mentor. When others see a mentee getting key assignments and advancing rapidly, professional jealousy can occur.
|TIP: Suggest to your mentee to act as an advisor to those who are jealous.|
By showing your mentee how to act as an advisor, he or she can gain leadership experience and perhaps diffuse some of the jealousy. If this does not work, advise your mentee to look at this as another opportunity for learning and to use his or her interpersonal skills to deal with the situation.
Another obstacle that your mentee may encounter is the attitude of others who believe that he or she got to be a mentee by practicing the "holding on to the coat tails of another" theory. This theory suggests that your mentee is not earning respect and advancing by his or her own merit but through his or her association with you.
|TIP: Give your mentee visibility and let others see his or her competence and abilities.|
You need to allow the capability of your mentee to show for itself. Encourage your mentee not to add "fuel to the fire" by divulging information about your relationship.
For Example: A Research Analyst, who began her DOT career as a Secretary, said that others accused her of "quickly moving up through the ranks" because of her mentoring relationship with a successful and powerful senior executive. This mentee, still under her mentor's tutelage, has mostly ignored the accusations, but she also admitted that she has put forth-extra effort to achieve recognition from her peers for her promotion.
Another problem that both the mentee and a mentor could face is when one party oversteps the professional boundaries of the relationship. This occurs when one party wants the relationship to become more "personal." This type of obstacle sometimes occurs in cross-gender mentoring relationships. The fact that mentoring involves a close and confidential relationship between an experienced and less experienced employee could result in this obstacle.
According to a female mentee who was mentored by a senior-level male, "My mentor wanted or relationship to be more than professional. I thought it was inappropriate and I decided to end our mentoring relationship."
|TIP: Tactfully discuss the issue with your mentee to determine if the mentoring relationship should continue.|
This obstacle should not deter you from forming a cross-gender mentoring relationship. It only means that people should be sensitive to the perceptions of each other.
Another obstacle a mentee might face is a mentor falling from favor and others at DOT looking with disapproval at the mentor. This is an obstacle which calls for careful reflection when professional needs and opportunities have to be balanced against personal loyalty and integrity. If possible, the mentee should discuss the "issue of contention" with the mentor. One DOT mentee comments, "My mentor had a "falling out" with his boss and things were pretty uncomfortable for those of use who remained loyal. Everything worked out in the end, but it gave me some insight into my own values."
Once you or your mentee evaluate the relationship, you may find yourself in a mentor-mentee relationship that cannot be salvaged. Only after all other efforts to remedy the problem have been tried should you consider ending the relationship for adverse reasons.
These are just a few of the obstacles you and your mentee may encounter during your relationship, but with time and effort these obstacles can be overcome.
BENEFITS OF MENTORING
|What Are Some Benefits?|
One of the main objectives of the NTP 2, is to "provide career guidance and role models for employees." However, this is only one example of the benefits achieved through mentoring. Mentoring provides benefits to the mentor, mentee, and DOT.
An overwhelming number of DOT mentors stated that, "One of the greatest rewards of being a mentor is the personal satisfaction of fostering the professional growth of my mentee." This personal satisfaction that a mentor feels is one benefit to a mentor. As a mentor, you may reap the following rewards:
|An opportunity to pass your legacy to the newest generation of employees at DOT|
Many DOT mentors feel pride knowing that their mentee's progress and achievements will extend into DOT's future.
|A chance to cultivate your management, leadership, and
You sharpen these skills by delegating challenging work to your mentee and by giving constructive feedback.
|A source of recognition from your peers Others will respect the role you have in imparting the values of DOT to your mentee.|
|The potential for developing rewarding professional contacts by interacting with other mentors, as well as with contacts made through your mentee.|
|Learning from your mentee--mentors and mentees can learn from each other.|
For the mentee, mentoring provides a number of benefits. One DOT mentee expresses, "Mentoring helped me build my confidence. I was inspired to try new ideas and never to be satisfied with less than my best. I was pushed to take challenges and move beyond the usual expectations."
Here are some other specific ways that a mentee can benefit from mentoring:
|The mentee is provided a role model and sounding board. By using the mentor as a role model, the mentee can learn from example. In addition, the mentee can use the mentor as a sounding board to express new ideas or to vent frustrations.|
|For the novice mentee, mentoring allows for a smoother transition into the workforce. A mentee who is fresh from school may join the workforce with unrealistic expectations and naïve illusions. As a mentor, you can make this adjustment period easier through communication, understanding, and guidance.|
|For the seasoned mentee, mentoring helps the mentee feel more comfortable with the new environment and allows a quicker adjustment to the DOT culture.|
|The mentee will have an opportunity to work on challenging and interesting projects. A less experienced mentee, under a mentor's tutelage, can be given a chance to try different and more advanced tasks.|
Studies have found that employees who engage in a mentoring relationship are more likely to move ahead faster than employees without mentors (Harvard Business Review, "Much Ado About Mentors," 1979, by G.R. Roche). This generally results in mentees having greater career satisfaction than their peers who do not have mentors.
Finally, mentoring also benefits DOT, One DOT mentor confirms, "Mentors help manage change within DOT. They can help an employee see the big picture. Also, mentors develop employees to maximize productivity." Here are some additional examples of how DOT can profit from mentoring.
|DOT gains a team of well-rounded employees. Both mentors and mentees have an opportunity to expand their leadership, interpersonal, and technical skills through this relationship.|
By allowing mentees to expand their skills, this reduces the chance that employees will be "lost" within DOT or will experience a career plateau.
|Mentoring offers an effective way of integrating new employees into the workforce. Because mentors pass on their values, ethics, and standards, this process ensures the future success of DOT.|
|Mentoring is also beneficial when recruiting new employees. This type of program makes the organization more attractive to potential employees because it shows that DOT cares about the well being of its employees.|
|DOT retains qualified employees. As one DOT mentor comments, "in an age of career mobility, there is a need to hang on to quality individuals." Mentoring helps the mentee feel closer and more loyal to DOT. A mentee who feels closer to DOT reduces the likelihood that he or she will leave the organization.|