Workplace mentoring: lessons from the classroom

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Benjamin Disraeli said: “The greatest good you can do for another is not just to share your riches but to reveal to him his own.”

I have recently seen this in practice. Exceptional teachers, getting exceptional results from my own kids through effective coaching and mentoring. Is there anything our workplace mentoring and coaching schemes can learn from effective teacher-child relationships? A few personal observations year below:

1. It is not transactional, its emotional:

inspirational teachers go significantly above and beyond. They don’t only do what is expected, they are motivated by a strong desire to truly support the child flourish. Great mentors and coaches too. It’s not just about the pay, it’s not about their profile and career aspirations. It’s more about genuinely helping their mentee grow professionally and personally and by doing so, gaining the great satisfaction that comes from positively affecting a human life.

2. It is accessible:

my children go to the local, village state school. Great teaching to them comes at no additional cost and as a result, helps improve the lives of not a select few, but the many. With a life coaching industry topping £1 billion globally, the answer to sustainable coaching and mentoring is not in interventions whose nature and frequency largely depends on the financial position of the coachee. Good workplaces provide mentoring opportunities across roles, teams and hierarchies. In doing so, they help their organisations grow, by growing the individuals within, regardless of their organisational status and salary bracket.

3. It is a two-way thing:

Kids grow with the help of great teachers and great teachers grow with each child’s life they touch. To be a successful teacher, to be a great mentor, you need to genuinely recognise both the potential your time has for changing a person’s life and the impact they may have on your own. By doing so, great mentors remain humble and effective, while bringing to each next mentoring relationship the lessons from the one before.

4. It takes time. From both:

Revealing to someone their “riches” and helping them apply them to their day to day work and personal life takes time. Great coaching and mentoring programmes shouldn’t be build around sporadic and expensive interventions whose frequency is often dictated by the short-term financial position of the mentee. Effective mentoring and coaching programmes need a relatively long timeframe (a year or longer) to produce results for all involved and need to recognise, allow and encourage the time commitment required from both the mentee and the mentor to make the programme work.

5. It is celebrated:

seeing a child grow and achieve as a result of their work must be a teacher’s greatest moment. And being recognised for that achievement, is also a great, life changing moment for the child.  Good workplace mentoring schemes map out the outcomes and benefits to the mentee, the mentor and the organisation consistently and celebrate these. By doing so, they place workplace mentoring at the heart of strategic performance management/development instead of the corporate sidelines.

By seeing mentoring and coaching programmes as strategic priorities, by allowing them time and resources to flourish and by making them accessible across our organisations, we stand a better chance of successful mentoring partnerships.