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, privacy, ethics, 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 Novlett Hughes-Tate, a long-time nurse who herself has offered up herself as a mentor to many in the health care field. She has also agreed to be part of WINN’s mentorship panel.  WINN interviewed Ms Hughes 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 of learning and discovery in which two or more people help develop each other professionally, personally, or both. It is a reciprocal relationship. It is voluntary and characterized by mutual giving of oneself, knowledge, life lessons, and often skills.


Who would you say needs a mentor and why?


That is an interesting question. I would say that we all, at one point or another, need to be mentored because it is part of the learning process. I, as a mentor, teach you what I know. The person being mentored, on the other hand, teaches me. That mutual sharing of information ends up, over time, bringing about changes in life. These changes affect people and help to broaden the mentor’s perspective. Mentoring provides people with hindsight and clarity in the journey of life.  In a sense mentoring is cathartic for the mentor. It is a way to motivate and sustain change in the mentor’s life. It can help the mentor in implementing inter-generational and other adaptations. Mentors should only provide advice to a mentee that the mentor is prepared to follow and put in effect in her/his life.  In this way, mentoring is a powerful vehicle to achieve and maintain personal accountability. In the course of mentoring a person, mentor has to think about being consistent, walking the talk. It is no good to give advice to someone that you yourself have not lived or are prepared to live. In this way, everyone one needs a mentor, if for no other reason but achieving a measure of consistency and accountability in life.



What are the challenges in finding a mentor?


It is hard to say with any degree of certainty what all of the challenges are. I can think of a few, though.  In certain careers mentoring is not explicitly encouraged.  There, people are not mentoring, perhaps because of times, or other pressures. Then, there is the issue of the availability and willingness of people to serve as mentors. Loads of people do not see themselves as a possible a possible mentors and therefore do not offer themselves up as a mentor. Sometimes mentors just burn themselves out; some folks just get tired or mentoring as it can be demanding. I am not at all sure that mentoring, as a concept, exists in all cultures. In any event, social class and poverty help to determine whether a person even thinks of getting a mentor. Of course, gender plays a role in finding a mentor.  I am sure there are other challenges, including one’s occupation, motivation and the like. Even though technology has virtually transformed information, mentoring is relationship driven.


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


I do not think that there is equal access to mentor.  Here are some of the groups for whom access to a mentor could benefit. Youth, young professionals, people from low socio economic, new immigrants, and anyone who aspires to bigger and better things.


On a slightly different note, we often think about newcomers as needing mentorship. However, because of our immigration policies many recent arrivals have life and other experiences that outmatch that of many Canadians.  Working in hospitals, I see orderlies who were physicist, doctors, etc. in their own country.  For many of them taking the position of an orderly is taking a professional step back. They are more of an expert than many born Canadians. Sometimes these folks can teach up a thing or two.


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


There are so many benefits to mentorship. I am just going to list a few that I can think of at the moment, in no particular order of importance:


Friendship:                 Given the nature of mentorship, friendship often results over a period of time. In most cases, the friendship is lasting and the mentor and mentee often become fully integrated into each other’s family.


Resource:                   Mentors and mentee serve as resources to each other. It becomes an easy access and fool proof way to access information and each other’s networks.


Knowledge Transfer:            Knowledge transfer happens in the course of mentorship. The old teaches the constancy of principles. The young teaches the ways in which society has shifted, despite principles. The young help the old to understand the new world, and the old helps the young understand the sameness of the world, despite its changes.


Accountability:           Mentoring ensures that people are constantly in a self-assessment state. One consequence of self-assessment is that both mentors and mentee remain accountable to each other and to their respective selves.


Intellectual Stimulation:        Mentoring involves engaging a person in conversation, about a wide range of life and career subject matters. In the course of these conversation the two people almost always ascend into intellectual discussions as together they search for answers to questions. Often these conversations are stimulating helping to provide different perspectives to each other.



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


Before one agrees to become a mentor it is essential for that person to consider carefully what is going on in her or his life. For me personally, I believe in giving freely as a mentor. It affects the quality of the mentorship experience. It follows that I would not become a mentor when there are things going on in my life that is likely negatively to affect me giving freely.


Before starting the mentorship exchange, it is also important to clarify what each person expects from the mentorship exchange and experience. Clarity in expectation sets the baseline for what happens in the interaction between the two people involved.


Thirdly, as may be already obvious, the experience cannot be one sided. It has to be relational and a dynamic exchange in which people share.



What are the five most important current trends in mentorship?


When I first started out in nursing, it was a joy to serve as a mentor to junior nurses entering the profession. In fact, over the years an interesting thing has happened, I am finding that I am serving as mentor to the children of my mentee.  Mentoring today has a few drawbacks. Firstly, many of those seeking a mentor do it simply to increase their pay. It is all about the dollars for many of them. Monetary rewards seem to be driving what many of these young folks are seeking. Yet, so many of them are sloppy, and won’t blink an eye to take short cuts. Of course, this raises important questions for me as a mentor. Do, I want to be mentoring someone known to be sloppy and who is prone to taking short cuts? How does that reflect upon me? I have worked a lifetime to build character and professional integrity. Do I want to put those things on the chopping block just because I want to give back to the community?  I don’t think so.


There is also a kind of transience that is now so ever pervasive out there. Let me tell you what I mean. In my experience so many Millennials care only about paying bills and travel. It seems like most of them lack focus as well as a sense of the longer term consequences of their choices and actions. This kind of short-sightedness essentially means that mentorship will be for shorter periods, which is alright. It just means that the depth and quality of mentorship relationship is experiencing a significant shift.  Lastly, there is the business of lack of gratitude. Many of the nurses that I encounter these days lack gratitude. It seems that more of them walk around with this sense of entitlement that they lack not only gratitude, but any sense of loyalty.


While some of these trends may impair the longevity and quality of the mentorship experience, I am at a point in my life that I believe that I have mentored enough. I am tired. I am quite prepared to continue to mentor, but on much stricter terms than in the past. Mentoring on-line is an entirely different beast than doing it in person.


WINN Thanks Ms Tate for giving so graciously of herself and sharing his thoughts in a cursory way on this very important topic of mentorship..