Mentoring - Things to Think About

Mentoring- Things to Think About
Purpose of this information:  To provide information about effective mentoring & suggest how Mentors and Mentees can get the best out of a mentoring relationship.
For a successful and productive mentoring relationship, it is important for both the mentor and the mentee to have a common view of their roles and to understand how to get the best out of the experience. 

The Mentor and Mentee Framework
  1. Objectives
Discuss and review objectives identified from the Mentee’s interests.  Discuss whether the objectives are reasonable, achievable and appropriate at the Mentee’s career stage.  Revise them as necessary.
  1. Planning
Draw up a plan for working towards each of the objectives over a period of the time allotted.  Determine start dates and deadlines.
  1. Agreement
Go through your agreement to each other and discuss.  Decisions may need to be revised as you go if there are changes to circumstances. A written agreement of “Responsibility and Expectation” is never a bad idea and can clearly illustrate the relationship.
  1. Confirm if the Relationship Will Continue
After the initial meeting is a good time to discuss whether or not the match is going to be successful for both parties.  If either party feels that the match is not going to be productive and satisfying, this is the time to mention that.  It may be possible to clarify or resolve issues in some way by re-examining expectations, reviewing objectives, or altering agreements as long as it can still meet the Mentee’s needs and achieve worthwhile outcomes.
Mentoring - How To Be A Successful Mentor

The Idea of Mentoring:  The idea of mentoring is ancient but is used today in almost every form of learning.  Mentors are often described as advisors and while advising plays a big part in the mentoring relationship, the idea of mentoring is much broader.  Mentoring involves a commitment to helping Mentees develop and progress in their professional field.  To do this successfully, a Mentor needs to consider the Mentee’s whole situation, including their personal circumstances and psychosocial factors that may impinge upon their ability to achieve their objectives and progress in their career.  Mentors advise on issues such as work life balance and the culture of our industry as well as developing confidence in Mentees and building their identity as successful farriers.

The Roles Mentors Play:  A mentor has been described as “someone who takes a special interest in helping someone develop into a successful professional” (Handelsman ed, 2005).

Mentors have multiple roles, being an advisor is one of theses.  There are also other roles they may perform at certain times depending on the need of the Mentee and the nature of their objectives.

Mentors are:
  • Advisors - people with career experience willing to share their knowledge
  • Supporters - people who give emotional and moral encouragement
  • Coaches - people who give feedback a colleague’s performance
  • Sponsors - sources of information about and aid in obtaining opportunities
  • Role models - demonstrate leadership, skills, and values
In reality, a Mentor is unlikely to have all the experience and expertise that is needed in all levels of all areas of farriery.  No one person can fulfill all the roles. Mentors need to know when to advise a Mentee to seek information or feedback from someone else and who they can approach. As a sponsor, for example, they may put the Mentee in touch with another contact who can provide the help required.

Good Mentoring Relationships Include:
  • Clear roles and expectations
  • Excellent two way communications
  • High level of trust with regard to confidentiality
  • Clear planning framework with a focus on the Mentee’s needs and objectives
  • Additional support for both Mentors and Mentees
Attributes of a Skilled Mentor:  Most Mentors learn by experimenting and analyzing success and failure.  Developing an effective method of mentoring can take years.  No two Mentees are the same or develop the same.  Mentoring must be continually customized, adjusted and redirected to meet the objectives, backgrounds and profiles of each Mentee.  A skilled Mentor benefits the ability to assess needs and have a collection of strategies that can help Mentees work toward their goals. 

Some of the best Mentors are often those who have been Mentees themselves.  An effective Mentor is approachable and provides feedback timely.  It is important to have empathy with personal insight into a Mentee’s skills, needs, and circumstances while understanding that these can differ from their own experiences.  Effective Mentors respect individuality and backgrounds.  Acting on principles, demonstrating good values, and ethical practices both personally and professionally are important Mentor traits.  Patience and honesty need no explanation. 

Mentoring Across Differences:  Each individual Mentee will require different levels of support and encouragement.  Mentors need to be flexible, sensitive and open-minded when dealing with differences in Mentees.  This may be the case when dealing with different genders, cultural or religious beliefs.  It is important to be respectful and understanding. 

Confidentiality:  As a Mentor you may be party to certain information about a Mentee, information about their past struggles and achievements or future plans or personal circumstances.  Your Mentee should feel that they can trust you with personal information which may have relevance for the Mentor process.  Similarly, Mentees need to be sensitive to information that mentors provide and not convey anything to others that may be confidential. 

