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BEING ADDICTED TO “MENTORING”

lessons-learned-in-mentoring

 

In the corporate world today, almost without an exception, new age managers have developed (more than once even before truly laying a foundation for their opinions) the idea that, alongside all their responsibilities that derive from an upper management position – they must become Mentors.

Promotion interviews are filled with young professionals that speak of the “mission” they plan to have inside the organization, about how much they are committed to the idea of “promotion”, how they are “people oriented”, “grow” their teams and become an “inspiration” for those around them.

Mentor word cloud written on a chalkboard

In theory, all of the above sounds perfect, yet in practice, we have to wonder ourselves the following:

How do we tell when mentoring stops being a true benefit for the employee and what is the point where this could be transformed into an addiction towards the manager?

Each one of us, no matter our professional or personal path, hope to leave our legacy behind and influence those around us in a positive manner. We need to feel that what we do makes a difference and creates an impact. This desire, together with the power of decision and the influence we have based on a time-limited management position can be the recipe for a professional disaster when it’s not well thought and well used.

Furthermore, without the theoretical and practical fundament that can help us better understand how mentoring really works, what is the term’s real meaning and what are its limits – we risk falling into our own ego’s trap. We are obviously nurtured by the influence we have on others and this fact alone leads us towards making the wrong decisions, losing our objectivity and becoming failures in the eyes of the people we work with.

I have noticed how, sometimes, the addiction to mentoring can make a manager think that mentoring and parenting is exactly the same thing! There is nothing more toxic than confusing an employee with a child! As any other parent, this confusion leads you to praising the accomplishments of your offspring in front of guests and hide their mistakes under the rug. Sometimes, you find yourself in the position where you do the math homework for them only to see how they have won the first prize in school, at the end of the year. The addiction to mentoring can push you towards free encouragement when there is no need to do so. It can lead you to act on principles that are not correct and protect your offspring from any element that may come from the outside and you think might hurt them.

If in the case of parents we know that these instincts are completely natural, in case of a business environment there is nothing more harmful than the lack of exposure to failure, risk, disappointment and pressure – all of these elements are critical when talking about a manager’s future development. If they do not exist, you will end up developing a team that is highly vulnerable to any change in regards to environment or status!

Teamwork and Leadership with education symbol represented by two human heads shaped with gears with red and gold brain idea made of  cogs representing the concept of intellectual communication through technology exchange.

The climax in terms of mentoring addiction is represented by that moment when the manager is looking to make an impact on his/hers team and desires to have the greatest influence on them. That desire comes as a priority against business needs and the main goal ( to coordinate a successful team ) is destroyed.

To make yet another parallel with Parenting, even the best mom needs to know when to let go of her baby’s pacifier upon realizing that on the long term, it may hurt his teeth.

Same as a parent, a good manager must always keep his/hers sense of perspective, keep in mind the ultimate objective, which often involves difficult decisions. Even if the “child” may look like he does not understand at the moment, he will appreciate them in the future.

A good mentor knows that in order to develop and grow each one of us needs to have his ideas questioned – just to reinforce their views, to be contradicted by arguments in order to find new angles of approach, to be challenged day by day, in order to become stronger and more prepared for future opportunities and failures!

Conclusions:

  1. A true mentor knows that the secret in creating a great manager stands not in protecting him from negative feedback, but on the contrary – allowing him to hit the bottom and then being there for support and making him realize why things took a wrong turn;
  2. One of the differences between authentic  and false leadership is the extent of how much are you willing to let your ego feed from the need to feel powerful, useful, influent and inspirational;
  3. When your teams draw the line and head over to face different professional challenges they asses you as a leader based on the things they learned from you along the way. It is your role to make sure you give them what they need – a mentor, not a babysitter!
  4. A great manager is a person who creates great managers at his turn – the short story is the one presented above, where you feed your team with a golden spoon, protecting them from any challenge. The long story is a difficult one, filled with challenges, failures and especially –  education. Even if harder, this version is the one who provides the best results and creates true professionals!

 

Author : Suzana Paunescu, Operations manager CGS Romania 

 

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