Mentor newbie

Tehmina Goskar, 14.05.2018
Learning lessons from the mentoring process
The most valuable insights about me and my work have come from those who have offered me some mentoring, either in an official capacity, such as during my AMA, or in an informal capacity, between colleagues or as part of a course.

I have also experienced what an absence of mentoring can lead to: confusion, overreach of authority, being goal-less, and feeling unsupported.

I am a mentor. I am a mentor. I have to keep saying it like I believe it.

But I am new to it and so I will have to keep chanting this affirmation for a while longer. Mentoring for All has offered me the opportunity to understand what it takes to give back even a little of what I have gained and give support where I wish I had received it.

The structure and the tools that the Mentoring for All pilot has proffered have given me the starter-pack confidence you need to take on the responsibility of being someone else’s mentor, but the rest - developing a high-quality relationship - is up to me.

I feel the responsibility of nurturing the relationship, of ensuring our exploration of personal and professional development is led by my mentee, and not by me, and of being there just enough to make sure they know I am here for them.

Because you don’t choose your mentee and they don’t choose you, you have to trust the matching process based on your experience, skills and attitude. This is something I trust implicitly as Mentoring for All, so far, like any of the best learning experiences, supports as well as stretches.

All the models, GROW, the Six Thinking Hats, and Clutterbuck’s guru-like guidance are all great to lean on from time to time but none of them inform how the mentoring relationship develops and how fulfilling both mentor and mentee can find the process.

My mentee and I have had four sessions so far, two in person, two via Skype. We live at nearly opposite ends of the country, so it says enough about our respective dedication that we’ve managed two face-to-face meetings, even though one was cut short by a weather and travel nightmare. Learning one: be flexible, adaptable and have good humour.

While discovering more about my mentee’s personal and professional goals, we talked about using some kind of structure and adopted the GROW model. We revisit this at each mentoring session and I ask whether it is still OK for them before continuing.

All our sessions are underpinned by the commitments we have made in our mentoring agreement, which has been lodged with the professional development team at the Museums Association. Learning two: structure is important but be prepared to let it go if it isn’t working.

Our latest face-to-face was a three-hour meeting, which I dubbed a “walk and wonder”. Our environment has a massive impact on our thinking. For me, mentoring is about holding a space that is valuable to my mentee, so the environment is critical.

We are still experimenting, but I noticed that some of the lightbulb moments came while enjoying great big comfy chairs in a bar. They didn’t come while looking at an exhibition gallery being installed. Learning three: continue to be creative with mentoring environments.

Links and downloads

Mentoring for All