Mentoring is one important element of professional development that is often overlooked. Talk to fifty successful people and many will tell that they benefitted from a mentor on their journey to success. Success always involve inter-generation transfer of information, Mentorship is no different, although mentors and mentees can be in the same generation. Though the value of mentorship has been recognized, there remains a paucity of forums for people seeking mentors to find one.

WINN understands the power of mentorship both as an instrument of self and societal development.  One goal of WINN is to make available a process by which potential mentors and mentees can connect and begin what is often a transformative journey for both the mentor and the mentee.  Over the next several months, WINN intends to explore the subject of mentorship in an in-depth way.  WINN intends to look at mentorship from various perspective such as: cross-cultural, business, power dynamic, social engagement, inter-generational, etc. WINN starts this discussion with a general look at mentorship what it means, its benefits, and how to select a mentor. In this regard, WINN caught up with Arnold Minors, a long-time organization development consultant who himself has served as a mentor and has agreed to be part of WINN’s mentorship panel.  WINN interviewed Mr. Minors and asked him about mentorship. What follows are Mr. Minors responses to WINN’s questions.

What does mentorship mean to you?


Mentorship is an ongoing process in which a mentor facilitates personal learning and growth of the person being mentored.


Who would you say needs a mentor and why?


Anyone who is interested in having a relationship with another person who can actively facilitate growth needs a mentor. Learning and growth are often hard work to do alone. Feedback from another person is frequently helpful. Mentorship is an excellent example of a process where “shared joy doubles, and shared sorrow is halved.”


What are the challenges in finding a mentor?


The biggest challenge is recognizing that a mentor is an “assistance” in growth. I believe that a key to the success of Alcoholics Anonymous is the recognition by an alcoholic that she needs help and says so to herself. Once the recognition of the need is made, the next challenge is finding a person who you can trust and who has your best interests at heart and acts on them unconditionally.


Are there particular groups of people whom you believe could benefit most from mentorship?


Our society is one in which there is uneven distribution of power and wealth – in its broadest sense. To make a huge generalization, statistically, the people with the most access to resources are white, heterosexual, able-bodied, judaeo-christian men. The further people are away from that set of characteristics, the greater is their need for mentors.


From your perspective, what are the top five benefits of having a mentor?


From my previous answer, I think you realize that the major benefit of mentorship is that it can contribute to a socially just society. The second benefit is that successful mentorship increases critical thinking and conscious reflection in both mentor and mentee, if I can use that word. I believe that critical thinking in individuals leads to a more engaged citizenry. That is a plus for genuine democracy, in its original sense rather than its contemporary, corrupted usage. Genuine democracy is good for this endangered planet. A third benefit of mentoring is that it builds more satisfying inter-generational relations and cross-cultural relationships.


There are, I’m sure, more benefits. Working towards those three would be good enough for me.


What is the difference between mentorship and networking?


Both, I think, are useful. Mentorship is a sustained relationship between two people. Networking provides people with the opportunity to find all kinds of relationships that are meaningful to them. It is, in fact, one way of finding a mentor.


Do you see a difference between mentorship and coaching and if so what is it?


I believe that mentorship and coaching are different, although for some people, they are interchangeable terms. Mentorship is person focussed; coaching is outcome focussed, often job performance or skills development. Accordingly, mentors help their mentees with life while coaching focuses on the job or a job. I do not wish to push this too far but I think that usually coaches have some form of power over the people they coach – position power, for example. Successful mentoring relationships require power with each other. Generally a coach is assigned to a person. In mentorship, it is a self-selecting process.


What are some of the factors that a person should use to select a mentor?


I believe that the biggest factor is gut-level trust. Mentors and the people they mentor select each other, regardless of who initiates the process. Trust is vital. The two people should be alike each other enough that they have points of common bond. On the other hand, they should be different enough from each other to challenge each other. Mentoring is a wonderful example of what I call the Zanana Akande Rule: If two people in a relationship always agree, one of them is unnecessary.”


What are some of the factors that a mentor should consider before agreeing to mentor a person?


A mentor must ask herself: Do I really think I want to be involved in what may be a deeply personal way with this person for what may be a long time? Am I prepared to share equally? Am I prepared to be open with my own feelings and fears?


What are some of the issues in mentorship from the mentors perspective?


My answer to this is the same as the previous answer.


What are some of the issues in mentorship from the perspective of the mentee?


I believe the mentee must ask himself the same questions as the mentor asks. Accordingly, the same issues arise as I described in the question about the mentor.


What are the five most important current trends in mentorship?


From my own observation, I think that there is growing recognition of the need for mentorship by people who recognize their own need for mentorship, particularly by members of groups of people who have disproportionately less access to society’s wealth.


There is also a growing need of the recognition of the need for people who are approaching mid-life or who are even older that there has been a failure to share knowledge with younger people. For some marginalized people, that failure has increased inter-generational frustration and, unfortunately, distance between each other.


I said earlier that there has been some talk of making coaching and mentorship synonymous. I believe this is the result of a probably unconscious recognition that mentorship has the possibility of transforming the society to a more just one. In this society where outcomes appear to be more valued than process, making mentorship synonymous with coaching has the effect – if not the intent – of making mentorship less common, except for people who have  disproportionately more access to resources. I worry about that.


WINN Thanks Mr. Minors for giving so graciously of himself and sharing his thoughts in a cursory way on this very important topic of mentorship..