What do you do if the relationship is going not so good?  This may be apparent early in the process because of communication problems or a bad match on objectives.  If you feel that you are not able to assist a Mentee for whatever reason, talk to them about it in a positive constructive way.  After all, you have agreed to be a Mentor and are committed to helping them get the best out of the arrangement. If that approach isn’t successful or you would like to talk through the issues, contact the AAPF/CAPF Mentoring Committee Chairman (Mike Wharton).  It may be better to change the arrangement.  Take care to serve the relationship in the most positive way you can.

Mentoring - How To Be A Successful Mentee

Qualities to cultivate that will help make the mentoring process a more enjoyable and productive experience for you and your Mentor:
  • Be organized: Plan ahead working towards agreed tasks. Think about issues before you meet with your Mentor.  Doing your homework will avoid wasting their time and enable you to get the most out of your meetings with your Mentor. 
  • Be proactive: Don’t expect to be looked after or given all the answers without effort.  Be responsible for your decisions. 
  • Be respectful: Remember your Mentor is exposing you to their friends, family and clients. These are relationships that must be respected. Do not speak to customers about shoeing unless your Mentor asks you to. When in doubt, it’s better to be seen then heard.  Establish a time with your Mentor to ask questions.  Some prefer to answer questions throughout the day; others will want to answer your questions at the end of the day.  Ask if you can use your phone or camera to take pictures.  Be respectful of the barns, stables or farms where your Mentor invites you.  You are his/her guest and your actions will have an impact on the relationships your Mentor has with their clients.
  • Ask useful questions: Don’t pretend to understand what a Mentor is saying if you don’t understand.  The mentoring time is your time and the Mentor will expect you to want to make the most of it and draw upon their knowledge and expertise.
  • Be considerate:  Make and keep schedules.  Stay focused and do not overstay your welcome.
  • Show appreciation: Everyone likes to be thanked.  Remember that your Mentor has volunteered to help you.  When you achieve a great outcome, let them know and acknowledge their role.
  • Reciprocate: Being willing to share what you have learned from mentoring by mentoring others. 
  • Have humility: Be willing to accept critical feedback so that you are open to leaning new ways of thinking about and doing your job.
Good Mentoring Relationships Include:
  • Clear roles and expectations
  • Respect each other.  The Mentee's interest in education and the Mentors success in being able to provide it.
  • Excellent two way communications
  • High level of trust with regard to confidentiality
  • Clear planning framework with a focus on the mentee’s needs and objectives
  • Additional support for both Mentors and Mentees
Tips to Find a Suitable Mentor:  Finding Mentors isn’t always easy and asking someone you don’t know to be your Mentor can be intimidating. Obtain great Mentors and overcome the ‘finding a Mentor jitters’ by following these tips. 
  • Clarify what you want. Before seeking out Mentors, write down your specific expectations and the role you want Mentors to play in your career. Do you want someone who can help you in learning more about a certain part of our industry, provide guidance on how to be a successful entrepreneur, or lay out a business plan and career goals? Clarifying your expectations, goals and objectives will ensure you find the right Mentors and that the relationships benefit your professional goals.
  • Think outside your comfort zone and don’t restrict yourself. Great Mentors can be found in a variety of places, so spend time looking outside your current areas of knowledge and location.
  • Set up a meeting. Once you’ve identified a potential Mentor, ask to meet by phone or in person and discuss a possible mentoring relationship. Asking for mentoring is an important step to make certain you’re both clear on the terms. This meeting should take place somewhere that is mutually comfortable and where you can speak in confidence.
  • Be clear with your Mentor. Once you find a person who agrees to be your Mentor, first and foremost, make sure you share the same commitment to your expectations. Be clear on the time required and the availability of your Mentor, and establish a schedule.  Be sure to keep check on the goals you’ve set for yourself.
While obtaining Mentors can be intimidating, following these four tips will help you overcome the jitters and find experts that best support your career goals.  Don’t be discouraged if a potential Mentor turns you down.  Instead, gracefully thank them for meeting with you and try to understand why — if they’re too overloaded with work now, maybe they can mentor you in the future. Also, ask if they might recommend someone else…because finding a great Mentor may be only one conversation away!

Confidentiality:  As a Mentee you may be party to certain information about a Mentor, information about their businesses and personal circumstances.  Your Mentor should feel that they can trust you with personal information which may have relevance for the process.  Similarly, Mentors need to be sensitive to information that Mentees provide and not convey anything to others that may be confidential. 

What do you do if the relationship is not going as expected?:  This may be apparent early in the process because of communication problems or a bad match on objectives.  Problems may also arise because of a Mentors’ personal style or because you hold a different understanding of the Mentor or Mentee role.  Try having a conversation with your Mentor about what you need.  If that doesn’t help, contact the AAPF/CAPF Mentoring Committee Chairman (Mike Wharton) to talk it through.  Sometimes it may be difficult to identify what the problems may be.  Talking it over may give you the opportunity to reflect on the relationship and get a perspective on things.