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Teaching / Training / Coaching / Mentoring




The word “mentoring” has been overused and mostly misused, almost to the point that it has lost its meaning.  It is common to hear consultants in many fields, use the term mentoring as a synonym for, teaching and even simple training.  That is not the essence of mentoring.

Mentoring came from the Odyssey of  Homer. In this classic, Odysseus, king of Ithaca, fights in the Trojan War and entrusts the care of his entire household to Mentor, who serves as teacher and overseer of Odysseus' son, Telemachus.  For a Greek, second only to fighting for his country, his most important task was to raise his son to be true Greek.   This is the most important of the tasks for Mentor. In this role he is responsible for the physical, emotional, intellectual and morale upbringing of Telemachus


The word Mentor evolved to mean trusted advisor, friend, teacher and wise person. Mentoring is a fundamental form of human development where one person invests time, energy and personal know-how in assisting the growth and ability of another person.  Teaching, coaching and training generally speak to skill development.  On the other hand, mentoring is whole person development.


Coaching typically is skills driven, short term, and focused on behavior, while mentoring is relationship oriented, has a long-term scope, and is holistic, meaning it is broad enough to address facets of the whole person, not just a narrow slice of the individual's life. In fact, a coaching dimension can be included in the mentoring relationship to address specific areas of need or concern.  The heart of mentoring is helping people to reach their fullest potential in life, not just to teach them how to perform a task the right way, to carry out the responsibilities of a position, or to acquire knowledge, even though those obviously have value.


Mentoring is a process that always involves two-way, sincere, honest communication and is based on a strong relationship with mutual trust as the foundation. The focus of mentoring is to develop the whole person and so the techniques are broad and require wisdom in order to be used appropriately.  The mentor has a deep personal interest, must be personally committed to, and becomes a friend who cares about you and your long term development. Mentoring is a power free, two-way, mutually beneficial relationship.


Even then it  was not true mentoring, the closest I have seen to a true mentoring program in business was at a Toyota facility.  Their problem, like many businesses, was they had a dearth of mentors but to comply with the policy,  many of the mentors were also the mentees supervisor.  This created two problems, first it was not a true volunteer program.  Second, due to the other conflicts of the workplace such as , performance appraisals and job progression, often get in the way of mentoring in the workplace.   This Toyota facility taught the Senpai-Kohai process, the Toyota standard.  Their problem, like so many mentoring programs, was in the need to have strong relationships based on trust.  This facility, like many had trust issues, maybe less than most,  but trust is a key component to the functioning mentoring relationship.

The one place I have seen several examples of structured and working mentoring relationship is in the church.  I have seen it function well in several religions.  On the other hand, I can give you numerous examples of solid mentoring relationships in many businesses, but not as a structured part of the business or even part of the culture.


How we can help

First, we mentor as a normal part of our business; however we have very strict requirements for the mentor-mentee relationship.  We always start with a discussion of those requirements.


Second we can guide you in develop a mentoring program in your facility.  Again we have strict rules and they start with an interactive workshop on mentoring and then we can show you how to set up a purely voluntary program that is not work dependent.

Character is what is left after the fire. In other words, it's the proof of who you really are as revealed after being tested and refined by life's experiences, in good times and bad times. Just as bumping a full bucket causes its contents to spill out, a person's character is what spills out when he or she encounters the bumps of life.


The great thing about true humility is that in good times and bad times, it enables our egos to remain in neutral. We remain moldable because we remember and understand our inadequacies, and even our mortality. We also have to admit that we really don't have our act together, that we're still learning. As my friend Mark Pollard puts it so well, "A humble man is a wise man. A wise man is a learning man. A learning man seeks to find every lesson in life experiences." This holds true in both good times and tough times.

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