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“The delicate balance of mentoring someone is not creating them in your own image, but giving them the opportunity to create themselves.” ― Steven Spielberg


“Do not train a child to learn by force or harshness; but direct them to it by what amuses their minds, so that you may be better able to discover with accuracy the peculiar bent of the genius of each.”  Plato


“The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be kindled.” ― Plutarch


Mentoring is consistent, solo support, combined with appreciation and Socratic questions on culture and emotional intelligence practices, allows a person to expand and grow. Each one feels empowered by direct attention, verbal recognition of one’s gifts and contributions, an invitation to remember and live a purposeful life and from questions that move them forward into meaningful progress.

In this episode, I cover the purposes, processes and pitfalls of mentoring sessions as recommended by LifeWork Systems. Coaching, counseling and advising involve information being shared by a more knowledgeable person to a less knowledgeable person. Therapy is listening to emotionally support the sender and help them connect dots (often to their childhood) as a the priority. Mentoring is allowing people to take a variety of concepts and tools and through a series of questions, discover ways they might apply them to overcoming life and work challenges and achieving life and work goals.

Questions to Ponder:

  1. What is mentoring?
  2. Is it really necessary? Why?
  3. What is the purpose of it?
  4. What is the healthiest type of it?
  5. How often should it happen?
  6. How does mentoring differ from coaching, counseling, advising, or therapy?
  7. Why do we jump to rescue and enable people rather than assist them in developing task ownership and intrinsic motivation?
  8. Why do we continue to say what people have already heard and already know?

Episode Guest: Mike Minkler

Mike Minkler is President of CMIT Solutions. CMIT works with small business owners to help them understand how they use technology. His company delivers peace of mind to business owners through proactive, predictable technology support. CMIT is a provider of flat-fee Managed Services to small and medium sized businesses. They advise clients on addressing security concerns related to computers and technology, provide solutions that enable the evolving mobile workforce, provide backup and disaster recovery solutions to protect valuable assets and a variety of other services including cloud computing.

From my experiences with Mike, he is a powerful and innovative leader, eager to learn and develop new skills within himself and to empower his staff in the same. He functions from purpose and values and invests time and money into maintaining, measuring and improving his healthy workplace culture and strong interpersonal and trustworthy relationships with his employees and co-owners.

Keywords:  mentoring, human system, employee engagement, purpose-driven

Story: Some of the stories at CMIT Solutions, including some experiences and questions from years of mentoring.

Episode Topics:

Review of last episodes: In the first 4 podcasts, I focused on these themes:

  • developing people instead of controlling them.
  • I referred to this as transfer of responsibility to people so they pick up task ownership; the owning of tasks like managing one’s own relationships, productivity, engagement, mastery of emotional intelligence tools, and
  • moving forward in developing a blueprint progress plan.
  • not only task ownership but trustworthiness as a foundation for the culture and
  • social interest as a key value.
  • Social interest is caring about using one’s power to cause specific, intentional consequences to others.
  • Mentoring is also directly in support of emotional intelligence such as self- and social- awareness, and self- and social- management.

In this episode, we focused on:

  • Purposes and process of mentoring
  • Mentor Pitfalls

Purposes and process of mentoring (in the LifeWork Systems model): Mentoring is provided for 30 minutes every month, for every person, at every level, no exceptions. A different template is used every month the first 5 months and then a consistent template is used thereafter. The main purposes include:

  • Helping people with emotional intelligence – self / social awareness, AND self / social management. In this you ask Socratic questions. SLAM = Say Less, Ask More. How do we give less counseling and ask more questions instead.
  • Brief review of purpose (group and individual).
  • Supporting task ownership. Tasks that each person owns include managing one’s own:
    • Relationships – Do I have 10’s with people (not necessarily best friends but rather no troubling challenges or unresolved issues)? Do I make this top priority and foundational?
    • Productivity – Am I competent, excellent and efficient in getting things done?
    • Engagement – Am I fully engaged, bringing my A-game? Excited about my job?
    • Blueprint – including next steps on purpose, values, visions, goals, procedures or roles
    • Tools – Use and mastery of culture and interpersonal tools and how to apply them

Mentoring Pitfalls: You are in a pitfall when…

  1. Allowing or encouraging mentee’s to go into sharing stories and conversation (mentoring is not therapy, emotional venting, or advisement) Do Time Out signal when this happens
  2. Focusing on why and who questions, instead of what and how questions – such as “what is your plan to fix that?” “What are some tools you’ve learned that you could apply to this?” “How will you accomplish this?”
  3. Veering off course because the person spurred a thought about something else or the mentee is diverting you. (likely unconsciously) Do Time Out signal when this happens
  4. Not using templates (you think it’s better to “wing it” or to add your own topics to the session that have nothing to do with task ownership or culture as defined above)
  5. Ignoring other-directed language or the mentee not answering questions as asked or intended
  6. Mentor interjects their own agenda and focus (becomes two-way conversation or counseling instead of fully focused on the mentee)
  7. Mentor does not manage the 30m schedule in a time-efficient manner
  8. Saying too much (including advising and counseling) instead of asking questions (Socratic) that lead the mentee to self and social awareness AND implementation related to both.

Resources: There are many articles related to this topic. Judy’s articles on the topic of mentoring include:

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