*In this posting, the word mentor will be surrounded by quotation marks. This is to signify that when referring to a mentor in this piece, I am referring to someone who takes on the role of a mentor but is not a mentor in the traditional sense of the word.
The Importance of Mentoring
Mentoring in its traditional form is like playing the lottery. Yes, it is possible to find a person with the exact experience and life path that one wishes to take, but it is highly unlikely that one can find everything they need in one mentor. This isn’t to say, however, that seeking advice from those with more experience isn’t useful. Mentoring in a non-traditional form is often incredibly impactful if utilized correctly.
When done correctly, receiving “mentorship” from others can open new avenues of thought, introduce new options in decisions, create a bond that can lead to further opportunities, and create a mental database of motivations and decisions from others for scenarios that may arise later in the “mentee’s” life.
Is “Non-Traditional” Mentoring Really a Thing?
But what is this “non-traditional” form of mentoring? Well, it’s something that I have been unknowingly doing my entire life. Being a person who can come off as nosy because of my intrigue with the personal stories of others, I have been collecting a mental database of life decisions from all sorts of people. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that this is actually a modern, “non-traditional” form of mentoring that is becoming more recognized as an effective way to gain advice from a variety of people (University 2019). These “mentors” can have different interest, career paths, and values than the “mentee,” but often the motivation and decision-making process behind the “mentor’s” decision is what sticks. Other times, when a similar interest arises the “mentee” can learn about a variety of new options for consideration. Either way, one can find a lot of value in the lives, knowledge, and decision making of others when asking the right questions.
How to Find Work With a “Mentor?”
Finding work with a “mentor” can be a tricky process. First, one must find if that “mentor” will be available to support the work of the “mentee” throughout the duration of a project (University 2019). Then, analyzing the relationship between the two may lead to the “mentee” reaching out to the “mentor” if the two have a good relationship or can potentially have a good working relationship (University 2019). If reaching out to the “mentor” goes well, then the two must discuss the workload that is necessary as well as different ways that the two can gain funding for the potential project (University 2019). If funding is probable or secured and a workload is agreed upon, then the publishing contacts and reputation of the professor within the school community and the field must be considered (University 2019). If all of these criteria are satisfied, then it is likely that the “mentee” can find work with the “mentor” in a research setting. Even outside of a research setting, many of these principles hold their value.
Collaborative Leadership Traits
What makes an effective leader is the ability to collaborate (Vora 2014). When working in a team of people with different skill sets, values, and priorities, the ability of a leader to work with all members of the team and align their goals to reach the common outcome can make all the difference in a project’s success. But what does it take to become a collaborative leader?
- Self-Awareness – Recognizing one’s strengths, weaknesses, values, and priorities is mandatory if a leader expects to align and understand that of the team (Vora 2014). This can be attained through self-reflection (Vora 2014).
- Awareness of Others – Knowing the team gives opportunity for the leader to pair strengths in some members with weaknesses in others (Vora 2014). It can also be used to empathize with and motivate the team (Vora 2014).
- Feedback – Receiving feedback enables the collaborative leader to adjust his/her behavior in a way that will yield better results from the team (Vora 2014). There are both formal and informal ways to do this as well as analyzing the differences in behavior between team members and between a team member and the leader (Vora 2014).
- Cultural Sensitivity – Recognizing that behaviors can have a variety of causes, and that sometimes those causes come from differences in culture are important to ensuring an effective team approach will ensue (Vora 2014).
How to Provide Feedback in Professional Situations – United States
In the United States, negative or constructive feedback must often be intertwined with positive feedback (Meyer 2015). Without this positive feedback, receivers of negative feedback in the United States often feel insulted or attacked, which does not lead to a positive change in behaviors.
Considering the negative aspect of feedback specifically, it is important to respond to behaviors early (Petersen 2013). This ensures that one doesn’t continue a behavior repeatedly while convinced that it is appropriate and positive. It is also crucial to focus on the behaviors of a person and to assume good intent and reasonable decision making (Petersen 2013). “I statements” typically prevent the giver of feedback from shaming or insulting the receiver as well (Petersen 2013). Finally, aligning the feedback with the interests of the receiver is crucial to ensure it will be received in a positive manner, and without practice, much of this may be done ineffectively (Petersen 2013).
How to Provide Feedback in Professional Situations – International
The cultures and methods of delivering a point vary across countries. So when providing feedback to someone from a different culture, it is imperative that the culture and possible background and motivations of that person are deeply considered (Meyer 2015). If the feedback is not accurately delivered to someone from a different culture, the message may not be received, and the behavior may not change (Meyer 2015). One caveat to this, however, is that when dealing with someone from a culture of blunt honesty and frank speaking, it is possible for the giver of feedback to come off as too honest without knowing (Meyer 2015). It is advisable to deliver feedback in one’s own cultural manner with small doses of directness, but not advisable to attempt to give feedback in a truly direct way.
Meyer, E. (2015). Giving Negative Feedback Across Cultures [Web Article]. Retrieved from https://knowledge.insead.edu/blog/insead-blog/giving-negative-feedback-across-cultures-4259
Petersen, D. (2013). Carole Robin: Feedback is a Gift [Web Article]. Retrieved from https://www.gsb.stanford.edu/insights/carole-robin-feedback-gift
University of Washington (2019). Mentoring Guides for Students [Web Page]. Retrieved from http://grad.uw.edu/for-students-and-post-docs/core-programs/mentoring/mentoring-guides-for-students/
Vora, T. (2014). Indispensable Traits of a Collaborative Leader: Part 3 [Web Article]. Retrieved from http://qaspire.com/2014/05/11/indispensable-traits-of-a-collaborative-leader-part-3