Tuesday, 23 November 2010

"You know Kevin, its not always easy being a hero"

Ahhhhh the knowledge of Mr Arnold in the Wonder Years - he really did have it all locked down in terms of advice and suggestions to Kevin, didn't he? Though it is not always easy being a hero, we all need them.

(from left to right) Paul, Kevin and WinnieImage via Wikipedia
Winnie would never get another dude as righteous and cool as Kevin. The actor who played Paul (left) went on to give it up a career on stage and went on to become lead singer of Marilyn Manson
 I was having a conversation recently about mentoring and it reminded me of the scene from this episode. The other person was fearful about taking up some mentoring responsibilities, despite my best efforts to convince them otherwise - just to mention this was not within a work context but via the CIPD scheme (for more details check out my previous posts).

Their fears were about somehow being discovered as some sort of fraud, that being the mentor you were expected to have all the answers, knowledge and direction in the relationship; very much the vision of the HR Obi-Wan Kenobi so to speak.

Obi-Wan KenobiImage via Wikipedia
"Do you have my wallet? This has no pockets and I keep losing it"
I do wonder if the perception of mentoring has been rather distorted by high profile "examples" of its practice such as the X-Factor. The mentor's opinion dominates as they provide advice/guidance to candidates for the position of recording artist; week after week they are expected to follow it remorselessly; in instances where the performance does not work the mentor is criticised for the choices they have made on behalf of the mentee and, more often then not as there is only one winner on the show, those who are not thought up to scratch get dumped on the scrap heap.

Whats left? Feelings of despair. Loss. Anger. All things which should not come out of a mentoring relationship.

This all loses sight of the fact that mentoring is a personal development process in which the mentee takes ownership of the direction it takes. The mentor role is to help shine a light on the mentees' thinking, so to speak, probing and asking questions - not decide what the successful outcomes should be or how the mentee should be able to recognise them.

I will have a couple more practical suggestions over the next week about what this might look like so watch this space. In the meantime be a hero. Mentor.

And if in doubt, just think "what would Mr Arnold do?"

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