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News > Foundation News > MENTOR ME THIS, MENTOR ME THAT


Mentoring is not a new thing, but I sometimes wonder ‘does it need to be new to be of value for todays’ rising generations?’

Records indicate the idea of ‘mentoring someone’ was present as far back as 3000 years ago (Homer’s Odyssey if you’re after the reference), and it often signifies the tutelage of one by an experienced other.

For those who have been mentored, they often cite that the line between mentoring and coaching, training, teaching, guiding, managing and leading is routinely blurred – a blurring resulting from experiences of those who offer their wisdom to another (the mentor), and those who receive that wisdom (the mentee). Taking a moment to explore the similarities and differences between mentoring and one or more of the list above will help you see way.

If we look at mentoring and coaching for example, similarities can include listening to the mentee/coachees current breadth and depth of experience, the offering of options to breakthrough a ‘moment of stuckness in quicksand’ and the sense-making of the learning that comes from making a breakthrough. A difference for example would be the mentor having experience in the moment vs the coach having no experience other than the ability to hold space for the coachee to find their confidence to explore and create their own solution from that ‘moment of stuckness in quicksand’.

Mentoring has historically been associated with a difference in time-on-earth – meaning the more time you’ve been around, the more likely you’ve had the time to experience more of the nuances that are required to be successful in a moment, and therefore there’s a greater chance of success for the mentee if they apply that experience themselves.

However, reverse mentoring (where a younger person mentors an older person) has become more prominent across organisations throughout the world over the past decade, driven by the digital fluence of rising generations, the rapidly evolving landscape the developed and developing world now operates in, including social media and social trends.

The rising generations of today live in a world where data is almost instantaneously available. Gone are the days of having a lexicon of highly-specialised subject matter expertise soaking ones’ grey matter, replaced by a confidence to search a question to which the internet provides an answer, socialise a problem with trusted friends (either physical or virtual), and pursue exploration of the ‘data in application’ with a confidence that the outcome is learning, whether it be deemed failure or success.

Does this mean mentoring needs to evolve with the world around it?

I’ll answer that with some further questions for you to consider;

If you find yourself in a position of being someone’s mentor – How could you use your experience to inform the questions you ask a mentee, rather than the solution you provide?  What value would you be offering if you asked the question and let the mentee share their experience after the moment? How can less mean more to your mentee?

And if you are a mentee – How could you benefit from learning from older others, rather than assuming you ‘know everything’ from the outset? What would it take for you to have the humility to trust that life is a life-long learning journey, irrespective of time on this earth? How might you stay open when doors feel shut and there’s nowhere to go?

It’s clear mentoring is here to stay and can have great benefits for all involved. From what I’ve experienced, the context and way mentoring is delivered needs to stay as fresh as opportunities mentoring can create in order to thrive.

Graham Roberts (College Parent)
Behavioural Change Consultant, specialising in intergenerational teams and systems.
Ispire Motivational Coaching Ltd


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