I read an interesting article today about why organizations fail in training leaders to be good mentors. I bring this up because having recently retired from the Army, I saw the Army’s attempt to use mentorship as a fix for leadership training and coaching.
To me the three concepts of Mentoring, Training and Coaching are all integral but distinct aspects of growing effective leaders. Training tends to be easy, you send leaders to schools, conduct training events and otherwise provide some means to give them new information for them to assimilate and hopefully use in the future. Coaching is long term. Spending time talking to and directing them in the assimilation of the training they had earlier. This is usually scheduled and can be somewhat formal. If done by someone outside the organization it is often ongoing while the leader is conducting regular business. Business then stops for awhile to assess how effective the leader was during that period. Mentoring is by it’s nature considerably harder to grasp and yet in it’s purest form the easiest of the three aspects to do.
There are many trying to formalize the concept of mentoring since it hsa been established that mentorship can pay huge dividends when done right. The problem is that mentorship should never be formalized. There has to be by-in from both parties and I would go so far as to say it has to be somewhat spontaneous. The best mentors are those in which neither the mentor nor the mentee can pin point the exact time of the mentoring relationship. The best mentors take an interest in a subordinate and that interest becomes a passion to see that subordinate succeed.
Can we train mentors then? Yes. I will be back to talk about that soon. Ken