The notion of mentoring is ancient. It is widely cited that the term “mentoring” has its root in Homer’s Greek epic poem Odyssey, dating back around 3000 years: When Odysseus left for the Trojan War, he entrusted his friend Mentor with the task of raising his son Telemachos in his absence and of furthering the boy’s development. The original Mentor was described by Homer as the “wise and trusted counselor”. The original archetype embodied both male and female attributes: Athena, in the guise of Mentor, became the guardian and teacher of Odysseus’ son. Mentor was a man but the female goddess of wisdom, assumed his form in order to guide, teach and protect young Telemachus.
This type of relationship constellation, born in mythology, still today finds its similar classic definition on the pages of the Oxford dictionary expressed as the practice of help and advice provided by a professionally experienced person (the mentor) to a less-experienced person (mentee) in his professional development, characterized also as a mentoring relationship.
And while dictionaries take time to get updated, over the years, the notion of mentoring as a tool for junior-staff development and knowledge transfer has evolved and refined. Today when talking about mentoring we often refer to it as a support mechanism for personal development and professional growth also between peers, reverse mentoring from junior to more senior professionals, in-group and in-community mentoring.
As our team often gets asked the question, how do we define what mentoring is, we decided to give you our lens on what it is through our Manatee Mentors Manifesto driven by 6 main principles. This will also help clarify how mentoring of today has set to illustrate the Manatee Mentor mentoring frames for more inclusive, mutual and nuanced way of thinking about support between professionals.
- Mentors know that core values matter
All our mentors share one or more of the Manatee Mentor core organizational values amongst their personal ones: solidarity, courage and curiosity. And they take these values extremely seriously. These values serve as a north star of the ways of thinking, motivation and behaviors of our community. Knowing the importance of our shared values, our mentors are also aware that all our members are unique, and that they also have different ones in addition. As such, everyone is entitled to their own values, attitudes and beliefs.
- Mentors know that diversity is key to creativity, and creativity is key to problem-solving
All of us are different and that’s what makes the beauty of our mentoring support community. Our mentors know that while they might have great answers, ideas and personal experiences to share, the truth has many different forms and shapes. They won’t be offended, on the contrary — they will encourage you to have several mentors, seeking diversity in finding a creative solution to your mentoring goal and wearing different ‘thinking hats’.
- Mentor is not a job title, it’s a personal calling
Our community is full of very smart individuals from all possible walks of life, and we are grateful and lucky to have them join us and share our mission. And while they are official Manatee Mentors, they all share one thought: being a mentor is not a job title or something which someone expected you to do as part of your job description; it’s a calling, vocation to give back and pay forward to help unpack and share the learnings of achieving success for the benefit of others. It’s also an understanding and deep mutual feeling of satisfaction that through mentoring, both mentors and mentees are learning, developing, growing, changing.
- Everybody can be a mentor
Although we don’t expect that everybody would want to become a mentor, everyone is capable of being one. Not by chance, we encourage giving back through our virtual give-back currency Mana. All of our Volunteer Mentors have told us that they have had formal or informal mentors throughout their career. Similarly, our team beliefs that if one has benefitted from having a mentor, he or she understands how important is to create the opportunity to also support others.
- Mentoring is about servant leadership
For us, mentoring is a form of servant leadership. Although Robert Greenleaf first coined the phrase “servant leadership” in his 1970 essay, “The Servant as a Leader.”, this is an approach that people have applied for decades. We see our mentors as servant leaders, as in they are “servant first” — they focus on the needs of their mentees without losing the shared accountability, give them the support they need to meet their growth goals, and build meaningful relationship driven by value and authenticity — no-matter if they are focused on one particular moment or may last for a life-time. They lead to higher motivation, engagement, more trust, value-driven exchanges, and can result in increased innovation in both self- and workplace success actualization.
- The four frames of mentoring
A critic once commented to Cézanne, “That doesn’t look anything like a sunset.” Pondering his painting, Cézanne responded, “Then you don’t see sunsets the way I do.” Our mentors apply 4 frames, allowing them to navigate the mentoring goals with an array of options, shift perspectives, focusing on revealing the right question vs the right answer, and finding meaning amid clutter and unclarity. They choose which frame fits best the context of the mentoring experience with the specific mentee, and can navigate between all four.
The Expert frame
When applying the Expert frame, mentors are often seen as analysts, architects or go-to-people, having an exceptional ability or a highly demanded skillset. They often have a track record in successfully delivering results in a particular area and/or sector. This frame revolves around knowledge and logic, data and structure, plans, policies and best practices, rules and techniques to achieve mastery and continuously deliver excellence.
The Counselor frame
When applying the Counselor frame, mentors are often seen as counselors, coaches, tutors or teachers, having the ability to act as a catalyst of human relationships and growth, educating and empowering people, aligning organizational with individual needs and goals. This frame revolves around needs and talent development, emotional intelligence, relationships, guidance for personal growth with the linked to it frameworks and techniques.
The Strategist frame
When applying the Strategist frame, mentors are often seen as diplomats, astute negotiators, advocates and influencers, having an exceptional ability to successfully navigate complex matrix organizations and environments, create strategies and set agendas, network, build coalitions and resolve conflicts. This frame revolves around interests’ management and influencing, providing sponsorship, setting the agenda, giving access and connecting.
The Hero frame
When applying the Hero frame, mentors are often seen as the ultimate role-models, innovators, icons and overachievers, having a very known and socially recognizable leadership persona, not rarely — also controversial and even extreme. They are storytellers able to create followers and inspire change. This frame revolves around culture, symbolism, conveying meaning through authenticity and passion, creation of faith and transforming values.
We hope our Manifesto serves as a useful guide and a best practice for all mentors. We will aim to provide continuous support by developing further such instruments helping to improve the mentoring experience for both mentees and mentors.