You may see yourself as both, in principle and in practice.
There’s no doubt that the practice of mentoring is shifting; comments I hear from clients out in the field as well as comments made to a post I made recently on LinkedIn make this abundantly clear. Just as leadership is evolving to meet the needs of employees who have differing strengths and needs, so too, is the practice of mentoring evolving.
I have written previously about the key differences between Traditionalists and the Millennial Generation, a span of four generations. Preferred work styles and key attributes make it clear that each generation has much to teach the other. Of primary interest is their respective difference between working alone and in competition with other employees, and working collaboratively. Of course, the potentially different comfort levels with technology is another key difference.
That is not to say that traditionalists can’t be either collaborative or extremely tehno-facile.
And perhaps, as the purview of someone who is a “boomer”, I can’t help but think that this is where the primary difference between mentoring and coaching might be: if mentoring is the practice of guiding another through various situations, opportunities and decisions, isn’t experience with the people that you’ll likely run into along the way the greatest asset I have? On the other hand, a coach is best equipped to help an employee do their job better and more efficiently. There are many of us “traditionalists” and “boomers’ who might love to have a young coach; between technology and work norms, it’s a different world.
In the discussion on LinkedIn, where I originally posted a Forbes article on Debunking Common Mentoring Myths, written by Lisa Quast and featuring Susan Canfield, the comments were lively and not necessarily aligned. As so much that is valuable, thoughtful people posting thoughtful responses gives us much to think about.
I agree that the process of mentoring is changing, evolving, as several posters wrote. The value of the process is intact, possibly stronger than ever. Cross-generational and cross-cultural, the new norm seems to be what works for both the mentor as well as the mentee.
So, how do you use mentoring in your organization? If you haven’t yet adopted a mentoring practice, we’re happy to help. We have the tools and resources to grow your organization and assist with your mentoring practice.
Boxer Advisors, LLC, is a full-service consulting, training and coaching firm with more than 50 professional consultants, facilitators, and coaches and carefully selected partners providing services to Federal agencies and Fortune 1000 companies since 1996.
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