Mentoring – Unlocking the hidden potentiality

In my previous blog post I highlighted the importance of feedback and the need to develop a culture of feedback. However, in order to promote such a culture what we need is establishment of a strong mentoring relationship at all levels. Mentoring is the magic mantra for unlocking the hidden potentiality of students, staff, managers, leaders and even members of the civil society, friends and relatives at home. It is one of the corner stones for building Atma Nirbhar Bharat.

Today, the world is facing acute crisis, the threat of pandemics, wars, terrorism, military attacks, environmental issues, besides the problem of hunger and poverty linked with unemployment. About half of our Indian population are below 25 years of age. At the same time, our elderly population is increasing rapidly with the increase in longevity. This situation can pose both challenge as well as an opportunity for the progress. Left with no positive intervention, we could end up in a huge burden of unemployed youth with extra burden of elderly population who are vulnerable to health problems. This can be alarming situation. However, thinking positively, if the youth power of our country can be harnessed and the senior citizens with vast experience can be redeployed wisely, this can a great advantage for India. For such a thing to happen, we should explore the power of mentoring at all levels in all fields of knowledge. Our civil society with the support of public and private sectors is capable of moving India. Understanding the mechanics of mentoring is the first step in developing mentoring relationships that are healthy, productive and long lasting. Riding on the power of mentoring, develop skills and create jobs. More importantly you can create values which are more important than jobs and skills.

The origin and meaning of mentoring

The word mentoring comes from Greek mythology, character named Mentor. Mentor was a trusted friend of Odysseus, who requested Mentor to take care of his son Telemachus when he left the country for Trojan war. Mentoring is not a new concept in India. A lot of examples can be drawn from mythology. In Ramayana, we hear about Hanuman who was motivated by Jambavant to fly across the sea. In Mahabharata, Krishna mentored Arjuna. Bhagavad Gita, India’s unique contribution to the world is more than mentoring. In the Indian history, many of the leaders were groomed by their mentors, for example, Chandragupta Maurya by Kautilya, Swami Vivekananda by Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, and Pandit Nehru by Mahatma Gandhi and so on. Ancient knowledge and skills were passed on from one generation to other by mentoring. Herbal medicine, Yoga, classical music, dance, folk art and literature can all be attributed to successful mentoring.

Mentoring is very close to coaching. Both are customized to the needs of an individual. However coaching deals with rigorous training and skill enhancement of a person, especially in sports. Whereas mentoring is common in all fields. It is a close interaction between the two individuals leading to the overall growth of both. In fact, the ancient Indian concept of Satsanga (or, Satsang) has more profound meaning. It means coming together (Sanga) to seek truth (Sat). In a mentoring relationship , the mentor guides, facilitates, and motivates the mentee. He merely shows the way, but not the destination. It is for the mentee to work hard, find out solution and come back to the mentor with a new problem.

As the journey continues, the bond becomes stronger. In this process, the mentor also learns new skills, resulting in a win-win situation. Mentoring relationship lasts for long time, like a marriage. Mentoring unlike coaching is a free service, though in recent past it has emerged as a multi-billion business embracing areas ranging from dusting, housekeeping to flight simulation. When offered free, the joy that mentor derives at the end is something which cannot be measured!

Attributes of a good mentor:

Unlike Alexa, who can do a lot of tasks for you, the mentor responds to your emotions, besides showing you the path. Most important attribute of a mentor is to be available, accessible and keen to listen, respond and share. Mentoring becomes successful only when both the mentor and the mentee work together. Mutual respect and trust combined with effective communication form the three pillars of successful mentoring relationship. Don’t think that mentee should blindly accept whatever the mentor tells. In fact the best thing comes out when both challenge each other, debate on each point intensively and arrive at some common understanding. They can agree to disagree. This requires a lot of honesty, humility and tolerance. The ego, pride and dominant behaviour can convert a mentor in to a tormentor!

While you can add a lot many qualities, some lie at the core of mentoring. The mentor should be an effective communicator, empathetic, friendly, trustworthy, loving and compassionate. The mentor need not be expert in the field. Because, the mentor’s job is not to teach, but to encourage, motivate and handhold. A mentor can be compared with a gardener who looks after the plants, irrigates and nourishes with new ideas to grow further. The gardener also weeds out ignorance and confusion in the mind of mentee.

It is possible that the mentor and the mentee come from a totally different cultural background and hold opposite views and values which may hinder the mentoring process. This appears to be odd, but works out well for the enrichment of both, provided both accept each other and respect each other.

The million dollar is how can we harness the power of mentoring in the context of our country which is challenged with many issues such as poverty, unemployment and perceived erosion of human values in the society? How can we chart our own map for transforming India from big country to a great nation?



Views expressed above are the author’s own.



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